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What is Fake Fashion?

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Answer: everyone seems to have their own definition.

Which is exactly why I think the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s (“CFDA”) “You Can’t Fake Fashion” campaign is inherently misleading.  Steven Kolb, CFDA Executive Director stated that the purpose of the campaign is to “educate consumers on the dangers of counterfeits and emphasize the importance of original design.”

With that sentence, Steven Kolb confuses two distinctly different problems:

  1. 1.  Counterfeiting: which is the passing off of a fake item as an original item. For example, if you buy an name brand purse in Santee Alley or Canal Street or a flea market near you, you are most likely buying a bag with the brand’s trademarks (or imitations of their trademarks) that you want the world to believe original.  Selling counterfeits is illegal, but in fashion, the overwhelming majority of people buying a counterfeit purse (or watch, etc.), say buying a fake Louis Vuitton and Birkin on the streets of NY for example, do so on purpose and know that they are not buying the authentic bag.
  2. 2.  Design originality:  Fashion has basically NO intellectual property protection in the United States.  That means that fashion existing in the public domain can serve as inspiration to another designer.  This freedom has lead designers to pay “homage” to collections of past designers by re-interpreting or re-interventing former designs, and to “tweak” styles seen on runways to start trends across demographics and price points.  Fashion lawyers general refer to these types of goods as “knock-offs”  —  imitations, copies or inspirations.  As I have argued before, there is nothing truly original in today’s fashion world.

I further think @CFDA’s “You Can’t Fake Fashion campaign is purposely confusing.  WHY?

As you know, the CFDA is the main proponent of the Destruction of Affordable Fashion Bill, or the Innovative Design Protecttion and Piract Prevention Act (“IDPPPA”).  With that bill, the CFDA is trying to make design inspiration into piracy.

For lay people, the meaning of a pirated design, a knock-off or a counterfeit generally mean the same thing. Stealing someone’s trademark is wrong. Using a look from a trend service as a starting point for your collection is not.

For example, Adam Lippes, the designer behind ADAM, and one of the creators of a “Can’t Fake Fashion” bag, explained why he got involved in CFDA’s “You Can’t Fake Fashion” campaign:

Even being a contemporary designer, we will see our exact sweaters in retailers, I mean to a t,” the designer says, “a lot of them [fast fashion retailers] can move faster than we can, so the copies can be in stores before we can even ship our products. It’s really important to respect the creativity.

Sorry Adam, but that’s not counterfeiting.

Interesting that the CFDA participants don’t even understand what practice they are trying to prevent!  Maybe the CFDA should educate its designers on the difference between permissible inspiration and illegal counterfeits.

And if CFDA really wanted to contribute to the anti-counterfeiting cause, it should have designed a campaign to raise more that $7,500.00.  As aptly reported by Styleite:

We get that every little bit helps, but in the grand scheme of things $7,500 is an itty bitty little bit of money. Last year, counterfeit goods represented a $600 billion chunk of the global economy, and that figure is expected to double by 2015.

And Recessionista also makes a valid point on the CFDA’s “You Can’t Fake Fashion” campaign:

[$7,500.00 is] not exactly enough to stop the multi-billion dollar faux bag industry.  Ironically, it has only created another kind fashion snobbery, the exclusive “You Can’t Fake Fashion” Canvas Bags limited edition bag.

So, with WWD reporting that hearings on the Destruction of Affordable Fashion Bill, or IDPPPA are set for July 15th, and CFDA very publicly promoting its “You Can’t Fake Fashion” totes, what type of “fashion crime” do YOU think CFDA’s campaign is honestly trying to prevent?

As a fashion lawyer, I don’t believe in coincidences.



photo credit: Styleite

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