Fashion innovation - is it IP?
September 25, 2013 7:39 PM   Subscribe

I absolutely love the first pic in this BBC photo essay and I want to wear that. I have a problem with the morality in asking someone to riff on it.

It's likely I can find someone who can make something like the garment shown (in case it is not showing up for you, it's a J.W. Anderson "backless, semi-sheer halter top for men"). I have never considered myself at all interested in fashion but I Must. Have. That. In several colors and kinds of materials. I question the morals of riffing - or ripping off - such an innovation. Is this silly?
posted by jet_silver to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It's like if you liked a song for your wedding but can't afford the original band so you hire a cover band. And then ask them to do an acoustic version after they do the original.
posted by Dragonness at 7:58 PM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Considering that's how all (OK, many) retailers create their own lines, I would go forward with a clear conscience. If you take the design and then sell it, well...

Lots of things to feel guilty about, but this is way way way down the list.

(coming from a former buyer for a very large US retailer)
posted by qwip at 8:00 PM on September 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: your answer is in this ted talk: lessons from fashion's free culture
readers digest version: you have nothing to worry about. rip away.
posted by gusset at 8:38 PM on September 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

If you flip open any fashion magazine, it is overflowing with articles/shopping guides that are essentially, "Here is this amazing $10k dress! And here's a very similar dress for $1k! And another similar dress for $500! And another similar dress for $150!" The entire fashion world is built on a few designers creating things and then everyone else copying them until you get down to H&M's $9.99 version. They copy everything down to colors.

There is some recent effort to provide additional legal protection for fashion designs. Even so, I would be surprised if a lacy halter top for men is really a protectable design, since lacy halter tops for women have been around for ages. IANAFashionista/IP lawyer, but IMO there is nothing unique or innovative about the design itself other than the fact it's for a man instead of a woman; in other words, the design itself is derivative.

This isn't legal advice, but if it were me, I'd happily sew up a shirt for myself and enjoy it guilt-free.
posted by gatorae at 8:42 PM on September 25, 2013

Best answer: It's like if you liked a song for your wedding but can't afford the original band so you hire a cover band.

No. It is nothing like this. The song is copyrighted, and you would need a license for a public performance (even if the license is compulsory). There is no copyright or any relevant intellectual property right for a clothing design. Copy away.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:39 PM on September 25, 2013

Best answer: No, it's not "IP". Nobody can sue you for showing that photo to a tailor and having them create something similar.

Now, if that yellow fabric has proprietary designs (say, to name a popular example, the Louis Vuitton logo print) on it and you copy the fabric, yes, that would be protected under trademark laws. But "yellow halter top made from some kind of chiffon or organdy-esque semi-sheer fabric" is not something you can copyright.

If it were, there's no way H&M and Forever 21 could exist.
posted by Sara C. at 11:53 PM on September 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Clothing designs are not copyrightable, you could buy that actual piece and take it to a seamstress to be ripped apart and copied exactly. And you could sell them. Trademarks cover the Louis Vuitton case.
posted by rhizome at 12:13 AM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Don't feel bad about it - everybody copies each other in the fashion world.

I cannot however suggest that hairstyle for driving.
posted by oceanjesse at 6:15 AM on September 26, 2013

Best answer: Halter tops have been around for decades. Some have been yellow. I bet some have been worn by men. I have a picture of my granny wearing a halter top in the 1940's. It might've been yellow -- it's a black and white photo. (Some have been made out of Kleenex so my Barbies could wear them!)

There's not a lot of "original design" in there.

Go for it.
posted by vitabellosi at 10:28 AM on September 26, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks, y'all. If you happen to have a designer you like, it would help if you let me have contact info or supplied mine. I'm in touch with an artisan on Etsy now.
posted by jet_silver at 8:10 PM on September 26, 2013

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