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The Design Dialogues site houses all online publications from the School of Design Strategies at Parsons School of Design.

This site is funded by the Stephan Weiss Lecture Series on Business Strategy, Negotiation and Innovation. This lectureship was launched in 2002 to commemorate the life of the late artist and sculptor Stephan Weiss, husband and business partner of the fashion designer Donna Karan. Weiss co-founded Donna Karan International in 1984, and was instrumental in every significant venture the company undertook: launching and structuring new brands, most notably the Donna Karan Beauty company; signing new licenses; establishing in-house legal and creative departments; devising its computer design technology; orchestrating the company’s initial public offering in 1996; and negotiating its sale to the current owner LVMH Moet Hennessy – Louis Vuitton.

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The School of Design Strategies is an experimental educational environment. We advance innovative approaches in design, business and education. In the evolving context of cities, services and ecosystems, we explore design as a capability and a strategy in the environmentally conscious practices of individuals, groups, communities and organizations. For more about the School of Design Strategies, visit the SDS Magazine.

Journal of Design Strategies
Designing W/
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Fashion 2012
Marc Herbst

Section 2: Vignettes

The Counterfeit Crochet Project (Critique of a Political Economy)

Stephanie Syjuco

Figure 1

In 2006, as an outgrowth of my interest in the politics of production and consumption, I started The Counterfeit Crochet Project (Critique of a Political Economy), a participatory artwork that invites crochet crafters all over the world to create a handmade replica of a designer handbag that they wished they owned but can’t afford—and to use their own improvised skillsets and techniques in its production. There are no formal patterns provided, just a downloadable “tip sheet.” Makers choose the item they wish to produce; because of variations in taste, skill level, and available time, the final “product,” while always bearing some resemblance to the original, is at the same time an obviously “wrong” or counterfeit representation of the original.

Indeed these handbags are difficult objects to classify. That each one is a self-professed and blatant copy is anathema to a fashion system that depends on never-ending cycles of newness and the cult of originality. At the same time, the irreproducibility of the objects, stemming from the lack of a proper production pattern and from differences among participants, also departs from the serial standardization that typifies mass-produced goods. The fact that these are in an obvious way “designer” handbags pulls them in the direction of haute couture. Yet the traditionally “common” and hence somewhat lowly status of crochet as a craft betrays the bags’ remoteness from the rarefied world of high fashion (SEE FIGURE 1).
The project has yielded a de facto product line consisting entirely of prototypes, with no centralized design direction and no defined, “correct” manner of production.

Initially located online, with a website serving both to distribute the call for collaborators and as a repository for images of finished works, the project has grown over the past seven years to encompass physical gallery installations, displays of completed crocheted works lent by their makers, and a series of international workshops in which I lead how-to classes in basic crochet technique in conjunction with informal discussions on ways to reclaim individual agency within the larger capitalist world.

Counterfeit Crochet workshop participants commit to several hours of working with me to create their own small product: in most cases a simple crocheted wristband upon which they embroider a logo to “brand” it as a high-end item. The participants, almost always beginners to crochet, inevitably make mistakes in their stitching, thereby corrupting the purity of the logo or brand that they have chosen to represent.

The workshops are free, with all materials and tools provided; as such, they are a friendly and engaging way to learn skills and participate in a group activity, much like other popular DIY workshops or a convivial knitting circle. In exchange for this volunteered “free” time I create an ongoing, dispersed and international collection of fashion “goods,” a de facto product line consisting entirely of prototypes, with no centralized design direction and no defined, “correct” manner of production (SEE FIGURES 2-3). The participants further disseminate their “counterfeit” products by displaying, wearing, or sharing their finished items within their respective circles. 1

Figure 2

Figure 3

Figure 2


For more information about this project, see www.counterfeitcrochet.org.

Fashion 2012
Marc Herbst


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