LOS ANGELES — A discussion on the value of copyright protection for fashion split along vendor and designer lines Thursday, highlighting the industry infighting that has slowed federal legislation on the issue.
On the vendor side, Ilsa Metchek, executive director of the California Fashion Association, argued that a proposed bill to shield original apparel, handbag, footwear, eyewear and belt concepts from copies would have a negative impact on business.
"It will expand into luggage; it will expand into home furnishings," she said. "At what point do you say, 'It hasn't been done before?'"
On the designer side, Rami Kashou, runner-up on season four of Bravo's "Project Runway," suggested the pending Design Piracy Prohibition Act rewards the hard work that spawns fashion innovation. "I put...everything into my designs," he said. "When an idea is invented or comes to life, and people associate a label with that idea, I would definitely hope there is some kind of protection."
The bill, which is stalled in Congress, would allow designers to register for three years of copyright protection and would penalize knockoff artists $250,000 or $5 for each copied item, whichever is more. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimated that $12 billion in revenues were lost in 2006 because of counterfeiting and piracy of apparel and fashion goods.
The legislation was introduced in the House and Senate last year. A proposal from the Council of Fashion Designers of America, the bill's leading champion, to reach a compromise with the American Apparel & Footwear Association was rejected in March by the association's board.
Joining the debate at the Luxe Hotel Sunset Boulevard were attorneys Anne-Marie Pecoraro, David Erikson and Robert Helfing, who delved into the legal questions surrounding fashion copyrights and placed U.S. laws in a global context. The lawyers and their firms have represented Magda Berliner, Libertine, Thierry Mugler, Frédéric Malle and Delia's, among others.
Helfing focused on the legal measures that exist to encourage innovation in the fashion industry, including design patents and trademark laws, and pointed out why they might be insufficient.
"By the time your protection issues, the market has moved on," he said. "If you really want to make a knockoff artist laugh, tell him to stop what he's doing because you have a patent pending."But the attorneys acknowledged that the legislation was imperfect. For example, Erikson indicated that figuring out what designs merited copyright protection would be challenging, and stressed that copyrights should only be doled out to novel designs that have "not been done before" and are "not staples."
He added that the legislation doesn't inhibit designers from interpreting ideas to jump on a trend, only from making exact or very close copies of original work.
Metchek, however, said businesses already profit from creating recognizable brands, and criticized fashion copyrights for potentially resulting in frivolous lawsuits that could lead retailers to avoid vendors accused of copying.
Despite the bill's potential problems, Kashou said, "Raising awareness is a good start. That's how things get passed eventually."
Conceding that Kashou and other designers might be hurt by the status quo, Metchek warned that the proposed "cure is worse than the disease."
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa's “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections – anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything. “It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” the late designer told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.” Read more about the iconic designer’s life and work on wwd.com, link in bio. #wwdfashion #azzedinealaia (📷: @WWD Archive, 1986) #alaia
Sneaker reselling app @goat’s latest exhibit, "The Greatest: New York," tells the story of New York's sneaker culture. To celebrate the exhibit, an intimate crowd gathered on Thursday night at the pop-up gallery space, located at Platform in Culver City, to hear guest speaker and illustrator @esymai talk about her own rise in streetwear and women in the business. "For me I'm just someone who is creative. I like to create things," said Chang. #wwdfashion
Azzedine Alaïa, one of the most iconic couturiers of the modern era whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion, has died in Paris. The diminutive Tunisian-born designer, known for his structured knitted dresses with fitted waists and impeccably cut, figure-hugging second skin silhouettes was deeply admired by his peers, and counted supermodel Naomi Campbell - his adoptive daughter - among his inner circle, one of a gang of glamazons including Farida Khelfa, Carla Bruni and Stephanie Seymour who became ambassadors of his style. (📷: Alexandre Guirkinger) #wwdblast