Fashion and Copyright

I’m going to be presenting a paper at IFFTI 2010 at the end of March on fashion sustainability and copyright issues and the following wee snippet from a public discussion at the 2008 Ready to Share: Fashion and the ownership of creativity event, caught my eye.

Laurie Racine: …how do you think fashion would be different it if had to obey the copyright laws?
Guy Trebay: There’d be no fashion.
Tom Ford: It’s true.
Guy Trebay: There’d be no fashion.
Laurie Racine: Nothing else to say?

Guy Trebay: I don’t know how anyone could expand on that. It just wouldn’t exist.

In terms of developing a sustainable fashion industry one of the main problems the fashion industry has is the speed of change and the subsequent waste generated – While I don’t want there to be “no fashion”, it is possible (and often used as a reason why not) that enforcing stringent copyright law on fashion designs would slow down the fashion industry.

If every designer had to be able to prove if asked where their idea come from – or to clearly reference (like you do when you write an paper) – what would happen? The END OF FASHION!? Or do you think that morally designers are restrained in this way anyway so copyright would have little effect?

2 thoughts on “Fashion and Copyright

  1. You wrote:
    “If every designer had to be able to prove if asked where their idea come from – or to clearly reference (like you do when you write an paper) – what would happen?”

    Having to prove where their idea came from isn’t as much of a problem (assuming one remembers) as being required to file legal work to have commercial rights to it. That is the problem. Independent designers don’t have enough money as it is. No one can say what this will cost but it’s incalculable because each design will have to be vetted through a visual database which will take hours in legal fees. If the proposed law passes, independent designers will have to hire the attorneys and get the registrations because their contractors and pattern makers will require it because there is no indemnity and they don’t want to get sued. The law will only benefit elite socialite designers who already have legal departments and those few independents who can cut, sew and sell their own stuff in house and don’t need to hire anyone. Retailers will want proof of ownership too because they’re on the hook for piracy -a criminal offense.

    1. Thanks for the insight Kathleen. What you say is very true. It is also potentially problematic for those same “socialite designers” as many of them are copying other designers left right and centre anyway – so even if they sued how would they prove their idea is the original? What makes an idea in fashion original? I concluded in my paper that stricter copyright law isn’t the answer – it is too problematic to implement and in addition the current system benefits too many of it’s players. However it remains a problem in terms of the sustainable evolution of the fashion industry as i believe the rapid change evident in fashion is related the lack of enforceable protection for design work in fashion.

      The question is what came first? Does the fashion industry have no defendable IP rights in part because it changes so fast so there would be no point?
      Does the fashion industry change so fast because there are no IP rights available to effectively protect designers?

      If we want a sustainable fashion industry it needs to slow down at least a little. But how?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s