Some might say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. For others, there’s a much darker force at play. So when a fashion influencer discovered a woman seemingly copying her Instagram feed, she turned to her blog followers for support. But a picture can paint a thousand lies and maybe not all is as it appears.
Jennifer Lake is a fashion and lifestyle blogger based in Chicago, Illinois. Her website, Style Charade, is a celebration of where fashion meets art. The blog, by her own admission, “documents her personal style through a finely-curated and colorful lens,” with all photos courtesy of her husband Robert Zigmund.
Blogging, however, isn’t Lake’s only job. In her day-to-day, the fashionista is a senior VP for a PR company. This sees her working on campaigns for various well-known lifestyle labels. She’s good at it, too, having won numerous major awards in the industry.
As a passion project, then, Lake started her blog Style Charade in March 2015. For three years, however, there was a problem. It appeared to the PR guru that another fashion blogger was routinely copying her supporting Instagram channel. And it’s fair to say that the similarities are uncanny.
“To sum up the problem,” Lake wrote on her blog in December 2017, “someone has been using my Instagram account as a template for their own. This person has systematically copied my channel, captions, location concepts, and personal style for more than three years.”
According to Lake, the mimicking wasn’t limited to a few dresses, outfit ideas or locations, either. In fact, she claims to have found the nameless blogger continually mirroring entire concepts and themes. And no matter what artistic direction she took, she says the copyist would only follow shortly after.
Lake says that it wasn’t easy for her to inform her followers about what had been going on. Partly, that was because she didn’t feel great about bad-mouthing someone else – or, worse still, naming them. Hence, she kept things to herself for three years. But, finally, she’d had enough.
And yet, although Lake hadn’t named names in her post, she’d opened a can of worms that spread across the fashion media. Hence, when Chicago magazine caught wind of the accusations, they dug deep and found an Instagram page almost identical to Lake’s. And yet the similarities didn’t end there.
The Lake-alike Instagram feed belonged to fellow fashion blogger Rosie Clayton. And both women are among the most prominent Instagrammers in all of Chicago, with Clayton starting her feed in November 2011 and Lake joining one month later. Meanwhile, if that wasn’t coincidence enough, the pair used to be friends.
But of course, anyone caught in supposed foul play is never likely to admit it, and Clayton insists that naysayers should take a closer look at the situation. Indeed, several sources – from Elle to The Debrief – reported on the story. But it was Unilad who got the scoop by speaking to Clayton.
Clayton explained, “My social platform is a reflection of my 16-year background in the fashion industry. My images are planned, shopped, and created, on average, 30-120 days in advance in order to tell a cohesive color story.” Which is where things get confusing for the layperson.
What Clayton means by telling a “cohesive color story,” is that one week the theme might be green, another blue, or another week pink. Instead of scrambling around finding a suitably pink location at the last minute, for example, the whole thing is planned up to four months in advance of the images being made public.
As Clayton further explained, “If, and only if, there is a new wall that complements my current colour story, or a time-sensitive brand collaboration, will I include it in my grid at the time. In other words, posted images are rarely taken the same week as when they go live on my channel.”
Indeed, scrolling through Clayton’s Instagram feed, it’s clear how one image naturally follows on from the last, with the color themes blending and merging from picture to picture. It’s debatable whether Lake’s, while equally eye-catching and popping with color, has quite the same flow and cohesion.
To fully examine who was first would require hours of trawling through a collective 6,000 images. But some dedicated followers have done just that. And while Clayton was the first of the pair (by a whole month) to create an Instagram presence, it would appear that Lake was first to utilize bold and bright colors in her photos. We know that because one user pointed it out.
Another more sympathetic user noted that both fashion bloggers began using walls as their backdrops around the same time. It’s a concept, however, that’s popular on Instagram. And when you live in a town where such fun and free-to-use backdrops are in abundance, who wouldn’t take advantage of it?
Looking at the two women’s images in isolation, too, would seem to point at Lake making many of her images public first. For example, the image in front of the wall bearing the avocado mural was posted on July 31, 2017. Clayton’s followed nearly a full month later.
But, similarly, when Clayton wore the pink-and-red pleated summer dress in front of a comparably colored mural, Lake followed wearing the same dress weeks later. Likewise in front of the multi-colored geometric wall, Clayton’s Instagram posts pre-date Lake’s by a couple of weeks.
And then there’s the fact that the two influencers once upon a time were friends. Indeed, the pair went on a trip to Texas together in February 2014, months before their Instagram feeds began to overlap. Is the whole thing, then, as the name of Lake’s blog exemplifies, simply a “style charade”?
Furthermore, did Lake post her blog on “What To Do When You’re Being Copied On Instagram” as her alibi? If you’ve protested it, you can’t be accused of it, right? Or is Clayton’s career in the fashion industry her own defence? Well, with no hard evidence proving in favour of one blogger over the other, it’s a mystery that may never be resolved.