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February 22, 2009

Laughter Makes Wrinkles, But Burns Calories

The fashion world is notoriously difficult to parody -- just ask Robert Altman.  Every now and then, however, someone makes the stylish set burst its seams laughing.  Check out WWWD, the spot-on spoof of WWD (with New York Magazine-style party pics), available for download here. With headlines like "Shoes are Back!" and "This Just In:  Alexander McQueen/Bjork collaboration for H&M suspected in Dutch salmonella outbreak," it's the perfect chaser for this year's high-anxiety New York Fashion Week.

The best part?  One of its "Fashion Scraps" even pays tribute to the counterfeit trade:


Actually, that might not be a bad marketing stunt for Escada -- although the rents on those Canal Street cubbyholes are more than you'd think.  At least if the behind-the-wall secret closets are included.  

February 17, 2009

Asking Anna

At the start of New York Fashion Week, WSJ's Rachel Dodes asked Anna Wintour what we should expect to see for Fall 2009 -- which is a little like being able to waltz in on Day One and ask God what might sprout in the garden.  In other words, the answer is not so much a prediction as a declaration.

The response?  Originality and value are "in," copying and excess are "out":

Right now, what's going to work is something their customer doesn't have in her closet and that has a real intrinsic sense of value. …Because to be honest there's been too much product, too much copy-catting, and, probably too much consumerism. I think a sense of clarity, a sense leveling off and a sense of reality is needed.

And She saw that it was good.  

February 11, 2009

Cuff 'Em!

Today's WWD offers a look at Isaac Mizrahi's Fall 2009 collection for Liz Claiborne, noting its playful plaid "flapper meets lumberjack" theme.  But might this otherwise serendipitous encounter have taken place outside the boundaries of the imagination -- somewhere in the neighborhood of Burberry, perhaps?

No, the trousers don't quite incorporate the trademarked Nova check -- I don't think.  But they do require a second look.
Apologies for the picture quality, by the way.  WWD has a more complete and higher-res look at the collection online, but  this particular look is cut off just above the curious cuffs

Knocked Off and Marked Down

At the start of the downturn, Counterfeit Chic predicted two contradictory effects on the market for streetcorner copies:

  1. Some increased sales potential, as consumers pass up even deeply discounted genuine items in favor of rock-bottom prices on fake. 
  2. A concurrent downturn, as the prominent display of luxury logos -- real or fake -- becomes passe, even among the dwindling number of tourists.  

Turns out there's been evidence of both trends, with at least some counterfeit vendors having experienced brisk pre-holiday sales, while the overall lust for labels has diminished.  This week's New York magazine reports that a falling tide does indeed lower all boats:

One of the hallmarks of the boom was the triumph of "aspirational" branding: a pair of Gucci-stamped sunglasses did not cost three times as much to produce as a pair of Ray-Bans, but commanded three times the price.  Flush with cash (or easy credit), consumers bought the proposition that the brand itself -- the status it conferred -- was worth a 300 percent markup.  Not any more.  Not only are real designer bags hard to move off the shelves but the Canal Street knockoff market is in free fall too.  A zebra-patterned fake Versace bag, which used to sell for $45 in the summer, now barely fetches $25.  With the arrival of the crisis, the price tag on status has come up for renegotiation.  Today's consumer is demanding less and better at the same time.

Of course, design houses can fall back on claims of originality, artistry, and quality -- if the consumer is listening.  And despite rumors of plain brown bags being offered at high-end boutiques, the formerly proud owners of famous brands or counterfeit copies aren't sitting at home with seam rippers and solvents, trying to remove luxury labels.  Still, when wealth imitates frugality and, "No, I found it in the back of my closet," and "70% off" are style signifiers, it stands to reason that pale imitations of opulence would fade still further.

February 09, 2009

NY1's Fashion Week Preview

Fashion folk typically think thin -- meaning waistlines, not marketing budgets.  Starting Friday, however, editors, buyers, and other guests will be treated to a slimmer, trimmer version of New York Fashion Week, courtesy of the current economy.

Still, that's not necessarily a bad thing, as NY1's Jill Scott found when she interviewed designer Carmen Marc Valvo, IMG Fashion Week's Fern Mallis, and your favorite law prof.  Click the pic to view and/or read the story.  


Thanks, Jill!

February 03, 2009

Sois belle et tais-toi!

Some designers attribute their inspiration to nature, others to history, and still others to fellow artists.  All of which is fine and dandy, until someone files a lawsuit.

Take Tony Duquette, one of the great American designers of the twentieth century, whose work ranged from theatre sets and costumes to interior design to jewelry.  Duquette was inspired by, among other things, malachite; even the endpapers of his longtime business partner's book about Duquette are patterned after the stone's deep green striations.

Now take designer Michael Kors, who may or may not be particularly inspired by malachite, but was definitely inspired by Duquette -- so much so that Kors cited the late designer as the inspiration for his 2008-09 resort collection. Hence the Michael Kors "Duquette print shantung shift dress" (left) and a series of similarly named items.  

Where Michael Kors sees inspiration, however, Tony Duquette, Inc., sees trademark and copyright infringement, unfair competition, and violation of California's right of publicity statute.  And while some claims in the complaint are probably of the kitchen sink variety -- arguing trade dress in malachite could be a stretch, given other appearances as diverse as a Ralph Rucci evening gown and a Banana Republic perfume, not to mention the stones themselves -- others may end up costing Michael his next resort vacation. Yes, the repeated use of Duquette's name may have been intended as an homage rather than a suggestion of affiliation.  No, it's not always that easy to shrug off trademark claims. 

Ironically, if Kors had remained silent about his inspiration, there wouldn't be a case.  Hence the quick removal of Duquette's name from what is now termed simply a "Malachite print dress" on Net-a-Porter, though Nordstrom retains the original descriptor.  (Good eye, UnBeige!) 

Perhaps it's certain designers who should be seen and not heard -- at least until they've cleared their comments with their attorneys.

February 02, 2009

Le Miz

Isaac Mizrahi is a high-octane combination of entertainer and fashion designer.  He's starred in everything from a documentary film to a comic book to his own TV show, and his creations range from couture gowns to a groundbreaking partnership with Target.  His next challenge is to revive the Liz Claiborne label, and early reports are quite enthusiastic.

Except for one.  Jezebel's TatianaTheAnonymousModel did a double-take upon seeing pictures of Isaac's spring shoes, which strongly resemble Belgian Shoes' classic Midinette style in multiple colors.  Trust a skyscraper-tall model, even an anonymous one, to know her flats.

 Belgian Shoes' Midinettes (left) and Liz Claiborne (right)

Rumors of copying have swirled around Isaac before, from the late great Geoffrey Beene's file of alleged offenders to recent off-the-record whispers into the ears of your humble blogger.  These pics, however, are presented as a smoking gun.  The Midinettes currently available on the Belgian Shoes website even have a dark contrasting sole like Isaac's rather than one in the same color as the upper part of the shoe.

From a legal perspective, if Belgian Shoes claims that the Midinettes have over the years acquired sufficient distinctiveness that  the style itself reminds consumers of the company, then it could bring a trade dress claim against Liz Claiborne. Of course, Liz would no doubt argue that the style is a classic one and that Isaac's tweaks (is that a pointier toe, perhaps? a lower vamp? a more compact bow?) distinguish his team's work.  In fact, the style reminds me of a certain pair of my grandfather's brown bedroom slippers -- and he passed away decades ago. 

Still, why risk unnecessary legal fees -- or disapproving editorial coverage -- in this market?