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.