NEW YORK — Narciso Rodriguez, Nicole Miller, Yeohlee Teng and other designers turned out Wednesday at the Fashion Institute of Technology to support Sen. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) as he plugged new legislation to protect fashion designs from knockoff artists.
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. Trademarks only protect brand names and logos. A loophole in copyright law leaves New York fashion designers open to having designs pirated. Unlike the arts, books, music and films which are protected, fashion design is not covered.
Design is "every bit intellectual property — yet the law says, 'Come, rip it off' — it's absolutely amazing," Schumer said.
Introduced last week in Washington by Schumer and eight other senators, the DPP Act stemmed from concerns about how copycats are devaluing designers' original designs and how cheap overseas labor is challenging growth in the $350 billion U.S. fashion industry. The bill's aim is to preserve intellectual property and to safeguard established and up-and-coming designers. Similar laws in Italy and France have fared well, Schumer said.
"Fashion week is just 10 years old — that's hard to believe. Yet all of a sudden, New York is the fashion capital of the world. It's not Milan, it's not Paris — it's New York," Schumer said. "It gives us that star quality that helps attract millions to New York and employs thousands and thousands."
In fact, New York's $47 billion fashion industry employs 150,000 people, said Schumer. While imitation may be the finest form of flattery, it is costing the city $1 billion in lost taxes annually, according to another speaker, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D., N.Y.), who is shepherding similar legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.
"Kate Winslet's movies are protected from pirates, but Kate Spade's bags are not," Nadler said.Rodriguez knows firsthand how extreme piracy can be. He said an estimated eight million copies of the slipdress he designed for his friend Carolyn Bessette Kennedy were sold. And by the time he produced that same dress for his own collection, he sold "maybe 45 — it was already too widely distributed" by copycats. "It was very harmful to my business." He also said that at one point he had a fledgling accessories business, but before he could produce it, knockoffs already were being distributed by larger companies.
Designer Jeffrey Banks explained that under the new legislation, a designer can photograph the front and back of a garment, send those images to the copyright office, pay a fee of $30 or less and the design would be registered. Designers would have six months to register a design. Existing designs are already in the public domain and would not be covered under the new legislation, said Schumer.
Before the program got under way, designer Marc Bouwer told WWD that Faviana, a dress company, made its $238 interpretation of the dress he designed for Marcia Cross to wear to last year's Golden Globes into one of this year's best-selling prom dresses. "We're all for making more affordable clothes. Have us working for Target and H&M and others — but let it come from us. Do not counterfeit our designs in such a blatant manner," Bouwer said.
“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