Performing a Fashion Count

According to E. Brannon and L. Divita (2015, 91), a fashion count is “a method for researching fashion change that consists of finding a suitable source for fashion images, sampling the images in a systematic way, applying a standardized set of measurements or observations to each image, and analyzing the data to reveal patterns of fashion change.”

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Mary Kate Donahue, 2017.

As a part of the curriculum for my “Trend Forecasting and Analysis” course, I was tasked with completing a fashion count. In performing the assignment using the October 2017 issue of Vogue, I chose to analyze fur color. In setting standards for the fur color, I agreed that the fur could comprise any part of the garment—an entire jacket, the hemline trim, a hat—but I would only consider fur worn by women. Additionally, I set the color standards, including the primary colors (red, blue, yellow), the secondary colors (orange, violent, green), the tertiary colors (red violent or pink, blue violent or purple, yellow orange or tan), as well as black, white, grey and brown—considering animal fur is often this natural shade. In terms of types of photographs, I determined that I would only count colored photographs; considering black and white photographs would have skewed my data.

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Data from the fashion count on fur color.

Because I utilized a the most current issue of Vogue, I figured that several of the photographs would feature the Fall 2017 and/or Winter 2018 designer collections, meaning fur would potentially be a common textile. Overall, fur appeared twenty-seven times throughout the issue. Although more neutral fur shades, such as black and tan, seemed to be the most prevalent, various colored fur was often accounted for. Most notably, I discovered multicolored fur in three different photographs; one garment featuring a blue and white fur shawl, another garment featuring a purple, black, red, yellow and blue fur purse handle, and also a black and yellow fur hat. In addition to designs with multicolored fur, other garments featured various colors—from pink trim around the neck of a coat to a yellow fur vest. Therefore, in terms of fur trends, designers may be moving away from the more traditional look of genuine fur or faux fur, manufactured to imitate living creatures.  Instead, these designers are embracing bold and vibrant-hued faux fur to add a fun element to various garments.

A potential explanation behind this shift in fur trend could be the rise of awareness surrounding animal rights. According to G. Cook (2017), “Yvonne Taylor, director of corporate projects for PETA, acknowledges that ‘most designers don’t work with fur, and certainly the majority of consumers don’t wear it,’ but insists that the protests are still necessary.” Therefore, a movement toward brightly-colored, faux fur would align with both designers’ intentions and consumers’ requests. However, because Vogue features editorial advertisements from the few couture designers (Burberry, Fendi, Gucci, among others) that still do work with authentic fur, more natural fur colors—such as, tan, brown and white—are still prevalent in the fashion count.


References

Brannon and L. Divita (Eds.). (2015). Fashion Forecasting. New York, NY: Bloomsburg.

G. Cook. (2017, September 19). Making Sense of the Anti-Fur Protests at London Fashion Week. Business of Fashion. Retrieved from https://www.businessoffashion.com.

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The Conundrum With Copycat Couture

Screen Shot 2017-05-10 at 10.17.23 PMIf I told you one of these jackets was an authentic design and the other was an imitation would you be able to distinguish the two? Most likely, you would barely be able to spot the differences. However, the jacket on the left is an authentic Chanel jacket, while the one on the right is a copycat. Within the fashion industry, there is a growing issue with the lack of authenticity, in terms of designers copying each other’s designs and stealing their intellectual property, with little to no penalty. In fact, the overall counterfeit market produces $600 billion annually. According to Chavie Lieber, knock-off and copycat products “represent about 7 percent of the global trade, with a revenue that’s nearly twice that of the illegal drug market.” Although trademarks, patents and copyrights do slightly protect fashion designers, these counterfeits still run rampant. Therefore, there is a blatant need to regulate copycat items in the fashion industry—from their conception, to their creation to the end consumer—with the implementation of public policy.

Before presenting a potential policy to quell the crisis of stolen intellectual property and copycat fashion, let’s take a look at the history of the issue.

 Because there is little intellectual property protection in the fashion industry, fast fashion retailers often copy designs from high-end, well-known designers and mass-produce them for a fraction of the cost. For example, anyone who is familiar with Zara knows that the Spanish brand is infamous for their imitation creations. In fact, Alexandra Jacobs of The New York Times visited the Zara flagship store in Midtown Manhattan and reported, “my friend tried on, and liked, an Alexander Wangish motorcycle jacket made of leather pounded thinner than a veal paillard, but couldn’t bring herself to buy it. ‘It smells like burning rubber,’ she said.” Clearly, these consumers were able to recognize the lower quality of such a knock-off item.

However, a few regulations do exist to regulate copycat items— such as, copyrights, patents and trademarks. Copyrights apply to “anything that is functional, or has a physical function in the real world,” as stated by Tyler McCall. For example, “Jewelry gets copyright protection, in large part because jewelry is a lot like miniature sculptures and art is copyright” according to McCall. McCall also shares that “two-dimensional designs: fabric prints, jacquard weave and lace patterns” can receive copyrights. Patents, on the other hand, have “to be something that is not only useful, but new or novel to all the world,” according to McCall. However, there is a subcategory of patents, called design patents, which McCall describes as “the ornamental aspect of the functional items.” For example, Alexander Wang has several design patents for his handbags, only because of the unique hardware included. Lastly, McCall explains that “lot of fashion companies and designers default to trademark protection.” McCall further explains that “trademark protection typically can’t protect an entire garment or accessory, but at least can protect the logo or the label.” There is also a special category of trademarks known as trade dress protection. McCall offers Christian Louboutin shoes as an example saying, “Even without taking off the shoe. . . you see the red sole, you know it’s Louboutin; therefore, that red sole can serve as a trademark.” Clearly, these copyrights, patents and trademarks are useful to many designers, but actually contribute little in the overall fight against counterfeit fashion.

Now with greater understanding of the limited protections for fashion designers and their creations, we can examine how imitation fashion affects the economy.

Not only is copying and manufacturing another designer’s creation ethically wrong, it also poses economic threats to the fashion industry. Manufacturing and selling imitation fashion impacts the country where the products are manufactured, the country where the products are sold and the end-consumer. For example, countries that produce copycat goods usually suffer “tax losses, since the counterfeits are normally sold through clandestine channels and counterfeiters are not generally keen to pay tax on their ill-gotten gains,” according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Additionally, the OECD states that, “Although many consumers believe they are getting a bargain when they buy counterfeits, the actual value of the product is normally much lower. Hence, they end up paying an excessive price for an inferior product.” Looking further into this issue, the mass-production of replica fashion and robbery of intellectual property has grown so much that several law schools have begun to incorporate programs to train lawyers in this field. In June 2015, “Fordham Law School became the first accredited law school to offer a degree in fashion law,” according to Marianys Marte of The Fordham Observer. Fordham University School of Law describes intellectual property as one of “the four pillars of fashion law,” upholding how vital it is to have trained professionals in this subject.

While Fordham University recognizes the need to solve the problem surrounding imitation fashion and stolen intellectual property, a concrete plan to solve this issue must be developed and implemented.

In order to effectively combat the creation and sale of knock-off and copycat fashion, the best plan of action is to establish an International Trade Association, dedicated solely to the fashion industry. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), “There is no international trade association for the fashion clothing industry. Most luxury brand owners employ in-house anti-counterfeiting officers and are members of national pan-industry anti- counterfeiting associations.” However, efforts in recent years have been made to fight the growth of knock-off and copycat fashion. For example, The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) aims to “strengthen the international legal framework for effectively combating global proliferation of commercial-scale counterfeiting and piracy,” according to the Office of the United States Trade Representative. Therefore, the creation of one, unified body would allow for (1) control over the fashion industry, (2) the generation of more agreements such as the ACTA and (3) for legal and financial penalties to be placed on offenders. This association would be formed of key players in the industry—such as, designers, global trade officers and lawyers trained in fashion law. Overall, an International Trade Association would allow global trade in the fashion industry to be closely monitored.

However, with this plan of action, there also come disadvantages and counter-arguments.

 With the notion that the fashion industry should establish an International Trade Association, it is important to understand the practicality of this plan and how it would unfold. The main disadvantage to the creation of one global, governing body would be the limitations it would bear on the creativity of the fashion world. For example, some designs look almost identical, not because one brand copied the other, but because the silhouette is a current trend in the fashion cycle. Therefore, the International Trade Association would need to be careful when distinguishing between the latest trend and a designer’s original creation. Additionally, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) presents two valid counter-arguments. First, the OECD claims that “counterfeits actually contribute to the marketing of the brand without causing any significant loss in profits.” More specifically, this insinuates that someone carrying an authentic Louis Vuitton bag and someone carrying a knock-off Louis Vuitton bag generate the same amount of buzz for that brand. Therefore, a counterfeit item does not seem so negative in this context. Secondly, “some consumers buying fake luxury items do so knowingly and would not be prepared to pay the price of the genuine item,” as stated by the OECD. Therefore, these customers actively seek out a faux-designer item to achieve a certain status, without the hefty price tag. Despite these disadvantages and counter-arguments, the creation of a regulatory body remains a viable plan. Coupled with copyrights, patents, trademarks and regulations (such as the ACTA), the creation of an International Trade Association is needed to actually monitor these current regulations, as well as implement more detailed protocols.

Because there is a serious need to regulate knock-off copycat items in the fashion industry, this need can be fulfilled through the creation of an International Trade Association. Counterfeit fashion degrades the authenticity of many fashion designers and their original creations. Additionally, it poses many economic threats—for the manufacturers, retailers and consumers. Although replication may seem like the biggest form of flattery, within the fashion industry, serious action needs to be taken for the future wellbeing of clothing.


Works Cited

“Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).” Office of the United States Trade Representative, Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), Oct. 2011, ustr.gov/acta. Accessed 6 Apr. 2017.

“The Economic Impact of Counterfeiting.” Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 1998, www.oecd.org/sti/ind/2090589.pdf. Accessed 6 Apr. 2017.

Jacobs, Alexandra. “Where Have I Seen You Before?” The New York Times, The New York Times Company, 27 Mar. 2012, www.nytimes.com/2012/03/29/fashion/at-zara-in-midtown-its-all-a-tribute.html?_r=0. Accessed 6 Apr. 2017.

Lieber, Chavie. “Why the $600 Billion Counterfeit Industry Is Still Horrible for Fashion.” Racked, Vox Media, Inc., 1 Dec. 2014, www.racked.com/2014/12/1/7566859/counterfeit-fashion-goods-products-museum-exhibit. Accessed 6 Apr. 2017.

Marte, Marianys. “Fordham Becomes First Law School Accredited For Fashion.” The Fordham Observer, Fordham University, 26 Aug. 2015, www.fordhamobserver.com/fordham-becomes-first-law-school-accredited-for-fashion/. Accessed 6 Apr. 2017.

McCall, Tyler. “Copyright, Trademark, Patent: Your Go-To Primer For Fashion Intellectual Property Law.” Fashionista, Breaking Media, Inc., 16 Dec. 2016, fashionista.com/2016/12/fashion-law-patent-copyright-trademark. Accessed 6 Apr. 2017.

“MSL in Fashion Law.” Fordham University School of Law, Fordham University, www.fordham.edu/info/23328/msl_in_fashion_law. Accessed 6 Apr. 2017.

What I’m Watching: The True Cost

“This is a story about clothing. It’s about the clothes we wear, the people who make them, and the impact the industry is having on our world. The price of clothing has been decreasing for decades, while the human and environmental costs have grown dramatically. The True Cost is a groundbreaking documentary film that pulls back the curtain on the untold story and asks us to consider, who really pays the price for our clothing?

Filmed in countries all over the world, from the brightest runways to the darkest slums, and featuring interviews with the world’s leading influencers including Stella McCartney, Livia Firth and Vandana Shiva, The True Cost is an unprecedented project that invites us on an eye opening journey around the world and into the lives of the many people and places behind our clothes.” 

The True Cost

While scrolling through Netflix hoping to stumble upon a sappy romantic comedy, I instead found The True Cost. The documentary follows the lifecycle of clothing; from its earliest stages in cotton farming to the sweatshops in Bangladesh to fashion designers who create for the runway. So I do not spoil the film, I won’t divulge all the details, but I did find a few statistics quite eye-opening. For example, 1 in 6 people work in the fashion industry in some form, making it the most labor dependent industry in the world. Additionally, the fashion industry is the second most polluting industry, second only to the oil industry. Furthermore, the average American throws away 82 pounds of textile waste each year, producing over 11 million tons of textile waste from the US alone.

Clearly, The True Cost presents several statistics on the detrimental side of the fashion industry. Overall, the documentary is a call to action for all components of the fashion industry. Individuals in the agricultural sector have a responsibility to produce fibers that are non-GMO and use limited pesticides. Factory owners must find a way to employ their workers with fair working conditions and a living  wage. Fashion designers have a responsibility to only outsource production to places where the workers are treated well. Americans, as consumers, must learn to only consume products that we truly need, to reduce excess. All actors in the fashion industry have a responsibility to fix the true cost of the industry that encompasses much of our global society.

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Mary Kate Donahue, 2017.

Fashion in the Classroom

As a second year fashion merchandising major at the University of Georgia, I have begun to experience fashion in a classroom setting. Last semester, I was enrolled in TXMI 3210- The Fundamentals of Fashion Merchandising. UGA Bulletin describes the course as an “introduction to the trends and influence of fashion in society and review of the international and domestic fashion resources. Identifies the various product categories in fashion merchandising and discusses the innovative processes that sustain the fashion business. Analysis of how fashion is conceived, marketed, and sold.” Additionally, this semester I am enrolled in another fashion merchandising course. TXMI 4240, Fashion Promotion and Visual Merchandising, is an “overview of promotion practices in the apparel design, product development, manufacturing, and retail merchandising environment, including promotion planning and budgeting, special event organization, advertising, public relations, publicity, fashion show production, and visual merchandising,” according to UGA Bulletin.

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Mary Kate Donahue, 2016.

In addition to fashion merchandising courses, I am also enrolled in an entrepreneurship course- FACS 2011. FACS 2011, Introduction to Entrepreneurship, is “an introductory course targeted to students interested in creating and growing their own businesses and will serve as the foundation for the Entrepreneurship Certificate Program” as defined by UGA Bulletin. Even though I have just started taking courses pertaining to my major, classes are much more enjoyable. Most college students change their major at least once, but I am convinced that fashion merchandising is the right fit for me. Follow me on my academic journey, as I study and learn about the fashion industry to reach my long-term goals with a career in fashion.

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Mary Kate Donahue, 2016

Your Collegiate Major: Just How MAJOR Is It?

Every college student can certainly affirm that the question “what’s your major?” comes up in small talk quite often. For many (at least during their freshman year), the response is a long-winded explanation of why they have yet to declare a major. For others, they are among the thousands of  Biology or Business majors. For me, my answer is unique and simple— Fashion Merchandising.

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After scrolling through Pinterest and reading a headline—“5 Common Misconceptions About Fashion Merchandising Majors”— I had to delve into the article. Personally, fashion merchandising is all I have ever dreamed of studying, but I certainly understand how many people are simply confused (and even skeptical) by the concept. Without the area of study, the fashion world would be lacking some of its finest!

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So what exactly is fashion merchandising? A broad term, fashion merchandising encompasses the business side of the fashion industry. Professionals with a fashion merchandising career still have a keen sense of style, yet also have a brain for the business world. Some of the several careers that an individual with a fashion merchandising degree can pursue include; an assistant buyer, a product line manager, a visual merchandiser, a design development coordinator or an market research trainee, among others.

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What sparked my interest in fashion merchandising? To be completely honest, my love of Elle Woods from a very young age probably has a least a bit of an impact.tumblr_nett31iPQx1rqauelo1_250 Legally Blonde was the first PG-13 movie I saw— at the age of five! Mesmerized by Elle’s lifestyle—full of shopping, pink and sorority sisters— I was determined to grow up and emulate her. On the surface, Elle seemed exciting to my five-year old self; yet, on a deeper level, Elle Woods is a woman with quite a strong intellect. By working incredibly hard to be admitted to Harvard Law School, speaking her mind, commanding respect and never letting a man get in her way,tumblr_n5bmfueGeC1qk4fe1o10_r1_250 Elle Woods was an inspiration to me from the beginning. Combined with my affinity for shopping and sheer fascination with the fashion world, I knew I had to follow Elle’s footsteps and study fashion merchandising. My eighteen-year old self is quite proud to say that I am currently fulfilling my five-year old self’s dream as a fashion merchandising student at the University of Georgia.

I may have online shopped during every Statistics lecture this semester and I don’t always dress to impress, but fashion is what I love. My classes may not be as challenging as a Pre-Med student, but—whether people understand it or not— I am pursuing one of my deepest and most profound dreams. Who knows where the next four years in this major will take me, but I have faith that I will end up doing something that I truly enjoy.

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Choose a job you love, and you will neverhave to work a day in your life.” – Confucius

The Fashionista is Relocating

Athens, Georgia: here I come! My time in the Washington, DC area has come to a close, and in less than 12 hours I will be in the car, en route to the next chapter of my life. Beginning my freshmen year at the University of Georgia, I plan for a memorable, challenging, fun four years.

© Mary Kate Donahue, 2015

   Just because the fashionista is relocating does not mean she will become absent. You will still be seeing frequent Instagrams at @fashionista_mkd and weekly blog posts! While earning my degree in Fashion Merchanising and enjoying my college years, I hope to still portray my commentary, obsessions, and inspirations in the fashion world!

Xoxo, Mary Kate, “The Fashionista”

Fordham University Launches Fashion Law

Elle Woods would certainly be thrilled to hear of this breaking news. Fordham Law School and the Fashion Law Institute, along with the CFDA’s president Diane von Furstenberg have launched the world’s first degree in Fashion Law. According to Fordham University, “Starting this fall, attorneys and non-lawyers alike will have an unprecedented opportunity to pursue master’s degrees in fashion law. These groundbreaking new programs mark the next step in the Fashion Law Institute’s mission to support the global fashion industry through innovative legal education” (“Fordham”).

Fashion Law Institute Director Susan Scafidi, CFDA President DVF and Fordham University Provost Stephen Freedman © Getty Images

Fashion Law Institute Director Susan Scafidi, CFDA President DVF and Fordham University Provost Stephen Freedman © Getty Images

Fordham’s groundbreaking program will include “classes in fashion financing, fashion modeling law, fashion licensing, and sustainability” (“Fordham”), allowing these lawyers to gain a vast range of knowledge on all subjects. Hopefully, the fashion world can only improve with the addition of bright, successful lawyers.

Personally, I am about to embark on my next four years at the University of Georgia studying Fashion Merchandising, and just maybe a degree in Fashion Law is also in my future. I always have aspired to be just like Elle Woods and live in the Big Apple…and I think my opportunity has surfaced!

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Works Cited

“Fordham Law School and Fashion Law Institute Launch World’s First Fashion Law
Degrees.” Fordham University. Fordham University School of Law. Web.
22 June 2015. <http://law.fordham.edu&gt;.