Your Katonomist must confess something. Amongst the very serious economics and IP blogs in her reader, lie more than a few fashion blogs. One of her favourites is that of jewellery designer and blogger supreme, Wendy Brandes (who even blogs about economics). Unfortunately for Wendy, your Katonomist's three favourite topics combined in a surprising way.
New York-based Wendy began her fine jewellery line in 2005 and later added a diffusion line called WendyB. In 2008, she introduced swear rings which are sets of rings which spell out amusing words or acronyms such as F@#!, OMG and WTF. As Wendy herself points out, fashion is all about borrowing, building on the past (prior art) and there is "nothing new under the sun." Fashion, as I've noted previously, thrives on a culture of copying. While the swear rings aren't groundbreaking in terms of using letters on rings, Wendy's rings are reasonably novel and have become associated with her brand. The particular set in question, her swear rings, are popular and one of her top selling items.
The culture of copying in fashion is not universally beneficial. Smaller firms are relatively more affected by copying and may not have the resources to pursue legal action. Wendy's is a classic example of this. As a small business owner, Wendy is aware that this kind of copying can negatively impact her business. The WendyB brand may potentially be damaged from the association with lower quality copies. Furthermore, there is the loss of potential income from licensing the design to a retailer such as Topshop. (Her posts on the subject here, here, here and here.)
|Wendy's kat Fitzroy is not impressed|
I asked Wendy about the impact on her business and she wrote,
Wendy adds an important note to the debate - smaller firms are often not able to afford high-volume, low-cost copies. Even if firms like Wendy's could order such quantity and "knock off themselves", would they be able to sell it? Furthermore, could we adequately tweak policy to account for these situations without damaging other areas of the sector? What do we consider fair?
Images courtesy of Wendy Brandes.