So I think we all realize that disposable-fashion stores like Forever 21 are not able to have such a blindingly fast-changing lineup of stuff (they change out the inventory every few weeks) not because they gave infinite monkeys infinite muslin and are manufacturing the best of the results. Neither is it because they’ve got the world’s best designers locked in a basement somewhere churning out hundreds of new patterns a day.
Nope, they pretty openly watch the catwalks during fashion weeks, then turn around a $30 version of that Rodarte dress in six weeks or fewer, often before the original design has gone into mass production.
Forever 21 in particular has become notorious for ripping off designs; they’ve been sued by over 50 designers in the past few years with little success. Now Trovata, a clothing line based in Newport Beach, CA, which, if you look at the picture above, obviously got copied by Forever 21, thinks it’s found a way to beat the company in the legal system. From WWD:
After two years of legal wrangling, Trovata’s lawsuit alleging that cheap-chic retailer Forever 21 copied its designs is headed to trial next month, and the outcome could have implications for both vendors and retailers in this age of fast fashion.
Barring a last-minute settlement, lawyers familiar with Forever 21’s extensive litigation history said this would be the first time the rapidly expanding retailer faces a jury that will determine whether it illegally clones other companies’ designs. The result could be a clarification of intellectual property rights in an era when facsimiles of runway looks often appear in multinational specialty chains before a designer’s original version has a chance to hit stores.
The federal court case involves seven garments Forever 21 sold in its stores in 2007, said to look identical, or almost identical, to garments designed by Trovata and publicized on the runway or in magazines.
Unlike other suits brought against Forever 21 in recent years by companies such as Diane von Furstenberg, Anna Sui, BeBe Stores and Anthropologie, the Trovata suit does not allege copyright violations. Under current law, only original prints or graphics on clothes can be copyrighted — as they are considered artwork — and Trovata’s suit focuses on Forever 21’s copying of its unique button placements, decorative stitching, fabric patterns and other details.
Some examples of designs that were the focus of lawsuits:
Betsey Johnson’s textile designer Carole Hochman vs. Forever 21 over the Marilyn Monrose print
Anna Sui, $200, vs. Forever 21, $16
Diane von Fursenberg’s Cerisier dress, $325, vs. Forever 21’s Sabrina Dress, $32.80
I was interested, though, in how these lawsuits kiiiind of resemble the RIAA file-sharing lawsuits from way back when: Millionaires freaking out over no longer being the sole price-setter of their product.
It seems that there’s a similar problem in place: on the one hand, you’ve got the legit beef of (Metallica/Diane von Furstenberg): they work hard to produce a new and original product and should be paid accordingly. On the other hand, you’ve got the masses of broke-ass young people that want (Metallica CDs/Diane von Furstenberg slipdresses) saying “…wait, you people seriously think I can afford to pay ($20 for St. Anger/$325 for a slipdress)? I could get this (for free on bittorrent/for $30 at Forever 21) with minimal effort. Why should I feel bad about this when you clearly don’t feel bad about pricing your merchandise out of the reach of 95% of people?”
And besides, I find it kind of funny to watch. After years of building and stoking this never-to-be-consummated desire for designer clothes in women who can’t afford them, after decades of “Check out this bargain $85 t-shirt!” articles in fashion magazines, after centuries of fashion’s main purpose being to make it clear who’s upper-class and who isn’t, after four-score and seven years of high-fashion designers getting “inspired” by and making thousand-dollar ripoffs of street fashion and vintage stuff by anonymous designers, now that two Korean immigrants figured out a loophole they (at the moment) can legally exploit to reverse the process and let all the proles be “inspired” by Diane von Furstenberg, it’s kind of fun to watch all these designers FREAKING THE HELL OUT!
Then again, Forever 21 makes terrible-quality clothes witha lifespan of about a year, and has not so great a history with labor practices.
What do you think? Is Forever 21 a den of thieves, or is it Robin Hood?
PS: WTF, they even had a bootleg Minor Threat shirt? Can’t get behind that.