For Youth, Copying Is the Path to Originality

Authenticity is about turning unique sources of inspiration into something new.

Youth are coming of age in a world where copyright is an outdated notion. Everything is up for grabs – they consider themselves “brand bandits” who have the right to incorporate brands into their lives however they wish. They also embrace the “copyleft” movement, which gives anyone the right to use creative work without regard for copyright infringement issues.

In the past, brands put forth stories of their origins and heritage as a sign of their authenticity. And while authenticity still matters a lot to young people, its meaning is changing. For young people, it’s more about staying true to themselves and curating unique sources of inspiration.

They see copying as a path to originality. They try things on to figure out what works for them, becoming a mishmash of different styles. Where in the past, young people fell into tribes like jocks or punks, they now draw from many sources. Appearance is no longer a reliable indicator of identity or taste.

As Clara, a 21-year-old we met in Spain told us, “Start copying what you love. Copy, copy, copy. At the end of the copy you will find yourself.” In keeping with this sentiment, this quote that she presented as her own was originally made famous by someone else – Japanese fashion designer Yojhi Yamamoto.