Johanna Blakley

Media | Entertainment | Fashion

Diane von Furstenberg & Her Tragicomic Quest for Copyright Protection

OK, I held back a bit in my last blog about new legislation that will most likely grant copyright protection to the fashion industry. In that blog on Design Observer I didn’t mention how deeply ironic it is that Diane von Furstenberg is leading the charge for this misguided legislation.

Well, in my new blog, just posted on PBS’s Need to Know site, I explain why von Furstenberg’s “iconic” wrap-around dress wouldn’t qualify for the protection that her Senate bill promises to offer. The main problem, you see, is that the wrap-around dress was actually a very hot item in the 1940s, when Claire McCardell successfully introduced it to the American market. Although von Furstenberg loudly proclaims ownership of this design (which was also popular in ancient Greece) , and she cites it as one of the main reasons she’s pursuing copyright protection for fashion designs, a quick search of the fashion archives would demonstrate that she’s created nothing new at all.

Who has, after all? DvF’s genius is in reviving the wrap-around dress and making it in the right kind of material with the right kind of print right when people wanted to wear it again. Does that mean she should own the design and no one else should be able to make it? In what universe would that make sense?

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