Fashion Designs Trademarked

This is an interesting article (click here) outlying not only the difference of what is and what isn’t trademarked, but more specifically how the US law interprets the trademark law for clothing designers, which just happens to be different that most other designers and artists.

The long and short of it is that a logo, such as this is copyrighted:
However a design like this is is not and can be “copied” without infringement or payment to the artist or designer who designed it.
The thinking is that clothing is everyday item, whereas a logo is not.  An artwork is not an everyday item, and therefore can be copyrighted, where as a piece of clothing is worn by everyone and is used daily.  It would be like copyrighting air or water, at least that’s the court’s logic.

So what’s an artist to do?  Or even better question is that if you’re an artist and want to get inspiration from another artist, how do you reconcile copying as opposed to anything else you might clean from a fellow artists’/designers’ work?

Tackling this from the artist point of view, I like the solution that Karl Lagerfeld has come up with.  He has made details and parts of his Chanel suits so intricate that they are not only hard to copy but very time-consuming.  Both these aspects of the trim make it very costly to reproduce and therefore pretty much guaranteed that if the trim were authentic, then it can be guaranteed to be a Chanel jacket, hence the huge price tag.  I thought this was very creative on Lagerfeld’s part to ensure that his designs weren’t easy to copy.

The Louboutin vs YSL red sole fiasco is what brought the issue of trademarks to the front again.

So why bring all this up.  Being in the business that I’m in, I have many clients who come to me and want me to copy this or that dress.  Believe it or not I find that very boring, and although I agree with them at first, after a few questions, we begin to discover this or that way which makes the dress better – pretty soon we’re off on a completely different turn and the dress has morphed into the very individual style of my client.  This is way more fun than detailing a dress down to the very last stitch to make it just like something else already out there.

And this is exactly what I encourage my students to do, especially when we are viewing the upcoming fashion shows and looking at dresses….I want my students and readers to be inspired by these designs, not to copy them.

It’s fine to like this or that style.  It’s fine to consider what part of this or that look will work for you.  But in my book it’s just plain boring to copy straight out – first, we have more creativity in us than that, and I’d rather see you all create something that is not out there – original to you!


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