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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?

December 10, 2008

Death of the Avant-Garde

Like other artistic media, fashion is engaged in a constant struggle between the creative and the commercial -- and lately it seems that the commercial is winning.  While Damien Hirst isn't painting pastel seascapes for Florida hotel rooms and Philip Glass isn't composing advertising jingles, avant-garde fashion designers are under pressure to make their work merely pretty and wearable, in part because of the difficulty of maintaining exclusivity.

In a recent article, the Dutch design duo Viktor & Rolf note, "In our information society, mystery is very hard to maintain, and what is avant-garde today is mainstream tomorrow.  It can be copied and marginalized very easily."  

The upside?  Viktor & Rolf exploiting their name recognition to knock themselves off for H&M.  The downside?  A design duo that once showed high-concept atomic bomb silhouette couture instead offering frilly blouses and beaded dresses for Spring 2009.  Intricate and beautiful, yes; progressive, no.

 Viktor & Rolf Fall 2008

December 01, 2008

LEGO my Ego

Amid Black Friday blues and Cyber Monday concerns, one holiday shopping tradition remains as glossy as ever:  the Neiman Marcus Christmas Book.  Since 1926, the catalog has been offering luxury presents for the good girl or boy who has everything.  And starting in 1960, the fantasy gift list has also included a "His and Hers"selection -- matching planes, a pair of camels, or a Jaguar coupe for him and a jaguar coat for her, anyone?  (OK, maybe not that last one -- but it was 1963, before either equal rights or public awareness regarding endangered species.) 

The 2008 Christmas Book is as creative as its predecessors, with the opportunity to immortalize the couple of your choice as life-sized LEGO sculptures in collaboration with artist Nathan Sawaya

 

Attorneys for Neiman Marcus obviously took a crack at The Book before it landed in lucky mailboxes around the globe, however.  The item description includes the following caveat regarding your would-be blockheads:  "Just make sure you have the rights to their likenesses; we're not here to judge."  In addition to concerns about rights of publicity, the fine print notes, "LEGO and the brick configurations are trademarks of the LEGO Group.  The Life-Size Replicas are not affiliated with or endorsed by the LEGO Group."  Fair enough, given previous LEGO controversy

With the legal details out of the way, all you need now is USD $60,000 per sculpture plus shipping -- and a full-time nanny to make sure that Junior doesn't dismantle the artwork during playtime.  On the other hand, the reconfigurable nature of the sculptures could come in handy in the case of a post-holiday breakup.

November 25, 2008

Giving Rights of Publicity the Finger

Finger puppet-maker extraordinaire Mullish Muse has designed handfuls upon handfuls of characters, from holiday standards to Presidential candidates.  While these clever creations are appealing stocking stuffers, the fashion designer series, thus far consisting of Karl Lagerfelt (below), John Gallaineano, and Vivienne Westwool, and the rock star series may give rise to legal finger-pointing. 

 

Like other celebrities who invest in and profit from their images, fashion designers may enjoy rights of publicity under state law and in various non-U.S. jurisdictions.  True, some might appreciate being immortalized in felt and sold on Etsy, but others might not -- and Karl Lagerfeld in particular is quite protective of his image.

So while Ms. Muse carefully referred to the puppet's attire as an "Italian-style suit," avoiding a false designation of origin, and to the designer's "trademark ponytail" (not literally, but colloquially -- it's a signature style), the long arm of the law may ultimately stay her hand. 

October 28, 2008

Your Brand I.Q. on Drugs

Need a way to brighten up a rainy afternoon at your desk?  Check out Erowid's "99 Ecstasy Tablets" (2007) below -- and then set a timer for 60 seconds and click the image to visit the larger original. How many logos can you identify in a minute?  And what do those particular brands say about your consumer identity?  Look closely -- some of Counterfeit Chic's favorite marks are a bit faint.

Warning:  Trademark holders are likely to be less than ecstatic about this particular artistic medium. 

 

Via BuzzFeed.  


 

October 15, 2008

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?*

From time to time Counterfeit Chic features works of art that "borrow" fashion-related trademarks, whether for purposes of commentary or cultural reference -- but I've never before considered compiling a catalogue raisonne.  It seems, however, that at least one art aficionado has based his entire collection on prints that flirt with the limits of trademark law.  Perhaps predictably, the guy is an intellectual property lawyer.
 
Fatbombers conducted an interview with "Giacomo" (surname wisely withheld) discussing some of his prizes, including beejoir's "LV Child" below.  When asked how the trademark holders reacted to these works, he responded by offering examples and noting that, while Louis Vuitton had sued Nadia Plesner, the company had never acted against beejoir.  Might the collector be considering a sideline defending his favorite artists?
 
beejoir's LV Child 
 
In any case, should "Giacomo" eventually decide to liquidate his collection, some lucky auction house will have its lawyers working overtime. 
 
*Who will watch the watchmen themselves?

August 09, 2008

Branded Beef on the Hoof: The Nike Burger

When  Vice magazine asked Olle Hemmendorff for his take on Nike Air Max 90s, he must've been hungry:

 

Hopefully the finished product isn't as tough as shoe leather!

Via A Hamburger Today.

July 08, 2008

Duplicitous Discount

 

The © MURAKAMI exhibt at the Brooklyn Museum opened in April with real Louis Vuitton handbags masquerading as fakes -- and will close Sunday amid a flurry of counterfeit coupons pretending to be genuine. 

Filip Noterdaeme, the artist/activist and founder of the Homeless Museum of Art project, objects to the commercialization of culture in general and the presence of a Vuitton boutique at the Brooklyn Museum in particular.  The tiny boutique at the heart of the exhibit, which carries the products of the Takashi Murakami/Marc Jacobs collaboration for Vuitton, is itself a provocative commentary on Murakami's "super flat" integration of art and commerce -- and it apparently succeeded in provoking Noterdaeme, who has distributed hundreds of fake "discount" flyers.  While the ad only suggests asking for a discount, the intent is "to confer to museum visitors the absurdity of a bluntly commercial enterprise infiltrating an art museum."  And maybe to generate a bit of conflict at the cash register.

Interestingly, Noterdaeme avoided reproducing the LV logo or signature toile, perhaps in an effort to avoid trademark liability.  But would the First Amendment shield him against a claim of tortious interference with business activity?  Possibly -- but when taunting Vuitton, Noterdaeme would be well advised to send up a Hail Mary. 

Via Gawker

June 20, 2008

Colonization of the Lifeworld

In honor of its 75th anniversary, Lacoste appears to have released one of its famous crocs into the wild...

...at least according to the "New Meaningful Life of Famous Logos" series at Wallout.com

Caution:  Watch out for trademark lawyers...and their gently smiling jaws

May 06, 2008

The Revolution will be Fabulous

Last night the Met was filled with couture superheroes and their well-dressed celebrity mannequins, but where were the arch villains?  Out in L.A. no doubt, arming themselves to the teeth with designer weaponry. 

You may remember Anko's "Louis Vuitton" grenade; now check out Peter Gronquist's solo show, including rocket launchers, chainsaws, missiles, and other dangerous things, branded with all of your favorite designer logos.  Whether your label of choice is Hermes, Prada, Gucci, Burberry, Coach, Paul Smith, Dior, Fendi, Chanel, Versace, Fendi, D&G, or a somewhat incongruous Pac-Man, the artist has a weapon for you.  There's even a Vuitton electric chair for those who prefer state-sanctioned violence -- though perhaps a guillotine would've been a more direct cultural reference. 

 Louis Vuitton electric chair USD $4500

Photo via Toybot Studios blog.

 Burberry rifle USD $3500

 Photo via Gallery 1988 blog.

But is all of this artful appropriation of trademarks merely provocative, or is Gronquist a retail genius in disguise?  As Occasional Superheroine and full-time feminist comic book fan Valerie D'Orazio notes, there's quite a market for pink guns.  When the revolution comes, prepare to shoot like a girl.

The Revolution will be Fabulous:  A weapons of mass designer show will be on view at Gallery 1988 Los Angeles through May 16. 

April 27, 2008

Copying for Charity

Click for larger imageJudging from my inbox, more than a few of you have heard that Louis Vuitton has sued Danish artist Nadia Plesner over the t-shirt design at left. 

The image casts a Sudanese child from the troubled Darfur region in the role of Paris Hilton, complete with small pink-clad dog and designer handbag, in order to criticize the media's excessive coverage of attention-seeking celebutantes rather than genocidal conflict.  In Nadia's words, "Since doing nothing but wearing designerbags and small ugly dogs appearantly is enough to get you on a magasine cover, maybe it is worth a try for people who actually deserves and needs attention."  (The lack of undergarments may also evoke Ms. Hilton, but the artist doesn't mention her model's unmentionables.) 

The issue for Louis Vuitton, however, is that Nadia didn't just depict any designer bag, but a version of the iconic Multicolore toile pattern, complete with the LV initials morphed into dollar and pound signs.  The company objected to this use as trademark infringement and asked Ms. Plesner to stop selling the t-shirts.  The letter is interesting in itself, since the tone is fairly unusual for a C&D -- "Hey, we're all artists here, and Takashi Murakami and Marc Jacobs collaborated on that bag," rather than the typical demands for an accounting of all units sold, disgorgement of funds, destruction of all remaining merchandise, and the head of the offending party on a platter.  It even offers a nod to Nadia's "Save Darfur" mission.  Still, LV very clearly wanted the shirts depicting its trademarks off the market -- and Nadia responded with a defense of her freedom of expression.  (She also somewhat surprisingly started out by arguing that her drawing refers to designer bags in general and not LV in particular, but more on that in a moment.) 

After Nadia and Louis Vuitton failed to reach an agreement, the company filed the lawsuit that has drawn far more attention than Nadia's initial project.  Without deciding the case, let's take a look at why there's an impasse. 

Q.  Why do Louis Vuitton's lawyers object to the t-shirt?

A.  The simplest answer is that their job is to protect LV's trademarks.  And, legally speaking, they're supposed to object to unauthorized commercial distribution of those marks.  A trademark holder that doesn't enforce its rights can ultimately lose them, as the marks may be considered abandoned or even generic.  Every time you ask for a Kleenex instead of a tissue or make a Xerox instead of a photocopy, a trademark lawyer somewhere gets another grey hair. 

The same is true for the extremely recognizable Multicolore pattern, which has been copied over and over again and is the subject of ongoing litigation between LV and other manufacturers.  It is the responsibility of LV's lawyers to make sure that the public's association between the Multicolore design and the company is not weakened in any way.  Thus Nadia's claim that her design "is inspired by - and refers to - designers bags in general - not a Louis Vuitton bag" is the last statement that would be reassuring or persuasive to a trademark lawyer. 

Q.  But Nadia created the t-shirts for charity -- doesn't that matter?

A.  Yes and no.  We all love a good cause, and we admire people who actually take action when confronted with evil. 

From a trademark lawyer's perspective, however, unauthorized commercial distribution is a threat, whether or not the profits go to a good cause.  Even charities that hold trademarks have problems protecting their marks from other philanthropic parties with similar purposes.  A representative of a prominent health-related nonprofit organization once told my class that she spends much of her time admonishing other groups that have put her organization's logo on their educational literature or their healthy products.  As she put it, "We're a charity, but we're not in the business of giving away our trademark."  Similar issues arise when trademarks are "borrowed" for religious purposes.  Trademark owners who object aren't necessarily grumpy atheists, just concerned about their marks. 

LV's initial letter to Nadia reflects this tension between sympathizing with social concerns and protecting intellectual property -- hence the unusually moderate request and tone for a C&D. 

Q.  So why didn't Louis Vuitton just give Nadia permission to use its trademark?

A.  One strategic option for any company whose trademarks have been used without authorization is to give permission, and also exercise some control, via a licensing agreement. 

Of course, Nadia didn't ask for permission.  And Louis Vuitton may or may not have been willing to grant it if she had, since its marks are constantly copied and copied again.  Also, while Nadia's stated intent was to criticize media attention to celebrities instead of tragedies, her profits from the t-shirts go to Divest for Darfur, an organization that opposes financial investment that ultimately funds genocide.  The presence of LV trademarks on the t-shirt could mistakenly be read to imply that Louis Vuitton had made investments that were helping to fund genocide -- not a message that the company would want broadcast, even in error.  In U.S. legal terms, LV could argue that Nadia was not only engaged in dilution of its well-known marks by blurring (basically overuse by non-owners) but also by tarnishment (negative association).

Q.  What about freedom of expression?

A.  Free speech is an important right, and one that every democratic society protects in different ways.  Intellectual property law establishes exclusive rights in specific expressions, but also attempts to maintain a balance between freedom of expression and creators' rights. 

In other words, at the same time that the law protects trademarks, it creates defenses for those who wish to use them in discussion (like the use of the name "Louis Vuitton" thoughout this post).  Different countries have different trademark laws and thus different defenses to unauthorized use.  In the U.S., the general standard is "fair use," including parody, while other jurisdictions have specific rules about what is or is not allowed in terms of expression.  To complicate matters even further, fair use of a trademark and fair use of copyrighted material are subject to different standards. 

In general, under U.S. law a visual artist is safer using a trademark to comment on or make fun of the trademark owner itself (parody) than to make other social statements (satire).  After all, it may be necessary to make limited use of a trademark to make a statement about its owner, but statements about other things can be made using other vocabulary.  Of course, whether or not something qualifies as parody or other protected speech may require a judicial decision.  Nadia writes that her goal was to make a statement about media coverage, not about Louis Vuitton. 

In her response to Louis Vuitton, Nadia also mentions Zbigniew Libera, a Polish artist who created LEGO concentration camp sets with blocks donated by the Danish company.  In the finished versions of the controversial work, Libera included a statement that his work was sponsored by LEGO.  The company vehemently denied knowlege of exactly what the artist had intended and filed a lawsuit that was later withdrawn.  The story is a cautionary tale for companies who choose to support artists -- whether by donating plastic blocks or the use of their designs -- but is ultimately quite different from Nadia's choice to act unbeknownst to Louis Vuitton. 

Q.  Do you think Paris Hilton will sue Nadia?

A.  Actually, I try not to think about Paris Hilton. 

But if I did, I might wonder whether she would assert a state law right of publicity claim against Nadia, much as she did against Hallmark.  If Vanna White can win her case against Samsung for posing a robot in a blonde wig on a game show set, then Paris could consider suing an artist for selling images of an African child with Hilton-style accessories.  Paris' case would be weaker here, however, since Nadia is criticizing the media for its coverage of Hilton's attention-seeking behavior and perhaps impliedly criticizing Hilton herself, rather than simply selling greeting cards or electronics. 

Q.  How can artists like Nadia avoid lawsuits by trademark holders?

A.  There's a lot of confusion out there as to what artists can and cannot do legally with corporate logos. Unfortunately, the law in this area is not entirely clear, and greater specificity would benefit both trademark holders and artists.  There are, however, some general principles.

For an independent artist, the safest option of all is not to use others' trademarks.  Any such use is a risk, and defending a lawsuit is time-consuming and expensive, even for an artist who ultimately wins.  (Now you know why so few lawyers have become great artists -- we're trained to think about worst-case scenarios.)

That being said, corporations are significant players in modern life, and as a society we need to be able to engage in commentary and criticism, whether that takes the form of op-eds or visual art.  A trademark is shorthand for a corporate entity itself.  The law thus recognizes and protects some critical or discursive use of trademarks. 

Before an artist uses a corporate trademark, she should think about whether or not her intention is to comment on the trademark holder -- and assess the risk according to the relevant national law.  If the use of someone else's trademark is just to make a visual joke or to sell the artist's own products, then that use is lawsuit bait, and the artist may very well be liable for damages.  And by the way, some companies are more determined than others when it comes to enforcing their rights. 

Of course, an artist's intent may be to transgress boudaries and challenge the law, but she should at least figure out where the line is before crossing it. 

Q.  And how should companies respond to unauthorized use of their trademarks by artists?

A.  As we've discussed, trademark holders are required to attempt to assert control over unauthorized uses, lest they lose their trademark rights entirely.  But for most holders of frequently copied trademarks, enforcement is a matter of allocating limited resources -- and managing public relations.  It's impossible to stop every counterfeit handbag seller on every street corner in the world, or to review every art school sketch to determine whether it's fair use.  Commercial sales in large multiples tend to make trademark lawyers see red; a one-off, transformative use may be worth only a shrug and a sigh. 

Q.  Who's going to win this case?

A.  That's a question for a Danish court -- although a settlement is still possible.  In the meantime, don't try this at home. 

Many thanks to Jenny Leugemors and Jayshree Mahtani, the first two to alert Counterfeit Chic to the story!

Via TorrentFreak.

April 22, 2008

Barefoot Boy with Shoes On

If you seek proof that America has a corporate soul, look no further than our soles. 

In the current issue of New York Magazine, Adam Sternbergh attempts to convince readers that going barefoot is biomechanically better.  Still, the idea of unbranding our feet would run roughshod over perhaps the healthiest sector of the fashion industry.  Hence, a trompe-l'oeil adidas:

And a Louboutin "heel" that will knock your socks off: 

Lest these painted-on images step on trademark lawyers' wingtipped toes, however, the photos come with a disclaimer:  "Nice as they look, you can't buy them." 

April 18, 2008

SuperCouture

In times past, a fashionista who contemplated attending a comicon would be tempted to duck into a phone both to change, lest her fellow style mavens suspect her secret identity as an associate of comic book geeks, science fiction fans, and other permanently adolescent males.  However unfair the stereotype -- most avid graphic novel readers have met a girl, and a growing number actually are girls -- hanging out with the comic crowd wasn't exactly a recipe for social success.

This season, however, none other than Vogue's Anna Wintour has declared the arrival of superhero chic.  The Met's Costume Institute Gala, co-chaired by Anna herself along with Giorgio Armani, George Clooney, and Julia Roberts, will take place among displays of high fashion influenced by comic book characters.  Mere mortals will no doubt flock to the exhibit for months afterward. 

The Met has, naturally, taken the opportunity to encourage donations by sending out preview literature from the exhibit, including this photo of a Bernhard Willhelm look from Spring 2006.  It's not clear exactly which nefarious ubervillain might have found a way to melt Superman's shield, but judging from the choice of trim underscoring the trademark, Counterfeit Chic suspects the Infringer, whose choice of weapon is the deadly pun ray.  Pugnacious parodies, Batman! 

Bernhard Willhelm Spring 2006

Of course, we need not worry about the Man of Steel.  He's more than capable of defending against crimes of fashion if necessary -- a good thing, since D.C. Comics' lawyers have had their hands full with other matters lately.

As for me, I'm off to the New York Comic Con's panel on "Comics, Concepts, and Copyrights" this afternoon at 2pm.  See you there!

April 07, 2008

Doggie Bag

Man's best friend may be his dog, but woman's constant companion is her handbag. 

While Louis Vuitton was feting Takashi Murakami and their wildly successful handbag collaboration at the Brooklyn Museum on Thursday, an artist at a very different gallery space across town was also taking advantage of the Vuitton vibe.  The Honey Space, a usually unattended "no-profit" gallery in a Chelsea warehouse, asked 5 curators to select artists to create works that meet the size and weight requirements of international carry-on luggage.  Perhaps inspired by Vuitton's nineteenth-century origins as a maker of upscale traveling cases, Meryl Smith combined leather, papier-mache, gold paint, and a (fake?) LV zipper to create Excessory Baggage.  Yes, models and actresses are still accessorizing with little dogs, but why try to smuggle your barking purse pup through security when you could settle for convenient faux taxidermy instead?

Meryl Smith, Excessory Baggage, 2008

The Honey Space's Object Salon was on display only March 26 - April 5, but how much was that doggie in the window?  A cool USD $3,000 -- pedigree included, of course.

Many thanks to my Fordham LL.M. student Vibeke Aagaard Sørensen and her dog for noticing Excessory Baggage while out for a walk! 

March 27, 2008

Art Attack

In today's art world, where investing in old masters can lead to ruin, is it any wonder that a French street artist would have a series of solo shows  -- and be represented by a gallery besides? 

ZEVS is known, among other things, for his billboard "bombings," in which he targets commercial images with a spray can and lets the paint drip where it may.  A recent series, "Liquidated Logos," takes the graffiti concept one step further, matching the paint to the original trademarks and allowing it to run:

As Kultureflash inquired during a recent London exhibition, "Vandalism or art?  Activism or commercialism?  You decide." 

One thing's for sure:  The employees of Chanel -- and Nike, and Apple, and McDonald's -- assigned to clean up after ZEVS have quite a bit of work ahead of them.  As does his legal counsel, for that matter. 

P.S.  Check out Sergio Rossi's spring collection for the perfect pump to wear to a ZEVS exhibit:

Sergio Rossi Spring 2008

December 05, 2007

Frills and Furbelows

Next year may be the Year of the Rat, and Ratatouille may be animating discussion about the Oscars, but Counterfeit Chic doubts that Chanel will be particularly gRATified by artist Kristofer Paetau's placement of its logo on actual taxidermied specimens, no matter how au currant the lace-trimmed critters may be. 

On the upside, fur-wearing Vogue editor Anna Wintour and PETA may finally find common ground.

Care to see the models who would dare to wear the little boudoir beasties?  Check out TransRatFashion (caution: NSFW!). 

December 04, 2007

Zebra Crossing

Sam Kerr at Lie-ins and Tigers offers Paul Smith fans a visual treat (Te Smith, this one's for you!):

But if Mother Nature really did adopt Sir Paul's signature stripes, could the designer seek legal redress?  Well, most stripes are probably too commonplace to be copyrighted, but in a number of cases courts have found that complex striped patterns are sufficiently original to merit protection.  So feel free to wear colorful stripes -- or hang them by the chimney with care, for that matter -- but avoid copying, lest you end up wearing stripes of another sort.

For more on this seemingly innocuous pattern, read The Devil's Cloth: A History of Stripes -- and then ask yourself why lawyers' pinstriped suits seem so appropriate. 

Via FFFFOUND!

November 30, 2007

It's a Gas, Gas, Gas!

We've seen a "Louis Vuitton" grenade -- now bring on the designer gasmasks!

Artist and advertising impresario Diddo Velema makes manifest a portrait of our warfare with ourselves and our ecosystem, in which "fear stems from our extreme desire for authenticity and manifests itself in our collectively insatiable culture of consumption.  Deep down, we are afraid we may never be satisfied." 

Breathing through luxury logos and precious gems probably won't assuage our anxieties -- but a rather sophisticated visual laugh at the idea just might.  In other words, a Gucci gasmask may be the perfect holiday gift for the lady or gentleman who has everything (but probably shouldn't). 

And speaking of perpetual anxieties, note the long version of the legal disclaimer -- it's just art! -- though "copyright infringement" should probably have read "trademark infringement" here. 

November 20, 2007

Gourmet Spam

Every bright new technology casts a shadow -- and for email, that dark side is spam.  You can fight it with filters, you can unsubscribe from as many lists as possible, you can delete it...or, like artist and illustrator Linzie Hunter, you can embrace it.

Linzie was inspired by the spam one-liners in her inbox to create a series of "experiments with hand lettering" -- a nice complement to her digitally created work.  Think there's nothing in particular to be gleaned from junk email?  Behold the soul of a spam:

Repl1ka Watches from Linzie Hunter's Spam One-liners

"Repl1ka watches," with its clever emphasis on the "look," is Counterfeit Chic's favorite, naturally -- but don't miss the rest of Linzie's incredibly creative cultural commentary!

UPDATE:  Select prints available at Thumbtack Press -- for less than the cost of many "repl1ka" watches!

October 13, 2007

Puckish Portrait

Sean Avery is a hockey player whose dream job is running a fashion magazine.  Judging from the appropriation artwork gracing his walls in tomorrow's New York Times Magazine portrait, however, he won't be landing many ad pages from Chanel.

The piece is signed "Ermanksi," presumably Brian Ermanksi, a.k.a. the Prince of Elizabeth.  The street artist and vintage resaler seems to have a particular resonance with Chanel, since his painted room in the San Francisco Hotel des Arts also includes "a quick spray-can rendition of a Chanel #5 bottle."  He's certainly piled on the details in this work -- in addition to the giant logo and quilted background, he's dressed his blue-haired model in pearls, a pendant with the number 5, and signature cap-toe pumps. 

Then again, the double C's may simply be the modern outlaw artist's corporate icon of choice -- not necessarily a bad thing for a venerable fashion house seeking to stay relevant, even if it sets some trademark lawyers' antennae quivering.

P.S.  Staying in the Hotel des Arts is a most interesting experience, even if waking up inside a contemporary art installation can be a bit disorienting -- definitely worth a look.   

September 29, 2007

Coco is Dead -- Again

Maybe it's a monument to ego, and a pilgrimage site for couture-clad devotees.

Maybe it represents an ardent fan's determination to take her wardrobe with her.

Maybe it's another creative statement about an iconic brand. 

Or maybe it's artist Laura Keeble's meditation on branding and iconography -- or, in her words, "belief systems and idol worship." 

That's quite an analytical burden for a bit of polystyrene, plaster, and paint -- but then, Laura's work (scroll down) is nothing if not thought-provoking.  Of course, if she ever actually decided to go into the headstone business, it could also be trademark infringement suit-provoking, but happily the law gives some leeway to art.  While the graveyard's groundskeepers might not be amused,  Laura can rest in peace, at least from an intellectual property perspective.

P.S.  To pay a virtual visit to Mlle. Chanel's actual grave, click here -- you can even leave flowers.   

September 22, 2007

Is fashion art?  The U.S. legal system doesn't think so, but the Wall Street Journal may beg to differ. 

An article on whether a bursting housing bubble will be followed by a popped art bubble opens with a description of recent sales: 

London diamond dealer Laurence Graff is putting 30 works of art on the auction block, including some important contemporary pieces. Collector and philanthropist Louise Blouin MacBain just auctioned off $4.6 million worth of Hermès handbags, Manolo Blahnik shoes and furniture from two of her homes. And an anonymous European seller is parting with 29 pieces, including works by Andy Warhol, Edward Ruscha and furniture designer Marc Newson.

These sales -- and a host of other prominent works headed for the auction block in London in a few weeks -- are sending a ripple through the art market.

Are Blahniks and Birkins now officially wearable sculptures, the equal of contemporary art?  Have the little seamstresses and tailors of history and the celebrity couturiers and designers of today joined the ranks of their "fine art" peers?  Or is reporter Lauren Schuker simply concerned to hear that a noted collector is selling her shoes? 

Either way, the article offers a whole new perspective on investment dressing.