By Ellen Klawunn
In a cut throat industry, one of the biggest problems for fashion designers are knock-offs. Retailers like Forever 21 are known for selling copy-cat fashions at affordable prices, but more designers are beginning to fight back against the many, many counterfeiters. Not only are designers voicing their opinions about the design copies, some designers and design firms are going as far as suing the counterfeiters.
Large companies with considerable resources have won cases and used other means to try to fight the counterfeiting. In addition to counterfeit bags and clothing being sold at flea markets and stands on streets in New York City, the web has made it possible for many more counterfeit items to be sold. Burberry and Hermés have both won huge trademark lawsuits against websites in China.
Although she has recently rescinded the fee, Vera Wang had a near $500 “try-on” fee at her store in Shanghai, to prevent customers from trying gowns on simply to see the cut and design, and then copy it. Wang originally put the fee in place because the majority of copied designs come from China. The fee was removed because it caused a lot of discriminatory outrage, as the fee was only in place in China.
Etsy, known for its small online shops that allow designers to sell their handmade and custom products, has become a home for counterfeiters. Independent designers have found Etsy shops selling copies of their designs, and some even going as far as using the designers own images. An independent designer, Elizabeth Dye, based out of Portland, Oregon, discovered that her wedding gowns were being copied in China and sold online at a tenth of her price. After discovering her gowns were being copied, Dye also realized that images from her blog were also stolen and posted to the Etsy site selling the knock off gowns.
2008 “Project Runway” winner, Leanne Marshall, first noticed that her own designs were copied and sold on Etsy. Marshall models some of her own designs and noted that the Etsy page was using images of her. Although Etsy has been made aware, the pages have remained online and continued selling. Many small and independent designers simply don’t have the means to pursue lawsuits against counterfeiters.
While it is difficult for small designers, legislation has been proposed by Senator Charles E. Schumer to allow designers register and copyright their designs for up to three years. Supporters of the legislation argue that “fashion designers deserve the same protections as songwriters for their creativity.” While those against the legislation argue that it could hinder creativity and innovation, lawyers representing companies in lawsuits against counterfeiters overseas have noted that 600,000 copycat gowns were sold online in the last year alone, which is “hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue,” for all of the designers.