Thursday, September 6, 2007


BCBG dress retailed at $4,049. Forever 21 replica dress retailed at $59.00. Which would you choose? Well, the answer is obvious if you’re an average shopaholic who loves fashion but refuses to pay the equivalent of a down payment for a house for a dress you’ll more than likely wore only once. Unfortunately, everyone does not feel the same way. Including today’s most famous and sought after fashion designers who have simply had enough with lesser known designers and companies ripping off their designs.

A heated debate has been raging over recent months in the American fashion industry over designs being copied. Copying, which has always been rampant in the fashion market, has become so insidious in the “Internet era” that it is now the No. 1 priority of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, which since last year has been lobbying Congress to add copyright protection clothing. The U.S. is one of the last nations without protection of fashion designs. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., is co-sponsoring a bill and held a news conference in August to rally sympathy for designers. "It's illegal to copy Harry Potter for sale, and it should be illegal to copy Nicole Miller too," said Schumer, adding that U.S. companies lose $250 billion annually to sales of illegitimate goods. An expert working with the designers' council estimates that knockoffs represent a minimum of 5 percent of the $181 billion American apparel market.

The designers seek to ban clothing that looks very similar to their originals but is sold under someone else's label. They want to extend laws that already ban counterfeit handbags and sunglasses with designer logos, which reportedly account for as much as $12 billion of sales. A reliable estimate of knockoffs cannot be determined, because designers and retailers disagree on which clothes are copies and which merely "inspired" by a trend, a normal part of the fashion food chain.

Prohibiting knockoffs is certainly no easy task, since many shoppers see nothing wrong with them, especially as prices for designer clothes are skyrocketing. Critics of the designers' group even argue that copies are good for fashion, because they give up and coming designers more exposure to a broader market and they push established designers to continue to invent new merchandise to stay ahead of the mark. New York designer Zac Posen somewhat agrees, as he wants a law to protect his fashion designs from knockoffs, he says imitations are not such a bad thing because they help promote growing brands like his.

Designers argue and say that is pre-Internet thinking. "For me, this is not simply about copying," said Anna Sui, one of more than 20 designers who have filed lawsuits against Forever 21, for selling what they claim are copies of their apparel. "The issue is also timing," Sui said. "These copies are hitting the market before the original versions do." Diane Von Furstenberg is another designer who filed a large copyright-infringement lawsuit back in March against the retail chain after they copied her Cerisier dress down to a T. The similarities go beyond appearance. Both dresses are 100 percent silk, and both are made in China. To the untrained eye, the construction seems almost the same.

While the fashion industry has long been plagued by counterfeiters selling knockoffs on street corners, seldom do reputable mass-market retailers so boldly copy high-end designers’ current-season offerings. “The so-called ‘legitimized’ versions are slightly better in quality [than knockoffs] but none are the same as the original genuine product,” said Harley Lewin, of law firm Greenberg Traurig [who is representing von Furstenberg’s studio]

“The harm done is probably greater. Consumers are more likely to think they’re buying the real thing at a retail outlet like this one, as opposed to a street corner,” Lewin said. “When the quality isn’t there, as it ultimately isn’t, the consumers blame the brand.”

1 comment:

WritingFashionista said...

Wow, this is a very impressive article. I can totally agree with Designers. You put your heart and soul into each creation, so it has to be a slap in the face when you see it at Forever 21. On the flip side, I think it's selfish because everyone isn't equipped with 4g's to spend on a dress. I love Designer clothes. What girl doesn't??? At the same time I'm all about bargains. I guess If i had more I would spend more. But for now I will continue to come up with cool concepts that cost less. The only knockoffs i'm not into is handbags. I can't do it!!! No way. They are NOTHING like the real thing, lol.