At the recent House Judiciary hearing about granting copyright protection to fashion designs, we heard proponents of the bill claiming that innovation is being quashed because cheap knock-offs are legal. [For background, take a look at my recent blog or my TED talk on the topic.]
Happily, a front-page New York Times article yesterday provided more evidence that the “culture of copying” which drives the fashion industry and its lucrative trend cycles is not having a negative impact on high-end designers. The entire luxury sector is experiencing a boom, with Tiffany, LVMH, and PPR (owner of Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, among others) revenues up 13%-23% while lower-end retailers, who are often accused of purveying knock-offs, are still suffering in this painful recession.
I particularly enjoyed a comment from Stephen I. Sadove, the chairman and chief executive at Saks, who said that customers who can afford luxury items are “buying the special pieces, whether it’s the exotic leathers, the more fashion-forward pieces.” Isn’t this exactly what we want luxury designers to provide? We want them to succeed at selling all those remarkable designs that are just too difficult to knock-off. When we pay for luxury, we should be getting something that we can’t get at a cheaper price point. The fact that lower-end retailers can knock-off luxury designers actually provides an incentive to those at the high end to make something amazing. Granting them a monopoly on those designs won’t end up doing them or their customers any favors.