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Has Old Navy turned to Piracy?

In an article on Old Navy's new strategies to attract customers, Amy Merrick reports the following in today's Wall Street Journal:

...Old Navy designers looked at jeans from high-end brands like Seven for All Mankind and Citizens of Humanity, which sell for more than $100.  They took the garments apart, examined the stitching and fabrics, then asked Old Navy's factories to create something similar.  The result, called "special edition" denim, will sell for $36.50 to $49.50, the priciest Old Navy jeans to date by $10.

Reverse engineering or design piracy?  Without seeing the jeans, it's hard to tell -- but the process sounds awfully suspicious. 



I guess it's piracy if Old Navy willfully appropriates proprietary design elements, but what if they're just aiming for the customer perception that these new jeans elevate the wearer into the "status class" of the $100 jeans? This would entail creating a "look alike" in the broadest sense--so that one appears to be wearing the high-end stuff in general, without directly infringing on a particular design. Maybe this is "composite emulation" more than outright thievery.

Although the WSJ article doesn't mention it, I suspect this particular Old Navy initiative is tied into broader marketing strategy to protect the Gap and Banana Republic brands. I don't think these brands compete well against the high-end jeans makers. Undercutting Seven for all Mankind, etc. via Old Navy frees Gap and BR from head to head competition at the $100/jean level, which they well might lose, further damaging Gap's reputation and stock price. With this new move, though, Gap and BR can happily watch Old Navy undercut the fashionista $100 jeans market while they extend their full price "classic" lines.

Anyway, if Old Navy is going to be Gap's "trend chaser" brand, what we see with these new jeans may be only the tip of the look-alike iceberg.

PS: Thoroughly enjoy your site.

Old Navy is soooo sad. Yuck!

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