« February 2009 | Main | April 2009 »

March 31, 2009

Topshop Give or Take?

The much-hyped stateside opening of Topshop, the British fast-fashion chain, won't take place until Thursday, but the free promotional tote bags being handed out around NYC have already raised questions of copying.  A Racked reader considers the design suspiciously similar to liner notes of albums from the French record label Kitsune...


...but from a copyright infringement perspective, Counterfeit Chic is unconvinced.  The styles are similar, but none of the actual drawings appear to be repeated.  Moreover, the Topshop tote adds garments, cupcakes, and even a horse's head to the mix.  Perhaps they both came from the same artist, or perhaps the ur-text was the junior-high spiral notebook of a budding caricaturist. 

Either way, Topshop would probably come out on top in the event of a challenge. 

Copying Cavalli

How does Italian designer Roberto Cavalli feel about being copied?

On a recent episode of the Style Network's Running in Heels, one of the featured interns gets a chance to find out, courtesy of questions from her editors at Marie Claire.  

Cavalli's dislike of being copied by "big designers" follows a typical pattern of response.  As in all creative media, from fiction to architecture, some artists are "inspired" by others.  When this search for inspiration crosses a certain line, however, noses get out of joint and the reputation of the copyist suffers -- whether or not the law in a particular jurisdiction has any say in the matter.  Watch out for copying that is (1) too literal, (2) too close in time to the original, or (3) in too similar a market niche. 

Hence Cavalli's reaction to alleged copying by other famous fashion designers.  The more-is-more master of mixed jungle patterns and baroque jewelry can fend off lesser lights (to some extent) via the power of his label, but peer-on-peer pilfering is a more direct threat.  Especially since Roberto is in the process of expanding his more accessible Just Cavalli line. 

So, why wouldn't Cavalli name names?  Or at least whisper in the ears of the lovely ladies from the magazine with the long-established "Splurge or Steal" feature?  After all, social censure only works when the culprits are identified.

Cavalli's uncharacteristic coyness may have resulted from the fact that all of the parties in the room -- with the possible exception of the intern -- could already guess the prime suspects.  And presumably the more fashion-savvy viewers at home immediately started guessing.  At times, inuendo can be far more powerful than direct accusation.  

In other words, why start an on-camera cat fight over leopard print when you can achieve the same effect with a catty suggestion?

March 26, 2009

Words of Wisdom

America's dean of fashion, the preternaturally pithy Tim Gunn, offers this tip for today, March 26, in his daily "guide to quality, taste, and style": 

Knock-off bags, if worn seriously, are not chic.  Furthermore, a bag needs to perform, and knock-offs are not made with durability in mind.  

Thanks to Tim for the advice -- and the desk calendar! 


March 25, 2009

Stolen Sh*t

Either several contributors to Overheard in New York reported the same vendor's shtick, or there's a new marketing angle on the street:

Street vendor, yelling: Anyone need coach purses? Anyone need stolen shit?

--Times Square
Overheard by: Sarah and Andrew

Black guy holding purses: Yo! Who wants to buy some stolen shit? I got some nice stolen shit over here.

--Times Square
Overheard by: A Little Too Intrigued

Man selling bootleg designer bags: Anyone want some stolen shit?

--45th St & Broadway
Overheard by: Claire

Yelling man peddling counterfeit purses: Get your stolen shit! Everyone needs some stolen shit! It's stolen in New York, so it still counts as being from New York!

--Time Square

Thug holding handbags: Who want some stolen shit? I'm not gonna lie in 2009. I got Dolce & Gabanna and Louis Vuitton. Who want some stolen shit?

--Times Square


Who's willing to bet that it's only the trademarks that were stolen?

(See also:  A Discerning Consumer)

March 23, 2009

Fool Me Once....

The Madoff family jewels are back in the news -- but this time they're plastic, according to the New York Post. 

While Bernie was unsuccessful in his attempt a few months ago to distribute expensive jewelry and other items to as-yet-unindicted family and friends, it seems his wife Ruth still craves a bit of bling.  She was spotted shopping not in the tony boutiques of Palm Beach's Worth Avenue, but in nearby alleys off Via Mizner "where they sell knockoff cheapo costume bangles." 

Will she try to pass them off as Cartier and Van Cleef, though?

March 17, 2009

More Waves for eBay

As if eBay didn't have enough to manage, what with declines in its core auction business and ongoing litigation over sales of counterfeit goods, now the International Society of Human Rights has made the e-commerce site the backdrop for a public service announcement regarding child labor.

The German PSA opens with an eBay search for an MP3 player, which quickly yields more information about the device's manufacture than the average shopper really wants to know.  To see the entire ad, click on the image below.


The good news is that eBay is still hiring -- in the public relations department.

Via Ads of the World.  

March 16, 2009

Manners and Morals

When complimented upon a counterfeit watch, should one confess its nefarious origins or simply say "thank you"?

Franck Muller ChronographPhilip Galanes' "Social Q's" column in the Sunday New York Times approaches this question as all good etiquette lessons do, by confronting the perplexed party with a point of view he hadn't considered.  In this case, that of the company that manufactured the original and holds related intellectual property rights.  And, for good measure, society at large.

The answer deftly assumes that the questioner, who actually revealed his full name, feels guilty about wearing a $30 imitation of a "$15,000 beauty," suggesting that this guilt might best be assuaged by writing a letter of apology to Franck Muller.  To underscore the point, the column calls attention to local schools and hospitals deprived of the tax dollars that are the result of legal rather than illegal commerce.

Of course, Mr. James Lister Smith of Mill Valley probably never felt guilty about buying the fake watch at all, just uncertain about whether to lie about it by omission.  But perhaps he feels a bit abashed now.  Or at least tired of everyone at the office this morning asking to see his fake watch and noting its deficiencies.

The original question, naturally, goes unanswered.  Instead, in the hands of the etiquette expert an inquiry about manners becomes one about morals, as he informs the reader that the copy should never have been purchased at all -- without ever saying so directly. 

And so the brilliant and iconoclastic Dorothy Parker, who once described the mastery of etiquette as ultimately reaching  "a point of exquisite dullness," is for once proven wrong.  An apparently simple question of manners is just as often a well-dressed battle of wits. 

March 12, 2009

Case of the Disappearing Frogs

For more than a decade, scientists have been alarmed by the decimation of frog populations around the world.  Not only did the disappearance of the frogs set off a frantic search for the cause, but many worried that it heralded the collapse of the global ecosystem.

Mystery solved?


Designer Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, who in the '80's created a teddy bear coat worn by Madonna and others as a statement about fur, has apparently slaughtered dozens of Kermits for this Fall 2009 look.  Whimsical design or green manifesto?  And perhaps even more importantly, does intellectual property-conscious Disney -- which acquired the Muppets in 2004 -- know?

March 11, 2009

European Theatre of Operations: Everyone v. eBay

L'Oreal is determined to stop the sale of counterfeit perfume on eBay, and potentially expose some legal disunity in the European Union at the same time.  The French cosmetics company earlier this week opened its case in British court, which leaves the list of countries in which it has taken action against the online auction giant at France, Belgium, the U.K., Germany, and plans for Spain.  L'Oreal lost its case in Belgium last year; a decision in France -- whose courts earlier ruled in favor of both LVMH and Hermes in similar claims against eBay -- is expected as early as today.

In related news, Rolex lost its most recent salvo in in a long-running dispute against eBay in Germany.  In an earlier ruling, Germany's highest civil court had decided that while eBay couldn't be liable for damages, it did have to monitor its site once it became aware that counterfeit sales were occurring.  On remand, the lower court found that eBay is complying with this requirement.

And across the pond, eBay's program allowing rights-holders to report specific instances of counterfeit merchandise offered for sale in the eBay marketplace was sufficient to satisfy the trial court.  Tiffany's appeal (still) pending. 

What was that about shopping victoriously?

March 06, 2009

Show Stopper: LV convinces Danity Kane to cease & desist

Danity Kane album coverLouis Vuitton has wrangled a promise of reform from Bad Boy Entertainment and Warner Music Group, who will remove images of LV's trademarks from the eponymous debut album and videos of recently disbanded girl group Danity Kane. 

In its public statement, the luxury goods company politely refrained from pointing out exactly why it didn't particularly care to have its marks associated with DK's particular species of sleazy safari deshabille.  Instead, LV expressed appreciation for the music labels' commitment to educating artists about unauthorized use of others' intellectual property. 

And that goes triple for Sony BMG, who last year was persuaded to pay up after its artists Britney Spears, Da Brat, and Ruben Studdard all partook of the famous LV toile without permission. 

Given the apparently irresistable attraction of its logos, perhaps LV's next step should be to start a music label of  its own.  

A Day in the Life of an Indie Designer

Amidst  heated discussions over how many hundreds of millions of dollars worth of knockoffs are sold annually and harrowing reports of copying, counterfeiting, child labor, and organized crime, this mundane daily sales report from a single shop throws the issue into stark, simple relief.  Call it accidental poetry.  

Subject: End of Day 03-04-09

Cold and sunny day.

7 customers walked in.

2 ladies from the UK purchased the Audrey dress and Lana dress, both in black.

They purchased the dresses to manufacture in the UK.

Total $350.00

There oughta be a law.  But until there is, focus your fashion budget on genuine originals from EMC2 or another favorite local boutique -- before some modern day Dorothea Lange starts photographing lonely racks of unsold clothing, sale signs, and empty storefronts.


Many thanks to talented and determined designer Emmett McCarthy for allowing Counterfeit Chic to share this inadvertently eloquent email.


March 03, 2009

Cheap, Chic...and Copied?

Designer Karl Lagerfeld never uses the word "cheap" -- at least when it comes to fashion.  In his oft-repeated quip, "People are cheap.  Clothing is either expensive or inexpensive."

Even the Kaiser might make an exception for a dress that recently appeared on the runway in Milan, however.  Not only was it officially designated "cheap" -- as in the "Moschino Cheap & Chic" label -- but  it also bears a suspicious resemblance to a dress created by a young New York designer.

Anya Ponorovskaya owns and designs for three Girlcat boutiques, two in Manhattan's Nolita neighborhood and one in Brooklyn.  Her flattering Audrey dress (below left) is a bestseller, and comes in multiple colors.  Look closely at Anya's design -- and then check out the Moschino dress (below right).  Yes, the overall look is relatively simple, but would you expect even the curve of the pocket to follow the same line?


Legally speaking, an Italian fashion house like Moschino could face a lawsuit if it copied at home, since European fashion designers (and many others around the globe) are protected by intellectual property law.  A quick trip to the U.S., however, represents a completely legal opportunity to cherry-pick the designs of the local talent.

Maybe Moschino designer Rosella Jardini and her team did, and maybe they didn't.  But to clients and friends familiar with Anya's designs, it sure looks like a cheap trick.  

March 01, 2009

Cardboard Couture

When InventorSpot compiled a list of the top ten strangest shoes, these cardboard numbers by Mike Leavitt caught Counterfeit Chic's eye -- and not only because of the meticulous craftsmanship.  It seems that the artist is making a statement about art, commerce, and the branded products we love.  Or used to love, before we all stopped shopping.  According to his press release:

In his work, a cheap, disposable material comprises an expensive product, similar to the manufacture of boutique footwear. His cardboard shoes suggest commercial viability is now an urgent reality. 

But will Nike, Puma, Adidas, Converse, New Balance, Vans, Fila, and even Crocs appreciate Leavitt's title admonition, "Don't Stop Object Shopping"?  Drop by his thrift shop-style installation at Fuse Gallery in New York between March 21 and April 18 to find out. 

 Cardboard Puma

Cardboard Chuck Taylor

 Cardboard Croc

And, of course, to answer the next question:  If the shoes are cardboard, what are the boxes made of?