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)

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.  

January 12, 2009

Sex Advice from Paris Hilton

Paris HiltonDon't close your browser window and look over your shoulder yet -- it turns out that the notorious Ms. Hilton is a Rules girl, double standards and all.  But with a decidedly modern way of expressing it:

I think it's important to play hard to get. Nobody wants the fake Prada bag; they want the brand new bag that no one can get and is the most expensive. If you give it up to a guy he won't respect you; he'll want you much more if he can't have you.

Ladies and gentlemen, witness the birth of a new cliche:  "As cheap and easy as a fake Prada."  It seems there's nothing like running a Presidential campaign to bring out traditional values. 

Glamour magazine, via the Daily Express.  

September 11, 2008

Trying to Authenticate the Fake

New York Fashion Week appears to have triggered something of an existential creative crisis, best expressed in today's article by New York Times fashion critic Guy Trebay. 

After noting Malcolm McLaren's insistence that much of the classic punk clothing attributed to him and Vivienne Westwood and scheduled to be auctioned by Christie's next month is not genuine, Trebay observes that McLaren's point is really far broader:  "What is the point of cultural artifacts if they are not connected to any specific culture?"  The article goes on:

"Warhol's 15 minues have gone mad," Mr. McLaren said as scads of interchageable demi-celebrities marched by.  Everyone is trying to authenticate the fake.

Related post:  Alien Sedition? 

July 16, 2008

China Chic: An Economic Development Forecast

This week's New Yorker cover depicting Barak and Michelle Obama as Muslim terrorists is certainly controversial -- with die-hard liberal friends like this editorial board, who needs enemies? -- but the magazine's content isn't exactly plain vanilla either. 

Patricia Marx shops Shanghai, extolling the virtues of fraudulent goods of all varieties:  custom-made knockoffs, fakes sufficiently convincing to appeal to the likes of Yao Ming and Celine Dion, and the usual range of misspelled counterfeits.  The take-away quote comes from "a sage in her twenties" who told the reporter, "In Los Angeles they have real Birkin bags and fake boobs.  In Shanghai, it's the other way around.

But given global economic trends, that's only a matter of time.

January 01, 2008

Happy 2008!


Beauty is truth, truth beauty, -- that is all

            Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know. 

November 17, 2007

Give 'Em Hell, Harvey!

Movie mogul Harvey Weinstein may not be a longtime fashionista, but he's quickly becoming a dedicated follower of fashion.  Not only does the Weinstein Company co-produce Project Runway and co-own the Halston brand, but under the tutelage of his fiancee, Marchesa designer Georgina Chapman, he's developed a tremendous appreciation for the talent and hard work behind the glamour. 

WWD's Marc Karimzadeh reports that when a manufacturer boasted of plans to copy a Marchesa gown straight off the red carpet, Weinstein was shocked to learn that U.S. fashion designers have little or no recourse against design piracy.  Since then, Weinstein has made it his business to change the law.  In his words:

I might not know how to sew a dress and I might not know how to design a piece of jewelry, but I'm pretty good in a street fight and I bet you I get this bill [the Design Piracy Prohibition Act] passed.

Not a bad legacy for "a boy from Queens whose socks never matched." 

October 28, 2007

Um, Thanks?

From Overheard in the Office:

Make-up counter girl: ... And can I interest you in our free gift?
Customer: Sure! What is it?
Make-up girl: It's a real faux leather bag!

Department store, 34th Street
New York, New York

Hmmm.  Would this be the same department store on 34th Street that once boasted the real Santa as an employee?  What an extraordinary tradition of retail alchemy. 


August 15, 2007

"I'd rather go naked than wear fake Chanel"

After Courtney Love was busted for wearing fake Chanel couture to Paris Hilton's birthday party, she wrote an "in-depth letter of apology" to the angry designer, offering to make amends. 

The result?  A Lagerfeld/Love-fest in the current issue of Harper's Bazaar, featuring not only Courtney making good on her preference for nudity over fakes...

Courtney Love

...but also a shot of the former offender being fitted in the real thing.  As Love learned, when it comes to couture quality, there's really no comparison.  Among other differences, "Mr. Lagerfeld had made his gloves out of eagle feathers with black elastic.  Mine were spandex and maribou."  (Article here.)

Courtney Love and Karl Lagerfeld

A most gracious response from the couturier, who shot the photos himself, and skilled PR alchemy all 'round. 

HT:  Oficina de Estilo.

June 24, 2007

A Discerning Consumer

From Overheard in New York:

White chick to black chick: That's a cute bag. It would be, if it were real.
Black chick: Bitch, it ain't fake, it's stolen!

June 16, 2007

Smells Like Teen Spirit

Given the amount of time that well-heeled teens -- and even tweens -- spend online and at the mall, it's no shock that they've discovered luxury brands.  Nor is it particularly surprising that luxury brands have taken notice of the after-school set, offering pricey mini-indulgences like logoed barrettes. 

It is a bit strange, however, that some of their ostensibly brand-friendly elders sound suddenly moralistic when asked by WWD about the trend.

Portnoy's Complaint

Consider a comment by J. Elias Portnoy, chief brand strategist of the Portnoy Group:

It's like cigarette smoking.  [Luxury brands] are getting them hooked at a young age and have them as customers for a lifetime.

Nice analogy, especially from an organization that boasts, "We teach companies how to bond emotionally with their current and prospective customers and employees by creating the strategic platforms for great, compelling, and effective communications."

Nils' Nihilism

And how about this statement from Nils Montan, president of the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition:

Marijuana is called a gateway drug; that is what counterfeiting can be looked at as.

Montan goes on:

Kids, especially, are under the radar, but my gut reaction is that counterfeits are an entry point for teens to luxury brands.

Well, that must be a relief to Vuitton, Gucci, Chanel, Tiffany, etc., anyway.  Now they can forget all of that high-priced trademark enforcement and even eliminate their marketing departments, secure in the knowledge that counterfeiters are luring children to try their addictive wares -- after which they'll move on to the harder (i.e. genuine, more expensive) stuff. 

One wonders whether Montan, formerly VP and senior IP counsel for Warner Bros., also believes that poor quality, fake DVDs are a "gateway" to giant HDTVs and home theatres. 

With friends like these, luxury brands need no enemies. 

March 27, 2007

Welcome Tribune-Review Readers!

Reporter Jason Cato takes a look at the increasingly severe penalties meted out to counterfeit sellers who get caught.  Meanwhile, your humble blogger is spending the morning practicing her subject-verb agreement. 

March 12, 2007

Analogical Reasoning

A key element of legal education is the skill of creating analogies, likening one set of facts to another in order to make a point or promote a desired outcome. 

A common side effect is fabulously nonsensical connections like this one from David Lat of Above the Law, quoted in a Slate article about the $200,000+ signing bonuses that some law firms are now willing to pay to Supreme Court clerks.  As an alternative, Lat notes that some firms are recruiting somewhat less pedigreed law graduates instead:

"For every one of the 36 smartest law kids," he says, "there is another equally smart law kid who just had a bad interview [for a Court clerkship]." And if law firms make the economic decision to give bonuses to them, "they get all the benefits of a knock-off Prada purse: They perform the same function, they look great, and you know they'll do a great job."

Now I understand why so many legal services are sold on street corners. 

No, wait -- wrong analogy.

February 19, 2007

Critcal Mass 2

The fashion flock has left New York and passed through London on its way to Milan and Paris, so it's high time for Counterfeit Chic to gather up a few Fall 2007 copying-related comments from sharp-eyed fashion critics, editors, and others:

Derek Lam Fall 2007

The New York Times' Cathy Horyn and International Herald Tribune editor Suzy Menkes saw ghosts of Alaia everywhere (as did others, particularly at the Derek Lam show).  As Horyn noted:

About the only designer in New York who doesn’t attempt to resuscitate the dead is Narciso Rodriguez. I mean, if I see another Adrian, Mainbocher, Alaia or quietly finessed McCardell look…

Menkes went one step further, writing off the New York season almost entirely:

Ultimately, the New York shows remained stubbornly grounded, for instead of soaring to a new place, the collections were often tied to a retro futurism that took off with a Balenciaga show one year ago.

WWD reported on the response of Pierre Berge, Yves Saint Laurent's longtime partner, to the YSL references in Marc Jacobs' collection:

"It's true that it's inspired by Saint Laurent," Berge mused.  "But it lacks the great precision of Saint Laurent."  Pausing, he added, "Still, it's better to be inspired by Saint Laurent than by John Galliano!"

Writing for Daily Fashion Report, Marilyn Kirshner described Michael Vollbracht's program notes for Bill Blass, which astutely headed off any charges of copying by acknowledging his sources in advance:

Several outfits were described as "Halston-like" or "Norell-like" and in his program notes, [Vollbracht] explained why he is "obsessed with the two legends."  As he put it, he "fell in love with his (Norell's) sequined mermaids years and years ago when I was a very young designer."  And Halston?  "Because his simple philosophy looks so good in this era of over-designing."  And he continued:  "And of course Blass - because it is my job to knock him off."  Michael not only has a sense of humor...but he's honest.

It would appear that copying is a dangerous game, at least when it comes to the critics, but "homage" may get the benefit of the doubt.

Perhaps my favorite comment, though, came from Valerie Steele, director of the Museum at F.I.T.  When I ran into her at the Barneys party for the relaunch of the late Madeline Vionnet's label, she immediately reminded me that Vionnet herself had waged an ardent campaign against copying.  Good thing that the house's new design director, Sophia Kokosalaki, is doing a beautiful job! 

October 19, 2006

Humor from Hermès

At the French luxury goods company Hermes, counterfeits are no laughing matter.  Knockoffs of its iconic Birkin and Kelly bags are the stock in trade of both street vendors around the world and certain Upper East Side boutiques, despite the company's efforts to enforce its trademark and trade dress rights.  Ever wonder what happened to the "Jelly Kelly," the rubbery, translucent knockoff of the Birkin that appeared on fashionable shoulders from Milan to Southampton a few summers ago?  Ask the company's intelligent and efficient outside counsel, Joe Gioconda, who stemmed the tide.

Hermes Birkin with Jelly Kelly knockoff

Yesterday in Venice, however, Hermes CEO Patrick Thomas was in a lighter mood.  "Well, now you can say Hermes financed the restoration of a copy," he said, referring to the replicas of the city's four bronze horses usually stabled atop the Basilica di San Marco.  The originals were moved inside in 1982 to avoid further damage from pollution, but apparently even copies need a facelift now and then. 

New Hermes boutique in Venice


September 08, 2006

The President's War on Copying

To kick off New York Fashion Week, Wall Street Journal reporter Teri Agins asked fashion icon and CFDA president Diane von Furstenberg a few questions about the state of the industry.  Here's what DVF had to day about the counterfeit question:

WSJ:  What are the biggest challenges facing the industry today?

Ms. von Furstenberg:  .... Another problem is counterfeiting and how quickly they just replicate designs from fashion shows.  They copy you, and it gets into the market before you even ship.

WSJ:  Why is the American fashion industry pushing for copyright protection for apparel makers in the U.S.?

Ms. von Furstenberg:  At first, my attitude was, "Oh well, my clothes are copied everywhere.  There's nothing you can do."  And then I started to see how they pull it from fashion shows and copy it.  You can see it on eBay.  I started to say you have got to have some rules.  You have to do something.

Laws are created to intimidate people [with the threat of litigation], to tell them no, you don't do that.  The more I talked about it, the more I realized this is good for everybody.  Even if you can't stop everything, they wouldn't be boasting about it.  By passing a law and protecting design, you elevate the whole industry.

WSJ:  People argue that copying propels the fashion cycle because it creates trends.

Ms. von Furstenberg:  You will still have trends.  Why all of a sudden is everything yellow?  Why all of a sudden do young girls wear combat boots?  It starts from the street.  That's the mystery of fashion.

June 07, 2006

Double Vision

At a recent conference, luxury brand executives focused on China's market potential -- and on its production of counterfeits.  Patrizio di Marco, president and CEO of Bottega Veneta, offered this description of the issue of exclusive products faced with a proliferation of copies:

[Counterfeiting] is bad in terms of inflation -- visual inflation in the market.

Inflation -- interesting analogy.  Same dollar (status good) buys less (prestige).  Better send in the troops.