WASHINGTON — Mixing fashion and politics, the Seventh Avenue crowd tried to convince members of Congress on Tuesday to protect their designs from piracy.

The scene shifted in the evening from Capitol Hill to a party at the Sewall-Belmont House and Museum, and the occasion was as much about lobbying as socializing.

Arie Kopelman, vice chairman of Chanel, said piracy is essentially counterfeiting minus the fraudulent label and a practice that can make innovative fashions grow stale more quickly.

“There are so many young designers coming up,” he said. “It’s so easy. They can get knocked off so fast.”

The antipiracy effort includes the Council of Fashion De­signers of America, Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana and the Federation Française de la Couture, du Prêt à Porter des Couturiers et des Createurs de Mode.

“What we’re against is the exact copy, plagiarism,” said lobbyist Liz Robbins.

“Right now, America is the Trojan horse of the industry,” said attorney Alain Coblence, who helped conceptualize the campaign. “It’s the only country in the industrialized world that does not have protection of the intellectual property rights for design.”

One of the targets of the lobbying trip, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R., Va.), vice chairman of the Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property Subcommittee, said, “These folks made a very convincing argument.” He plans to introduce a bill that would combat fashion design piracy.

Rep. Howard Coble (R., N.C.), co-chairman of the House Textile Caucus, said, “Piracy needs to be closely monitored and closely corrected.”

CFDA president Stan Herman said the trip was a good start. “There was a lot of respect on the other side of the table,” he said. “They were all very responsive.”

This story first appeared in the March 16, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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