End of Budget Fashion in the US?

What: US Senator Chuck Shumer recently introduced a bill to reduce the number of designer “knock-offs” by allowing fashion designs to be copyrighted.

What the fashion heads say: from WWD:

The Schumer-backed Design Piracy Prohibition Act would protect original fashion designs for three years once registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. Current U.S. laws only address counterfeits if they involve anything that infringes on a registered trademark or falsely purport to be authentic. Under current laws, patents can protect creative objects or ornamentation, but it is virtually impossible to get a patent on an entire article of clothing.

What I say:  Designers copying the designs of other designers is really nothing new, but the concept of style for less is. Imagine what would have happened if Chanel had a copyright on jersey knit, Diane Von Furstenberg the wrap dress, Salvatore Ferragamo the wedge heel, or Andre Courreges the mini skirt?

The copying of high designs by lower priced merchants is the natural result of the constant marketing of high end luxury goods to the masses.     The marketing departments and ad agencies of these design houses created this monster by targeting teens in their ads (Dakota Fanning in Marc Jacob Ads? ) and inundating us with images that tell us that spending $1,000 for a handbag or $1,000,000 for a watch is the “norm”, even when most of America is spiraling into debt.



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  1. lisa says

    I personally think this bill might be a good idea. Its about time we protect the designers/artists who work hard to create and innovate fashion. When companies copy these high end designs it devalues the brand and forces prices even higher to offset legal fees. The copyright would only protect the design for three years and there will still be many loopholes that will allow the masses to get their hands on budget fashion- for instance, if at least one thing is noticeably different in the copied design then it will probably be okay. I think this bill will see its biggest impact in handbags and not in articles of clothing. Also, since many designers have realized the earnings potential in designing for mass retailers like target and kohls (think Vera Wang and Isaac Mizrahi) budget fashion should not suffer. Remember, this bill will most likely not pass if it protects vague design concepts (eg. knit dress and wedge heel) because that would not be fair and would disrupt the fashion cycle- but if can pass if it merely protects the design itself.

  2. Suz says

    Except it wouldn’t prohibit knit wrap dresses—it would prohibit knit wrap dresses in specifically registered prints for a short period of time. IOW, line-for-line knockoffs in near-original prints and colorways like what Forever 21 has been doing would be illegal. Inspired by (knit wrap dress, boxy knit suit with gold-tone buttons) would remain legal.

  3. obsidian says

    I totally agree with you.  If these designers had patents, the majority of us would be walking around in very “uninspired” looking clothing.  Fashionistas would be limited to the Haves…NOT the Have Nots :(

  4. martha says

    Expect more “celebrity fashion lines”. That or wearing robes or tunics with ugly shoes.
    I don’t even want to think about handbags and other accesories. For a moment, thank god I live in Mexico, but wait a minute, that means I will have to wear uhhmm what, Zara?
    Think I will enroll in some sewing classes and save myself.

  5. bingsy says

    So how would they enforce this? I’m just picturing someone’s grandma designing and sewing their prom dress or wedding dress based off of a designer and ending up in court.

  6. Chrissy says

    I was just reading an article about this in the NY Times. It’s really a shame that designers are going crazy by doing anything in their powers to make sure the average person cannot dress stylish. I’m a college student and I live at Forever 21! I know I cannot afford that Diane Von Furstenberg dress or LAMB blouse. That’s why I love designer inspired trendy pieces. Stores like Forever 21 are amazing because you can find a piece similar to something you saw in in the fashion magazines and buy it for a fraction of the cost! With the way these selfish designers are going no one will be able to do that anymore. I mean come on, are these designers really hurting?

  7. Rick says

    You pose a great question.  What if Andre Courreges had copyrighted the mini skirt?  Personally, I can see one of two things would have happened:

    1) The miniskirt would have never made it mainstream because it remained out of the hands of the populous.
    2) The price would have to be artificially deflated in order to make the style available to the public.

    The outcomes for the future (if this bill passes) is that:

    1) designers will have to give non-exclusive usage to companies that make the clothing and then (at a later date) sell the usage to corporations like Target.  Or…
    2) designers will go bankrupt.

    That is, of course, providing the bill passes.

  8. Suz says

    This is funny and pointless on the designers part really. Diane Von Furstenberg kinda copied Claire Mcardells design for the wrap dress, and Marc Jacobs has copied EVERYBODY – just grab a Seventeen magazine from the 70’s and you will see exact copies of many of his current designs. Both Anna Sui and Jacobs mine vintage heavily for ideas/looks. Even Dolce and Gabbana copy – look at some of Gaultier’s early stuff, like his corset dress and then make it black – voila! Ralph Lauren was sued for copying Halston.

    It’s part of the business, always has been.

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