Here’s a pretty cool follow up to Katrina’s history of fashion piracy from last week: A Bill Blass ad published on this day in 1964 that warns counterfitters just what they are up against if they try and knock off big, bad Bill Blass!
In the ad, two machine-gun toting models face the reader, while Blass stands in the background, Don Corleone–style. (And, um, this photo looks eerily similar to another image we’ve seen on this site.) The text underneath the image (you have to read it in Marlon Brando’s Sicilian accent for full effect) warns:
They can’t knock off Bill Blass.
Seventh Avenue gets away with murder. Somebody creates a hot design and bang, before he even gets it in the stores they knock it off. That’s why Bill Blass got himself some protection. The protection of exclusive fabrics nobody else can have. Of subtle Read More »
“We are Either All Creators or We are All Pirates and Thieves:” A Brief Look at the Long History of Fashion Piracy
On this day in 1966, The New York Times published an article exposing the illicit behavior of unscrupulous individuals who bribed, sneaked and transmitted unauthorized sketches and photographs of top-secret fashion designs from France to the United States. These fashion “pirates” poached on valuable assets and degraded the work of artists. They infiltrated the Parisian couture shows by bribing employees. They hid cameras and sketch pads under their jackets and sent their illegally obtained evidence back to Seventh Avenue and to those manufacturers determined to undermine the producers willing to pay for their line-for-line copies of Paris originals.
Hardly a new phenomenon but unknown to most American shoppers, the practice of “bumping-off” designs has existed since the early 20th century—if not earlier. In the 1930s, the Fashion Originators Guild was established in the United States to prevent copying, but was disbanded in 1941 by the U.S. Supreme Court because of methods deemed “an illegal boycott in restraint of trade.” Early in 1941, the National Retail Dry Goods Association voted to create a committee on design protection legislation. The importance and necessity of such measures disappeared during World War II, when fashion piracy was hardly a primary concern. (Not to mention the lack of materials and styles available to copy.) Read More »
Say what you will about Liz Claiborne and her mom jeans, but the diminutive designer built a fortune on bankable separates for career women in search of the sartorial sweet spot: practical fashion that transcends function. Her designs may not have regularly graced the cover of Vogue, but she was a savvy businesswoman who created clothes for women like, well, my mom, a woman who always looks great but refuses to pay what she calls “an arm and a leg” for clothing (Note: My mom recently splurged on a Burberry coat but still steams unused stamps off pledge cards). Bartered appendages aside, Claiborne’s separates revolutionized the dress code for women who had nothing to wear to events that were not work or gardening related. With $250,000 of investments from friends and family, Claiborne, (let’s just call her Liz, shall we?) with her husband, Arthur Ortenburg, and two other business partners, introduced her eponymous line on this day in 1976.
A seamstress and self-taught designer, Elisabeth Claiborne auspiciously entered the fashion world at 21 when she won a Harper’s Bazaar design contest. Under the tutelage of her first boss, sportswear designer Tina Leser, she honed her sketching skills Read More »
“I don’t give a damn about creating. I like to influence fashion, and timing is part of that.” —Norman Norell, American fashion designer, discussing his theories on the evolution of fashion in a 1962 interview.
In 1962, the military look—especially in double-breasted jackets—was the style, and Norell was credited with being the first to introduce it with his Civil War–inspired collection from June 1961. Norell pooh-poohed the idea, scoffing, “I go on with the ideas I can stand to look at three months later.” Ten years later Norell suffered a stroke at his New York apartment on the eve of a 50-year retrospective fashion show of his work to be held at the Metropolitan Museum, and died on this day in 1972. To read more fabulous Fashion Statements, click here. Photo: Left: Norell design from the Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection. Right: Norell with models in 1959.
“Clothes should be useful.” “I like comfort.” “I do not like glitter.” These are just a few edicts from mid-20th century designer Claire McCardell, and if they sound severe, well, she meant them to. This is a woman who earned popularity with the unseemly sounding “Monastic” and “Popover” dresses and tie-over “Diaper” bathing suit, who eschewed embellishments (“I like buttons that button and bows that tie”) and used “common” fabrics like denim and sprigged cotton—even in eveningwear—so that everyone could afford her garments. Given the elitist eye attached to those who tend to green light who and what passes muster in the hallowed halls of fashion, it’s any wonder McCardell’s comparatively plain garments weren’t purposefully tucked away in a museum basement in hopes that Americans would forever forget their yen for comfort and function and develop a never-wavering taste for poorly made and rapidly changing trends. And they could have, had the Parsons Museum not launched a retrospective of McCardell’s work on this day in 1998, and the Museum at FIT hadn’t launched its own retrospective of her designs a month later. Forty years after her death, the fashion community found a newfound appreciation for the one-time Time magazine covergirl, gushingly crediting her as a chief contributor to the “American look,” Read More »