April 26, 2007

Anti-piracy laws...

Today's WWD reports that there is a group of designers and editors currently trying to put anti-piracy laws before congress:
That is why fashion designer Nicole Miller and others came to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to lobby lawmakers, many of whom sit on the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, which have jurisdiction over intellectual property laws, on a bill they hope will change the law. "Design piracy denigrates the integrity of the style," said Miller. "This year, we have been copied more than we have in past years. With this legislation, people will be deterred from making everything too literal. It's the line-for-line copies that bother me."
What is the current situation?
The specter of fashion design piracy sends shivers down the backbone of the fashion industry, but defining "piracy," "knockoffs" and "original" designs under intellectual property laws has proven elusive. Trademark laws protect designer logos and patent law periodically applies to "innovative or ornamental" design elements. Prints and artwork are protected by intellectual property laws, but fashion designs have no protection under copyright laws.
While I agree that knock-offs in particular have gotten completely out of hand recently, especially with the rise of internet/wireless communications technologies and the ability of fast-fashion retailers to copy a design within weeks and have it in the store before the original has even hit the wholesale showroom...I think this is a murky issue. This is what I'm writing in my thesis paper about it:
When modern fashion was “born symbolically with [designer Charles] Worth in the mid-1800s,” issues of authenticity were irrelevant because everyone who could afford to wear the latest fashions had them made custom by local dressmakers (Reinach 47). Although ideas could be “borrowed,” each garment was necessarily unique in cut, fit, and materials. But when clothes started to be mass-produced, garments became models that could be “exactly reproduced at will” rather than unique articles of clothing (Vinken 20).
Of course, the construction, design and marketing of an authentic Louis Vuitton bag is much costlier and more desirable than that of its counterfeit. Aside from being illegal, counterfeit fashion items are socially stigmatized in our culture, and “a tag of authenticity is a powerful force in selling goods”. However, what about the fact that the presence of fakes make the real items even more socially desirable? And would there be any difference between an “authentic” Marc Jacobs elastic band and a “counterfeit” one? In fact, theorists such as Michel Pastoureau have argued that “the concepts of falsity and authenticity are cultural constructs.” And what does it mean to be a fake when “several of the most prestigious ‘made in Italy’ brands are in reality, entirely manufactured in China” and made in the same factories as the counterfeit but with different materials?

Finally, the biggest issue with anti-piracy laws in fashion is this - they assume that the high-end designers are the originals from which others copy. However, we've seen Balenciaga knock off Kaisik Wong and I personally know many great designers who quite literally "borrow" inspiration from vintage clothing or their own archives or wardrobes without penalty. Do we expect them to be original also? Or is it only when someone else is infringed upon that it matters?

How original is DVF's design that she can sue Forever 21? Not to say they're faultless....

Do you expect originality in design?

Photo source (Marc by Marc on the left and Forever 21 on the right)

April 17, 2007

Adventures in Fashion Editorial


Love this blog from Glamour magazine. Today, Suzy writes:
In my day as an assistant, we worked from 8 a.m. until 11 p.m. and later or even 24 hours in a row, without complaint. It was expected that we would run around NYC in search of whatever our editor needed and if we didn't find it, it was pretty much the end of our careers. Saying "no" was not an option and that was the best thing I could have ever learned from any job.
While this may sound dramatic, it's real. And a good lesson to anyone who might be wanting to work at a consumer magazine (trade ones and newspapers tend to be different from what I hear).

Kudos also to Julie for telling it like it is.

"Real" Vs. "Fake"

Authenticity is an issue with which I'm quite concerned and interested, as someone who used to work in design and still currently works in the industry at large. The rise of branding. Logomania. Counterfeits versus knock-offs.

The idea of ‘fashion’ itself, as opposed to dress or costume, has only emerged “within a particular kind of society, one where social mobility is possible” because historically fashion has developed “during the movement towards a capitalist society and the emergence of a bourgeois class” as a tool for social differentiation (Entwistle 44). Ultimately, then, fashion “suggests competitive emulation, a rank-order tournament in which the prize is social distinction” (Caves 182).

Thorstein Veblen’s chapter on the idea of “conspicuous consumption” in his 1899 book Theory of the Leisure Class addresses this theory of fashion beautifully, stating that the “[c]onspicuous consumption of valuable goods is a means of reputability to the gentleman of leisure,” especially in an age when many live in cities and cannot easily express their wealth through more traditional means (56). Now that individuals are exposed “to the observation of many persons who have no other means of judging of [one’s] reputability than the display of goods (and perhaps of breeding) which [one] is able to make while…under their direct observation”, it is more important than ever to use one’s means to acquire and display conspicuously one’s “worth” (Veblen 64). Furthermore, the outward display of material goods is important since within “modern civilized communities the lines of demarcation between social classes have grown vague and transient” and dress is a way for individuals to strive towards “the next higher stratum” socially (Veblen 62).

Ultimately, in the present age, the “sign” as discussed by Baudrillard in For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign plays an important role, and fashion is but a part in the “society of the spectacle where the cult of appearances is all important” (Negrin 114). The use-value of an object is much less relevant than its exchange value.

Logos and branding are an important and yet problematic part of the contemporary
fashion system. The accessories shown here include both “real” and “fake” items representing a wide range of designer brands and displaying very recognizable logos. The objectives are: to show both the emptiness of and meaning imbued within the sign (logo) in contemporary capitalist culture, which so often fetishizes these branded fashion products; to explore the real problem of counterfeits within fashion; and to point out how the medium of fashion photography flattens the difference between the authentic and the other, because differences such as finishing touches and materials simply do not “read” in print.


Photocredit: Me.

April 11, 2007

Off Topic: Pictures That Inspire Me Pt.1

Because sometimes, you just need a little inspiration. And it's refreshing to go outside of the fashion/consumer system and just appreciate nature. And design. And ideas.

In no particular order. Photos I like on my computer that I shot in the past few years.

Where do you find inspiration?

For me? Friends and lovers. Travel. Literature. Magazines. Food.

April 10, 2007

Ego and Rebirth

Fashion Week Daily has a great interview with Tom Ford, formerly of Gucci. Ford today showed his new Manhattan digs off to top fashion editors and journalists.

In the 1990s, I used to really like the sexy, minimalist Tom Ford for Gucci look. All black had never looked hotter. But now, I think for this era I have to wonder if it's a little overkill. Luxury is always in, but there's something over the top about this reincarnation. But I guess the clothes will speak for themselves, when they are revealed to the public (ie us!).

My favourite part:
Who’s your male muse?
“I think you’re looking at him. I think it’s me.”
But in a way, I agree with his design philosophy for his men's store and line:
Did you approach your upper-echelon price point with any reservations? [Made-to-measure suits start at $5,000; ready-to-wear suits at $3,200; shoes, at $1,100; shirts, at $350; ties, at $165; and socks, at $75.]
"I believe that the high end is the place to be, or the low end. I think those things in the middle are the things that don’t interest me. I wear Levi’s and T-shirts from the Gap, and then if I wear a jacket, I want to wear a beautiful jacket. I don’t really understand that middle level.”

Speaking of which, what’s your take on doing a bridge line? Will there ever be a Tom by Tom Ford line?
“Oh, I just don’t care about that at this moment in my life. I don’t care about that customer. I just don’t care. I care about authenticity. I’m interested in doing the best or I’m interested in doing something that could be broad but good design. And that’s very interesting too. I haven’t done that yet. High design at a price point everyone can afford is very interesting too, because it is the best: it’s the best in term of design that it can be and in term of industrial manufacturing. And then this is the best in terms of handmade and the highest level you can have. That’s fun.”
High and low are what I'm interested in personally as well. I have H&M, I have Prada (a little bit at least) and it's the middle market brands such as DKNY and so forth that I'm rarely purchasing these days. Between fast fashion and timeless/luxury fashion, all my sartorial and ego needs are set.

What do you think?

Photos: FWD

April 4, 2007

Taste is Personal?

Good taste, bad taste. The whole idea is so subjective depending on context and the target consumer, I'm starting to find out. For instance, the H&M t-shirt above was recently featured by New York magazine as a great, fun and cheap purchase. It was presented to the magazine's readers as something they could or should wear for Spring.

Interestingly, the very same shirt caught my eye months ago when it arrived in H&M stores in Toronto...at the beginning February. I bought it for a photoshoot about postmodernism [Julie: Don't ask! lol] and pastiche. But basically, it was for a really fun shot where we had ridiculous makeup, clothes and styling. We called it the UGLY-chic outfit, perfect for some ironic hipster fun...

Photographer credit: James K

So maybe it's all starting to make sense!

Or at least, this post proves that taste is fairly personal.

What do you guys think? Do you think anyone that's out of high school should be wearing such colours and motifs?

April 1, 2007

My new obsession...

As soon as I got home from the Comrags fashion show at Toronto Fashion Week, I emailed their store manager Judy (not the designer) to see whether they'd be producing the leather bag in the below picture for Fall. I'm on the email list for when it hits the stores! The picture doesn't do the design justice, but the bag is HUGE and a lovely, new shape. Love it!

Below...some snaps I took of their Toronto boutique.

Runway photo from Canada.com

Joe Fresh

Despite my personal issues with Joe Fresh, which is a *very* cheap fashion line sold at Loblaws grocery stores in Canada, I think it's conceptually brilliant and quite scary.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Joe Fresh, it's like Forever 21 meets Club Monaco. Insanely cheap prices made possible by overseas manufacturing in Asia, but enlightened by good design philosophies and a clean aesthetic (like Club Monaco or J.Crew, Joe Fresh is all about neutrals, basics with great colour, etc) that isn't motivated by trends like fast fashion stores like Zara and Forever 21. Like Target, the focus is on good, trendy design that is (by virtue of economies of scale rather than poor quality) affordable. $16 ballet flats in great colours? Amazing!

No wonder, since the designer/owner of the company is the same Joseph Mimram who founded Club Monaco so many years ago (another Canadian company!), before selling out to Ralph Lauren.

Photo caption: Joe's Spring line