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March 31, 2006

Floor Show

From the Congressional Record, here is the fanfare for H.R. 5055 (drumroll, please):



Jackie's Knockoff Artist?

Cassini, A Thousand Days of Magic: Dressing Jacqueline Kennedy for the White HouseWhen American designer Oleg Cassini passed away on March 17, reams of obituaries celebrated his transformation of Jackie Kennedy into a style icon during her term as First Lady, his long-term success in the fashion business, and the fabled charm that captivated a series of well-known leading ladies. 

Few papers, however, mentioned longstanding charges that he was less the creator of Jackie's public image and more her house knockoff artist.  In a 2002 review of an exhibit at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, for example, the Washington Post challenges the Jackie myth:

In her civilian days, if she hadn't worn outfits of any great historical significance, at least she favored the great Parisian names -- Chanel, Balenciaga, Givenchy -- that had helped shape fashion history.  But after Nixon manages to raise a fuss about the new first lady's Francophilic tastes and unions pressured Jack to buy at home, Jackie had to downplay her preference for these important fashion houses.  With occasional exceptions, when she appeared in public she had her favorite French originals copied by U.S. makers, such as Hollywood designer Oleg Cassini, a Kennedy family friend, or New York knockoff queens Nona Park and Sophie Shonnard.  (On the occasions that she still wore French originals, she seems sometimes to have had their telltale labels snipped off first.)

Perhaps Cassini was one of those on fellow designer Norman Norell's mind in 1965 when he said, "If only American designers would create their own designs, we'd be so strong. We'd influence the world. I want to scold American designers, and myself included."

Naturally, as a designer and a gentleman, Cassini denied any such charges regarding the First Lady's regalia -- and with both parties now presumably wearing white robes and wings, we may never know for sure.  But originals or copies, at least the costumes of Camelot were "made in U.S.A." 

March 29, 2006

Legislation is "In" for Spring

As some of you know, Counterfeit Chic (or rather, the mild mannered professor writing it) has been quite busy with the real world of late.  An imminent legislative proposal in one's area of expertise has a way of demanding attention far beyond the usual academic debates -- and with a new bill on the intellectual property protection of fashion design about to be introduced in Congress, I feel a little bit like a scholar who was quietly studying ancient Aramaic and looked up to find Mel Gibson at the door.  (Of course, discussing this issue with people immersed in it is nothing but a pleasure.) 

As the latest battle lines are drawn -- Harper's Bazaar's Anticounterfeiting Summit v. Marie Claire's "Splurge or Steal?" feature, young designers v. established copyists, and almost everyone v. Urban Outfitters -- I have a strange sense of déjà vu.

In 1930, Mrs. Condé Nast, wife of the magazine magnate, sent the New York Evening Telegram a letter in which she stated:

The women who pay several hundred dollars for original gowns have the right to expect that their gowns will not appear on the $10.75 racks in the stores the next week.

Sound like a familiar issue?

Tomorrow, the following will appear in the New York Times:

"Piracy in fashion is rampant," [designer  Narciso] Rodriguez said, recalling a lunch meeting he had with senators last July, when he held up one of his $1,500 designs next to a newspaper advertisement for a nearly identical dress at Macy's, selling for $199.

The prices may have changed, but the story remains the same.  In every generation for the past century, fashion designers have protested their lack of protection under American law -- and little has changed.  Why?  And is anything different this time? 

My short answer is that U.S. culture, history, and politics may finally have developed a new fashion sense.  Stay tuned for more about the past, present, and future of this debate.

In the meantime, take a look at the illustrations offered by the Times (Urban Outfitters at $48 (top); Bottega Veneta at $1,680).  And yes, I can personally confirm seeing both in stores over the past month. 


March 28, 2006

Counterfeit Chic's New "It" Bag

The sidewalks of New York's Soho neighborhood are cluttered with vendors selling copies of bags by Kate Spade and its masculine counterpart, Jack Spade -- often right outside the pair's respective boutiques.  Despite new legislation, legal actions, and periodic police raids, urban counterfeits are as persistent as cockroaches. 

This spring, however, Jack is fighting back. 

The company has taken a clever new approach to knockoffs:  if you can't beat 'em, parody 'em.  The Jack Spade "Chinatown Collection," which debuted in February during New York Fashion Week, takes cheap plastic "made in China" tote bags and rebrands them with a real Jack Spade label.  To drive the point home, the company even offers personalized monogramming of the bags -- check out Counterfeit Chic's stylish "CC" below.

The Jack Spade bag has everything that real counterfeits do:  flimsy construction, inferior materials, a low price, and an intentionally misleading trademark.  It also has one thing that most knockoffs don't:  a waiting list.   

Apparently Counterfeit Chic isn't the only one who appreciates Jack Spade's intelligent and amusing initiative.  In fact, everyone who sees this tote smiles.  Smart and funny -- what's not to like?  It's definitely our must-have bag for spring! 

March 27, 2006

Knockoff News 11

A weekly (or thereabouts) collection of news about counterfeits, fakes, knockoffs, replicas, imitations, and the culture of copying in general around the globe:

And several from an interesting blog on intellectual property and China, IP Dragon

Finally, let both the buyer and the flyer beware.  When airlines lose luggage, both suitcases and their contents (fake or real) may ultimately end up for sale in a Scottsboro, Alabama, store:

Smith cautions that travelers need to educate themselves about the limits of the airlines' liability - no more than $1,250 per bag on domestic flights. In addition, most exempt themselves from paying for, in essence, all items except the bag itself and clothing, said Smith. "It is," he warned, "a caveat emptor situation."


For those who want people to think their initials are "LV," a medium-sized piece of Louis Vuitton luggage went for $100, while a very good Vuitton knockoff sold for $30.

March 24, 2006

Combating Copying on the Eastern Front

In a report on Japan Fashion Week, Suzy Menkes recognizes that competitive runway creations may originate as much from the lab as from the atelier:

Japan's inventive technology informs many aspects of its fashion.  A fabric display at the runway venue showed ultra-light synthetic fabrics, prints looking as though they were handcrafted and denim in myriad textures and weaves.

While the contribution of science to fashion is nothing new -- from spindles to sewing machines, buttons to velcro, clothing has long been the product of technology -- invention has taken on a new urgency. 

[Naoko] Munakata [director of the fashion policy office at the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry] believes that with China taking over the fabric industry and copying clothes with cheap manufacture, there has to be a new initiative from Japan.

"And that is where technology can help," she says.  "We need to expose Japanese fabrics to designers to create high end brands."

When it comes to Sino-Japanese conflict, at least fashion is a good theatre.

March 23, 2006

Counterfeit Chick Flicks

In the forthcoming movie "Slammer," Sarah Jessica Parker stars as a publicist sent to prison -- mistakenly, of course -- for taking designer swag meant for clients and passing it on to knockoff artists intent on mass production.  Musical comedy ensues.

Can't wait for the release?  Well, even counterfeiters can't get the DVDs on the streets before filming, but SJP is hardly the first to encounter knockoffs on the big screen.  In the 1963 movie "A New Kind of Love," Joanne Woodward works for a knockoff guy who decides to take his staff to Paris for "inspiration."  She meets Paul Newman on the way, and you can predict the rest. 

And if you find a recording of the original Broadway play "How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying," you'll have to laugh at the song "Paris Original."  In it, the secretary trying to land the up-and-coming young exec splurges on an "irresistible" and ostensibly one-of-a-kind designer creation, only to see every other woman who walks in wearing the same dress.  Unfortunately, the song was cut from the 1967 movie version. 

Roll 'em!


March 21, 2006

Meat & Greet

Emmett McCarthyAt its core, the Big Apple is just a small town.  Last weekend, I attended the grand opening of Project Runway contestant Emmett McCarthy's new boutique at the invitation of none other than my extraordinary octogenarian butcher, Moe Albanese, who also happens to be Emmett's landlord.  Although the obvious pun would involve meat markets, Emmett's St. Paddy's Day launch was actually an enthusiastic family affair, complete with his proud mother passing hors d'oeuvres and collecting compliments. 

Also on hand at EMc2 was another PR contestant and the champion of geek chic, Diana Eng, whose new website with fellow designer Emily Albinski will be going live in a couple of weeks. 

The presence of two such creative but different designers (along with fellow contestant Kara Janx, who's already been copied) made me think about -- what else? -- the uneven levels of protection against knockoffs.  Emmett designs beautiful and classic pieces that, apart from their labels, have barely a hope of intellectual property protection.  (It's a bit ironic that scientific formulae like the store's moniker aren't subject to protection either.)  Diana's technology-meets-fashion pieces, on the other hand, may qualify as "inventions" eligible for patent protection, assuming that the length of the process (a couple of years, give or take) and the expense don't make such applications impractical.  Query:  assuming the law doesn't change, how will such incentives affect the future of the industry? 

Diana Eng buttonCongratulations to both Emmett and Diana -- and be sure to check out the boutique! 

March 20, 2006

Knockoff News 10

A weekly (or thereabouts) collection of news about counterfeits, fakes, knockoffs, replicas, imitations, and the culture copying in general around the globe:

And perhaps I'm just hungry, but it seems as though there are quite a few fake foods out there this week:

Then again, maybe quite a few people have the munchies:

Marijuana candy

March 18, 2006

Truth & Beauty

'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all 
    Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.'

--John Keats, Ode on a Grecian Urn

Except, of course, when beauty is NOT truth, as in the case of elaborately retouched fashion photos.  Counterfeit Chic reader Peggy suggests we open our eyes to reality by checking out the faux beauties at Digital Pablo -- just move your cursor over the luminous models to see what they really look like.  Some develop cheekbones or breasts, others lose freckles or blemishes, many get a tan or new hair.  Given that even fashion's "before" pictures are the work of a team of stylists, makeup artists, hairdressers, and a professional photographer, it's no wonder that our own mirrors seem such harsh critics. 

Some retouching is so elaborate that it's unclear whether the underlying photo was really necessary.  Take a look at Behnaz Sarafpour (below) after another retoucher, Glenn Feron, worked his dubious magic for Fashion Week Daily

Behnaz Sarafpour in Fashion Week Daily 9-13-05

In the early years of photography, granting copyright to photos was controversial.  Courts wondered whether a photo was an original artistic work or a mere "reproduction on paper of the exact features of some natural object or of some person."  Burrow-Giles Lithographic Co. v. Sarony, 111 U.S. 53, 56 (1884).  In that case, involving a picture of Oscar Wilde, the court recognized the creative nature of the work and its copyrightability -- paving the way for not only professional photographers but also retouchers who further alter those "exact features," creating works of near-fiction eligible for copyrights of their own.  (Beyond the question of intellectual property rights, the legal picture is further complicated by the question of the evidentiary value of photographs, a historical subject explored by Jennifer Mnookin.)

According to an aphorism attributed to Otto von Bismarck, those who love laws and sausages should watch neither being made.  It seems that the same goes for those who find truth or beauty in fashion photographs.

March 17, 2006

Mark o' the Irish

University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish trademarkThinking about honoring your Celtic heritage -- or perhaps just borrowing a bit of the luck o' the Irish -- by incorporating a shamrock into your trademarks or designs?  Think again, at least if you plan to market your goods in Ireland. 

According to the Irish Patents Office:

Any person who wishes to obtain registration of a trade mark containing a State emblem (harp, shamrock) or to use a State emblem in connection with any business must first obtain consent from the Minister.

Just a simple bit of green tape?  Not exactly.  The guidelines go on to state, "Authorisation to use the shamrock is restricted to goods or services of Irish origin." 

A thought for the fashion buffs out there:  Would British designer Charles James and his famous 1953 "four-leaf clover gown" have been affected by this rule, had it been in force?  Presumably the law wouldn't have reached that far, since only the outline of the hem formed a shamrock -- and, besides, his own rather nondescript name for the gown was "Abstract."

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

March 16, 2006

Fashionable Fisticuffs

The ever-quotable Guy Trebay reflects today on the provenience of fashion trends.  Although some "defy explanation," he also notes:

A certain amount of designer inspiration amounts to larceny, the kind of plagiarism that, in the innocent days before appropriation became a sanctified part of the creative process, sometimes led to litigation or the occasional black eye.

Sanctified?  Well, from the perspective of Counterfeit Chic the lion hasn't yet lain down with the lamb -- and the courts aren't closing their doors just yet.  And while we don't recommend a return to more primitive means of dispute resolution, at least Viktor & Rolf's controversial "fencing masks" will provide some cover:

Victor & Rolf Fall 2006 fencing mask

En garde!

That's SO 5,000 Years Ago

Archaeologists in Iran have uncovered evidence of a sophisticated fashion industry dating back approximately five milllennia.  Not only have they excavated an apparent textile factory, but also dresses, jewelry, makeup, and clay stamps with family insignia apparently used to mark personal items.  (Proto-monograms, anyone?)  The scientists further suggest that the state-of-the-art textiles, used to create draped garments similar to saris, allowed both men and women "to wear trend-setting, colorful, designed pieces, which may have influenced the clothing styles of other regions." 

While a contemporary Zoroastrian text includes a a word for "artisan" that meant "he or she who makes good weaving," neither the word for "knock-off artist" nor the ancient H&M have yet been discovered. 

March 14, 2006

Fashion Capital

At a CFDA reception that I attended earlier this evening, Nicole Dreyfuss was one of the young designers on hand to remind Washington that the fashion industry remains concerned about knockoff artists. 

Nicole, who designs (and originally knitted) a successful line of handbags under the label Margaret Nicole, noticed last year that Abercrombie & Fitch was selling a suspiciously similar bag -- for a rock-bottom price.  While Nicole's excellent media and legal connections helped her stand up to A&F -- her mother is NYU IP law professor Rochelle Dreyfuss -- the designer is concerned about others who generally lack protection under U.S. law.  

Most appropriately for an industry associated with creative/expressive women, the venue for the event was Sewall-Belmont House, the headquarters of the historic National Women's Party and former home of its founder and Equal Rights Amendment author Alice Paul.  Love the subtext! 

March 13, 2006

Do Unto Others

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,

adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.

--Ralph Waldo Emerson

Nobody could accuse these anti-copying copyists of philosophical consistency, foolish or otherwise:

La Bas bag from Neiman Marcus $550Luxury retailer Neiman Marcus is suing pet boutique Neiman Barkus for trademark infringement (hat tip to The Trademark Blog), while at the same time distributing mail-order catalogs that contain an obvious (albeit probably legal) Bottega Veneta knockoff (left). 

On the same day that the U.S. Congress passed a new anticounterfeiting bill, a sharp-eyed Counterfeit Chic reader noticed that the U.S. military daily Stars & Stripes was offering advice to servicepeople stationed in Germany on cheap fakes available across the Czech border.  (What happened to those allegations of fakes funding terrorism?)

And Finnish Minister of Culture Tanja Karpela, an anticounterfeiting crusader, was caught on camera carrying a fake Prada bag

I'm reminded of my years studying medival canon law (quite a switch to IP & fashion, but that's a long story for another day) and of a paper that I once wrote linking the "clean hands doctrine" back to the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215.  The clean hands doctrine basically states that if you approach a court asking for relief in equity, you'd better not be guilty of similar misconduct yourself -- or you've got some 'splainin' to do.  Today the doctrine is sometimes applied to actions involving the same set of circumstances -- e.g. the case of a parent who kidnaps a child and then asks for custody.  It would certainly be interesting, though, if a plaintiff suing for IP infringement or a nation demanding international enforcement on behalf of its own industries were vulnerable to charges that it had "unclean hands." 

Gotta love that Golden Rule!  (After all, metallics are once again "in" for spring/summer.)

March 12, 2006

Knockoff News 9

A weekly (or thereabouts) collection of news about counterfeits, fakes, knockoffs, replicas, imitations, and copying in general from around the globe:

And British brand Burberry complains that with friends like these, it doesn't need enemies:

The brand's luxury image has been seriously hurt, at least in Britain,by its popularity with chavs, a rowdy working-class subgroup that has taken up the Burberry check as a kind of mass entitlement, tainting its appeal among fashion consumers.  One chav Web site, www.chavmum.co.uk brazenly carpets its home page with the tan-and-black plaid [or at least did until Burberry lawyers read the New York Times this morning], and the chavs have helped to flood the market with Burberry fakes.

Ugly pattern, clever analysis.  Oh well, chacun a son gout. 

March 10, 2006

Skin Deep

For some, the art of personal adornment reflects mood, occasion, or the latest trend.  Others take a more long term view.

But are those who express themselves through body art also at the mercy of knockoff artists?  Not necessarily, at least if they're intellectual property-savvy.  Check out Amina Munster's tattoos (caution:  there's quite a bit of skin involved!) and her copyright certificate

The concept of body art as intellectual property raises a whole series of questions:  who owns the copyright, the tattoo artist or the tattooee?  What if the tattoo is also a trademark?  How does a unique tattoo affect rights of publicity?  What are the plausible remedies for infringement of someone's IP-protected tattoo?  For more on these questions, see Thomas F. Cotter and Angela Mirabole, Written on the Body:  Intellectual Property Rights in Tattoos, Makeup, and Other Body Art, 10 U.C.L.A. Entertainment Law Review 97 (2003).

And one more question:  Should a tattoo be protected only as originally applied or as it, er, morphs over time?  (I'm thinking of an individual who opted for a "nice, discreet" flower tattoo around her navel -- before she was pregnant.  Let's just say that the bud blossomed.)   Any modern art theorists out there?

Late to the Party

BREAKING NEWS:  The paper of record has just realized -- gasp! -- that knockoff manufacturers are copying Oscar gowns.   Round up the usual suspects

March 09, 2006

Project Knockoff

This year's Project Runway contestants are just launching their careers -- and the knockoff artists aren't far behind. 

The resourceful Cookie at Knitters Anonymous (for a reason, perhaps?) loved the hats that Kara Janx sent down the runway during New York Fashion Week (left) so much that she sourced the yarn, knitted a copy (right), and published her instructions. 

A commenter on Blogging Project Runway is also "rocking kara's hats" -- so much so that she posted the following offer:

if you dont have enough money to afford kara's hats, you're welcome to recruit me for cheap labor... ;) well, i do knit a lot, so if you're BPR and want a handknit piece, lemme know! i do it out of love.

Legal issue?  Not with respect to copying the hat, and probably not with respect to using Kara's name (provided that customers aren't confused as to whether the copies are authorized and that the name isn't used as a trademark on unauthorized copies made for sale). 

Moral quandary?  Perhaps not for a home knitter inspired by Kara to make her own version (in Cookie's case, sans ear flaps).  But is professing admiration for a startup designer consistent with potentially undercutting her market and her attractiveness to much-needed investors?  Knitting a Chanel-style sweater jacket -- for which I recently saw unauthorized instructions in a magazine -- won't overturn Lagerfeld's empire, but the effect on a young designer could be much greater.  Viewed in property terms, "stealing" designs from the rich or the poor is indistinguishable -- but the actual impact is potentially quite different.

So congratulations to Kara on finding a fan base -- now she just needs paying customers and capital.  

March 08, 2006

Carnivale of Couture @ Counterfeit Chic: Round 3

And still musing on our Carnivale of Couture topic of

The insightful Andrea of Papierblog adds a series of comments about the awkward fit -- philosophical, not physical -- between certain celebrities and the brands they showcase on the red carpet or silver screen.  Good point !

Knockoff Newsflash

Congress has passed the Stop Countefeiting in Manufactured Goods Act, including provisions for the destruction of any property used in manufacturing fakes.  Text of the bill is available by searching for H.R. 32 on Thomas.

Carnivale of Couture @ Counterfeit Chic: Round 2

Enjoy these additional posts from this week's Carnivale of Couture, a spectrum of

Hail to the Chief!  The amazingly smart and energetic Fashion Tribes EIC Lesley Scott shows us why her online magazine has its pulse on the many futures of fashion -- and gives us a look at the powerful stylists behind the curtain;

The intellectual sensualist La Retrosessuale of ShagriLaw entices us to the movies with the luscious descriptions of a true prose poet and a splash of acerbic wit;

Your humble Countefeit Chic checks out the Sims' virtual knockoffs of Oscar gowns and their legal implications; and

The discerning Bag Snob rouses herself from the boredom of a too-practical Oscar red carpet to cleverly skewer the unwary -- and prepare herself to host the next week's Carnivale of Couture!  (Click here for this week's earlier posts.) 

Once again, thanks to The Manolo -- and to Carnivale-goers everywhere!

March 07, 2006

More Simulacra and Simulations

In response to the Sims' Oscar knockoffs, Marty Schwimmer of The Trademark Blog asks succinctly, "Right of publicity issues?"

The short answer:  Of course. 

The longer answer:  Welcome to the state law morass that governs rights of publicity.  In general, celebrities who have developed valuable personnae have the right to protect it from unauthorized commercial exploitation.  (Everyone's favorite case on this subject, for the amusing facts if not the outcome, seems to be Vanna White v. Samsung Electronics America, 971 F.2d 1395 (9th Cir. 1992), in which Vanna sued the company over an ad with a robot representing her.) 

What does that have to do with a Sim knockoff of an Oscar gown?  If the virtual gown for sale is depicted on the actress who wore it to the Academy Awards, that's an interesting question.

Designers don't compete to dress celebrities out of concern that the poor girls can't dress themselves -- there are stylists for that.  Rather, the free gowns, shoes, handbags (and rumored monetary compensation) are offered in the hope that the celebrity will be photographed and the image will be frequently editorialized.  Money simply can't buy the kind of exposure that a Best Actress winner's dress will receive for free.  So the nominees, presenters, and other beautiful people are in effect renting their celebrity status; their bodies become billboards advertising fashion houses.  The ultimate idea is to draw attention to the brand and sell more dresses -- real, not virtual. 

So, if we view the agreements between designers and actresses as a financial transaction, the use of an actress' image to sell a virtual gown might violate her right of publicity.  After all, what if Reese Witherspoon wanted to make money by modeling virtual gowns (as a Sim, she's certainly tall and thin enough)?  It's a good thing that at the moment her real world far eclipses any virtual one.

For more on law in virtual worlds, check out James Grimmelman's interesting and intelligent article and blog.

And for further reflection on the philosophy of copying, see Jean Baudrillard -- whose text also has a cameo in The Matrix


From Silver Screen to Computer Screen

Maybe you wouldn't wear a knockoff -- but would your avatar?

The Academy Awards are a bonanza not only for knockoff apparel manufacturers hoping to sell copycat prom dresses to starstruck teenagers, but also for clothing designers in the virtual world.  And they're even quicker than their real-world counterparts.  According to USA Today, fans of The Sims video game were already trading knockoffs of Oscar gowns yesterday, with Keira Knightley's aubergine Vera Wang (below) the most popular ...

... and Reese Witherspoon's winning vintage Dior not far behind.

What's next, the Isaac Mizrahi for The Sims collection?  (If Barbie can be a client, why not a Sim?)

The real-world knockoff trade is aided by the fact that designers can't protect their creations through U.S. intellectual property law, but what about the wearable 2-D copies?  Well, strangely enough, designers can claim copyright in sketches of their clothes, though not the garments themselves.  And if a clothing designer chose to work online with design software, like an engineer or an architect, those online creations could also be protected -- as could so-called derivative works adapted from them.  But since the Oscar gowns at issue here aren't protected to start with, and the copies are drawn from life, it would be hard to argue for protection.  So, ironically, it would be easier to protect virtual clothes than real ones. 

But for the moment, how cool is it for Vera Wang or the house of Dior to have even virtual characters vying to wear their Oscar gowns?  These ladies don't demand exclusives with the house, seek compensation for wearing a dress (forget about actually paying for one), fail to show up for fittings, change their minds at the last minute, refuse to return loans....  Long live the virtual couture client!

Many thanks to Marty Schwimmer at the interesting and clever Trademark Blog for giving me a heads-up. And don't forget to check out his new joint venture, the Shape Blog, on design protection -- it even has a section on clothing!

March 06, 2006

Knockoff News 8

A weekly (or thereabouts) collection of news about counterfeits, fakes, knockoffs, replicas, imitations, and copying in general from around the globe:

And a shout-out to all of those knockoff artists busy copying last night's Oscar dresses:

Carnivale of Couture @ Counterfeit Chic: Round 1

is the topic of this week's Carnivale of Couture, and the fashion blogosphere has responded with everything from critiques of Oscar Night to Hollywood history.  Here's the first round of posts:

The smart and stylish La Dulcinea of ShangriLaw names Jessica Alba (in her gold Versace) the Best Dressed for Oscar Night 2006;

While the detail-oriented bloggers of I am Fashion check out the total look and give the nod to Reese Witherspoon (in vintage Dior and a sincere smile);

And CoolChiq offers a whole slate of amusing awards (my condolences to a few of the "winners");

The very Fashionable Kiffen not only offers her take on last night's too-safe red carpet (with a few  standouts -- I'm with you on Charlize Theron's sculptural but controversial Dior), but reminds us of the role of trends & stylists -- and then acts as her own;

Meanwhile, Oscar Night is Judgment Day in the Blingdom of God;

Shoelover, whose clear plastic shoe boxes are a blessing to any fashionista's overstuffed closet, offers a very funny pictorial essay of red carpet faux pas (Caution!  Runaway breasts!);

Final Fashion reminisces about a childhood love of the classic Hollywood musical costumes that sparked her interest in design (and coincidentally fueled my own in ballroom dancing);

Verbal Croquis offers a fabulously informative (and cleverly catty!) insider's view of Hollywood fashion history -- a must-read for those of us charmed from childhood by the silver screen;

and don't forget a week of posts from Catwalk Queen!

P.S.  And let us not forget to thank the superfantastic Manolo, our King of the Carnivale, whose several superclever posts on the Oscars include both extraordinarily expensive and presumably quite tasty shoes ....

March 04, 2006

Virtual Counterfeits

Can you sell counterfeits of an imaginary object?  Absolutely, if demand exists in a virtual world -- like that of EverQuest2. 

According to New Scientist, prices for equipment like the Dark Shield of the Void dropped precipitously after some gamers discovered a way to make unauthorized copies.  And when we say "prices," we're not just talking Monopoly money -- armor, weapons, and even characters are bought and sold for real as well as virtual cash. 

So are the virtual cops on the case, or is this the online equivalent of Canal Street?  Apparently programmers try to catch and correct bugs in the system as soon as possible, but in the meantime gamers themselves play the role of fashion police:

Computer gaming expert and keen gamer Edward Castronova at Indiana University, US, says duplication flaws are not uncommon in online games and notes that the virtual communities in such games can often regulate themselves, agreeing not to exploit such flaws to maintain playability.

"Sometimes social norms can be effective," he told New Scientist. "Everyone may know that a dupe exists but it's like 'who cares?'"

In other words, fighting with a fake Wand of the Living Flame is like showing up at Fashion Week with a knockoff Vuitton

Could there be real-world legal consequences?  Well, software is subject to copyright, so its possible that if hackers copied and modified code there could be a cause of action.  In addition, such behavior could violate licensing agreements. 

But illegal or simply illicit, the concept of distinguishing a "real" virtual object from a "fake" one is a mindbender.

March 03, 2006

Spring Break Trade (Un)Dress

Just in time for Spring Break, the 11th Circuit is preparing to hear an appeal from Hooters, which claims that rival sports bar/grill Winghouse has stolen its trade dress in the form of the infamous "Hooters Girl."  The venue?  You guessed it -- Florida. 

Below are the two tackiest pictures ever to grace the pages of Counterfeit Chic.  On the left, semi-clad in her white logo tank top and orange nylon running shorts, the Hooters Girl.  (Orange.  Nylon.   Shorts.  Need we say more?)  On the right, in a black logo tank top and running shorts, the Winghouse Girl

Hooters magazine #56

In order to prevail on its trade dress claim, Hooters would have to prove that (1) the Hooters Girl, the predominant feature of its trade dress, is "inherently distinctive" or has at least come to remind customers of the restaurant (has acquired "secondary meaning"), (2) the Hooters Girl is predominantly non-functional, and (3) that the Winghouse Girl is confusingly similar. 

According to the District Court, 347 F. Supp. 2d 1256 (M.D. Fla. 2004), the claim fails as a matter of law because the Hooters Girl in uniform is primarily functional.  And we're not talking about serving food and beverages.  The judge found that "the Hooters Girl's predominant function is to provide vicarious sexual recreation, to titillate, entice, and arouse male customers' fantasies.  She is the very essence of Hooters' business."  Must be the orange nylon.

The Hon. Anne C. Conway further noted that while servers in both establishments wear tank tops and shorts, "Hooters cannot monopolize this generic theme any more than an upscale steak restaurant featuring tuxedo-clad servers could preclude competitors from using the same or similar uniform."  (Thank you for the substitute image, your honor; we'll focus on the tuxedos instead.)  Thus the court concludes that "the Winghouse Girl, with her black tank top and black running shorts, is not a 'knockoff' of the Hooters Girl."

The disposition of this case on appeal remains to be seen.  Rumor has it, however, that a record number of judicial clerks have offered to review the evidence.

March 01, 2006

Knockoff Shopping with Tim Gunn

America's Dean of Fashion, Tim Gunn, told Out.com that he really is a big fan of Project Runway sponsor Banana Republic -- or at least of its knockoffs.  Here's his story:   

I had been associate dean for years and I wore Ralph Lauren and Brooks Brothers. I wore suits every day and that’s just the way it was. I came to the department of Fashion Design. I had been here for about a year and a half and I thought I was an old stick in the mud. I needed to slightly edge it up. So I thought, I need a black leather blazer. So I went to Saks Fifth Avenue and I found one. It was Hugo Boss. It was gorgeous, and it was $800. I gasped and I bought it, and I thought, There’s my clothing budget for the whole year. So I walked across the street into Rockefeller Center where the Banana Republic flagship store is. I hadn’t been in Banana Republic for years. There was a black leather blazer for $400, and the two of them were indiscernible from each other. So I bought it and took the other one back.

So, my guess is that Hugo Boss wasn't a Parsons alum.  But on Tim Gunn, Banana Republic is definitely counterfeit chic.

P.S.  Hat tip to Blogging Project Runway.

Carnivale of Couture @ Counterfeit Chic: Invitation

Goodbye, Mardi Gras, hello Lent.  Today the last lost beads and stray feathers of Carnival are being swept off streets from Venezia to Rio to New Orleans.  Here in the fashion blogosphere, however, the Carnivale of Couture (and of course, the Paris Pret-a-Porter) goes on! 

In honor of the Academy Awards, our natural theme is

-- in all of its technicolor glory.  So put on your directors' chapeaux and cue your thoughts on

  • * runways, red carpets, and creativity (or lack thereof),
  • * what makes a red carpet faux pas (duplicate dresses?!),
  • * designers v. directors, stylists v. celebrities
  •      -- who starts fashion trends?,
  • * your favorite film/fashion collaborations of all time,
  • * why film is an "art" and fashion a "craft,"
  • * Hollywood, Bollywood, and Hong Kong
  •      -- the global film/fashion conection, 
  • * and, of course, Oscar Night.

RSVP with your links to your posts, and I'll publish them on Monday, March 6.  All are welcome -- and many thanks to The Manolo, our King of the Carnivale! 

P.S.  Blogroll update imminent!  (I've been a bit under the weather.)