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December 31, 2006

Ditto Date

From lovely Charleston, South Carolina, where the high temperature today was approximately 75 degrees Fahrenheit (faux winter, anyone?), Counterfeit Chic brings you a cheap date for New Year's Eve:

New Yorker April 24 2000

Happy New Year!

December 26, 2006

Knockoff News 44

A weekly (or thereabouts) collection of news about counterfeits, fakes, knockoffs, replicas, imitations, and the culture of copying in general around the globe:

And here's one for those of you engaged in reverse holiday decorating, whether that involves dragging a tree to the curb and picking needles out of the rug or packing up a plastic pine until next year:

While much of the evergreen debate centers on the environment -- the old renewable resources versus reusable goods thing -- the tree farmers aren't exactly subtle when it comes to their opinion of the artificial versions:

The Web site of the National Christmas Tree Association refers to some fake trees as "big green toilet bowl brushes." The group has also started distributing an online game called "Attack of the Mutant Artificial Trees," where kids can vaporize garishly colored conifers by pelting them with virtual snowballs.

And you thought fashion bloggers were snarky.

December 25, 2006

Faux Flickering Flames

One of New York's most cherished modern Christmas traditions is the WPIX-TV Yule Log, a 6 1/2-minute film of a roaring fire in a handsome brass grate that is broadcast for hours on end, accompanied by a holiday soundtrack.  The faux flames, which burned from 1966 to 1989 and then returned to the screen in 2001, are the perfect holiday touch for apartment-dwellers and others more accustomed to gathering around the television than the hearth. 

Naturally, there's a knockoff -- the high definition version on INHD.

In the spirit of Christmas copying, Counterfeit Chic offers the "Canal Street Yule Log," a seized property "burn" sent courtesy of a fabulous reader.   It may not flicker, but you get the picture.  Holiday screensaver, anyone?

And like the real fake flame, you can pan out every so often to get the big picture:

Now, who's got the marshmallows?

December 24, 2006

Because it's already Christmas in Japan...

...Counterfeit Chic brings you this season's greeting from the brilliantly named Tokyo store Original Fake, a collaboration between the New York artist Kaws and Medicom Toy.  Merry X! 

December 23, 2006

Haute Dog

Remember the old joke about the two immigrants who get off the boat in America, walk down the street, and see a group of people buying lunch from a cart that advertises, "Hot Dogs, 10 cents"?  One says to the other, "Do they eat dogs here?"  The other says, "I guess so -- and since we're American now, we should try it."  So they get in line and buy their hot dogs, at which point the first guy looks down at his lunch, looks at the other guy, and says, "Hey ... what part of the dog did you get?"

Happily for our bold gastronomes, sometimes a dog isn't really a dog. 

A version of the same debate, however, is going on this morning -- not with respect to food, but with respect to clothing. 

Sean CombsMacy's has removed from its web site and its stores 2 styles of Sean Jean hooded jacket after the Humane Society found that they were advertised as being trimmed with faux fur -- which was actually real.  Still more shocking are the headlines announcing that the jackets were trimmed with "dog fur," although the actual animal involved is the wild "raccoon dog," which is native to Asia. 

According to the Humane Society, tests on coats purchased at stores ranging from J.C. Penney to Saks Fifth Avenue, and on brands from Baby Phat to Calvin Klein and every price point in between, reveal that 9 out of 10 coats labeled "raccoon" or "coyote" are actually made from raccoon dog -- a form of mislabeling that violates federal law.  Moreover, although the raccoon dog is not a domestic animal, and more strongly resembles North American raccoons than dogs, the Humane Society will petition Congress to ban the use of its fur because of its genetic relationship to dogs kept as pets. 

Sean Jean has, of course, stopped all use of the fur.

Will consumers who have bought the "faux fur-trimmed" jackets line up to return them?  Interesting question.  Some may be anti-fur in general -- but many diehard animal rights folks won't even wear remotely realistic faux fur, lest their stylish example provoke demand for the real thing.  Others may read as far as the headlines about "dog fur," take one look at a cherished pet, and foreswear Macy's forever.  On the other hand, some may simply shrug -- after all, if you bought a cubic zirconia ring and later learned it was actually a diamond, would you mind?  The media elision between the wild "raccoon dog" and the family dog, moreover, is more than a bit sensationalistic.  Would a headline reading, "Macy's pulls Nyctereutes procyonoides fur jackets," have stopped traffic?  Hardly Cruella de Vil material.

While the politics of fur are debatable, misleading labeling is simply wrong.  Then again, so are misleading headlines. 

For more on the great fur debate, click here or read Julia Emberley's history of the subject.

December 21, 2006

Forming Norms

I like fashion to go down to the street, but I can't accept that it should originate there.

--attributed to Coco Chanel

Acapulco Gold sweatshirt on Samuel AyideWhile Mlle. Chanel may or may not have actually dissed streetwear, the consummate modernist borrowed a number of her early designs from plebian sources -- sailors' sweaters and men's athletic gear, among others.  One can only imagine what she might have done with the humble hoodie.   (Marc Jacobs' cashmere versions come to mind, but surely that's just the beginning.) 

In the post-Coco era, the street remains a fashion laboratory that has produced myriad small labels offering unique designs.  This is fast fashion at its speediest, a limited-edition set of alternatives to both widely available luxury brands and mass-market imitations.  As the New York Times reports, however, these urban labels reference both 1980s hip-hop roots and the LVs, CCs, and GGs that collectively spell economic success:

The newest companies are reinterpreting the hoodie, introducing variations with brashly vibrant and often menacing imagery:  all-over prints with bullet-hole graphics, chain-link fences and basketball netting, guns and roses, cobwebs and flamboyantly irreverent reinterpretations of Vuitton, Chanel, or Gucci logos, each a graphically subversive comment on those corporate fashion behemoths. 

The small scale of these creative endeavors means that the barriers to entry are relatively low; almost anyone can aspire to be the next hot streetwear designer.  On the other hand, even as the trade in redesigned luxury logos causes corporate brows to furrow, streetwear labels are themselves finding knockoffs to be a problem:

The peril, [10.Deep partner John Fishel] said, is that bootleggers and designers may flood the market with look-alike wares before a small company has a chance to stabilize. 

So where's the line between creative inspiration or parody and mere imitation?  In the upper echelon of the fashion industry, designers risk losing artistic credibility if they're caught copying.  The same is true of original streetwear -- perhaps even more so, since value is so closely tied to a perception of authenticity.  In other words, haute couture and urban streetwear have more in common, normatively speaking, than either might imagine. 

December 19, 2006

A.L.I.E.N v. Chanel

Is this an edgy fashion statement, a public service message (Mayor Barry, are you listening?), or a luxury brand's worst nightmare?

Perhaps all three, courtesy of urban streetwear line A.L.I.E.N (a.k.a. Galaxy Riders), who describe their crew as "an electric mix of young adults far from the norm; they are different from others and intend to remain that way."

Of course, the beanie could simply be an homage to the iconic double C's, albeit one that may leave Chanel's brand managers reaching for a glass -- wait, make that a whole bottle -- of Cristal.

December 18, 2006

Christmas Cookies

Baked Ideas Burberry cookieNeed a counterfeit coffee break in the midst of the last-minute holiday scramble?  Or maybe you forgot to buy cookies to leave under the Christmas tree for Santa? 

Look no further -- Baked Ideas, the New York cookie bakery founded by fine artist Patti Paige, has "borrowed" a few images and transformed them into sweet treats.  From the Burberry cookie, left, to Chanel, Tiffany, Coach, and Paul Frank, to name a few, luxury brand designs nestle among more plebian logos (Brillo cookies?!) and creative concepts (the gingerbread men in yoga poses are my personal fave).

So, is all of this icing licensed?  I didn't ask.  But should these ideas prove to be legally half-baked, it's easy enough to eat the evidence. 

Baked Ideas Starbucks cookie



December 17, 2006

On the Naughty List

'Tis the holiday season -- peace on earth, goodwill towards men, and all that.  Except in the Northern District of California, where Williams-Sonoma is suing Target for copying various holiday merchandise, including Christmas stockings. 

How many ways can one possibly portray Santa on a stocking?  Well, apparently quite a few -- none of which necessarily involves red-and-white gingham toes, an "undulating snow scene," and a pale blue sky with a smattering of snowflakes.  Williams-Sonoma claims trade dress protection in the design of its Pottery Barn brand stocking, below left, and argues that Target's stocking, below right, constitutes infringement.

So why don't the two home decor titans simply settle and let their lawyers go home to wrap presents?  Williams-Sonoma claims that this isn't the first time Target has celebrated a holiday by knocking off its designs (e.g. the Halloween "Scary Tree" votive candle holder, also part of the complaint).  In addition, Target is accused of trying to avoid responsibility by demanding indemnification agreements from its vendors -- even though Target itself allegedly controlled the designs.

Sounds like Cupid and the Easter Bunny had better watch their backs.

In the meantime, a word of advice to both Williams-Sonoma and Target from the fashion police:  Some things simply shouldn't be copied.  Not only because they are protected by intellectual property law, but because they're simply not attractive. 

Oh ho, you say -- so what's hanging by Counterfeit Chic's chimney with care?  A far more stylish alternative, of course. 

DCB Designs

Happy holidays!

December 16, 2006

Happy Birthday to Me

Counterfeit Chic is one year old today!  Many thanks to all of my wonderful readers -- and please click below to enjoy a bit of birthday Cake:

And in addition to the musical interlude, here's a look back at a most appropriate sweet treat.  Enjoy!

P.S.  A birthday gift to Counterfeit Chic:  Within the last couple of weeks, the number of comment spams on the site has jumped to hundreds per day.  Since most of you contact me directly with your comments and questions anyway, I've decided to disable comments, at least for the time being.  I look forward to hearing from you via email, though!

December 15, 2006

Study Break

For most of you, it's the holiday season.

For academic types, it's exam season.  My students are (presumably!) studying for exams, I've been composing exams, and I have a stack of term papers on my desk, all ready for the red pen.  (Actually, I usually use green.  Red ink makes the papers look a bit too much like I've attacked them with a stiletto -- as in knife, not shoe.)

However, a study break is in order -- not just to celebrate Hanukkah (with whatever combination of h's, ch's, and k's you prefer), but also to shop for last-minute gifts and festive apparel.  If you're in New York, head down to Emmett McCarthy's Nolita boutique, EMc2, tonight to meet Chloe Dao of Project Runway Season 2 fame, or on Tuesday to meet America's dean of fashion, Tim Gunn. 

In between, drop by Kelima K's nearby boutique for limited-edition dresses or -- if the holiday season has prompted a long-awaited proposal -- a made-to-measure wedding gown.  Kelima's creations are so cleverly draped that they're virtually impossible to knock off, but more on that another day.  In the meantime, good things come in 3's:

Happy holidays!

December 14, 2006

Knockoff News 43

A weekly (or thereabouts) collection of news about counterfeits, fakes, knockoffs, replicas, imitations, and the culture of copying in general around the globe:

And has Batman left Gotham City for Moscow?  Check out the "updated" symbol of Russia's military intelligence service:

Of course, my sources tell me that the bat symbol (a reference to radar) dates back to the Soviet era.  The redesign, however, is suspiciously familar. 

December 12, 2006

Freedom from Expression

An Idaho physician was recently sentenced to six months in prison for injecting patients with counterfeit Botox.  One presumes that his victims, upon hearing the news, remained impassive. 

December 11, 2006

Don't Copy the Cops

Counterfeiters target particular brands on the basis of consumer demand.  The greater the brand awareness and the popularity of certain styles, the more likely they are to be copied.  Of course, the reverse is true as well.  As one individual told me, he knew a certain line was "over" when purse party hostesses asked him not to bother bringing along those particular fakes.

When it comes to imitating official logos, however, I've frequently wondered whether it's just business, or whether some counterfeiters take wry pleasure in taunting the powers that be.  After all, it takes a particularly brazen retailer to sell fake NYPD baseball caps and T-shirts right under the nose of the beat cop.  Talk about waving a red flag in front of a "bull."

In New York, city officials decided last year to fight the flood of fakes with hologram hangtags on authentic goods.  A year later, the New York Post reports that sales of the real deal are up 10%, with police and fire department merchandise remaining the most popular. 

Cause and effect?  Perhaps.  But it seems that not everyone got the memo.  A law-abiding lawyer recently told me that he attempted to purchase an authentic item, only to be told by a helpful city employee that it was unavailable -- but that plenty of copies were for sale just around the corner. 

December 09, 2006

Brand Loyalty

Most fashion loyalties aren't even skin deep.  During fashion weeks and party seasons, it's common practice for celebutantes and publicity-seekers to hop from one event to the next, changing clothes in the limo in between.  After all, it wouldn't do to show up at one designer's event in another's frock.

Then there are the dyed-in-the-wool fanatics, willing to inscribe logos from Harley-Davidson to Ralph Lauren permanently on their bodies in the form of tattoos.  Call it tribalism meets branding.

And now, for those whose version of commitment means a few weeks or so, Popular Heresy has uncovered (and offered interesting commentary on) a via media of brand loyalty: 

Kanye West with Fendi logo

If Kanye West's coif sparks the imagination of Fendi's marketing department, it could result in some interesting spokesmodel contracts.  On the other hand, would an injunction against an undesirable representative require a close shave? 

December 07, 2006

Red Herring

For a century and a half, fashion designers have deliberately set out to produce multiple copies of the same dress.  While they also create one-of-a-kind pieces for special occasions or runway publicity, the business model pioneered by Charles Worth still obtains.  Designers propose a series of looks each season, and then produce either made-to-measure copies for couture clients or standardized copies for the ready-to-wear industry. 

Despite the reality of mass production, however, we still consider it a faux pas for two women to attend the same event wearing the same outfit.  Never mind four. 

At Sunday's Kennedy Center Honors reception in Washington, First Lady Laura Bush and three other women showed up wearing the same red Oscar de la Renta -- which Laura also chose for her official holiday photo.  Laura apparently slipped away to change into another outfit, but not before CBS cameras captured the clones on film:

Laura and George in an official photo

Send in the Clones

Of course, it's wholly unremarkable that the President and most every other man in attendance were presumably wearing near-identical costumes.  Sartorial self-expression in the modern era is not only for the most part the domain of women, but a social requirement.  Men are stereotyped as intellectual, women emotional; men defined by their minds, women by their bodies; men serious, women frivolous; men relatively unconcerned with fashion, women ... lucky. 

No, really.  How boring is it to be expected to show up in the same dark suit for business or tuxedo for formal occasions day after day, year in and year out, with only the occasional flashy necktie to break the monotony?  Men outside the mainstream -- gay men or entertainers, for example -- have a bit more leeway to make stylish statements with their attire.  Nearly all women, on the other hand, have a whole range of colors, silhouettes, patterns, and styles in which to dress themselves while still remaining appropriately attired.  Freedom of choice and the expectation that it will be exercised can be a burden, but on the whole it's a wonderful opportunity.

So perhaps the most immediate question is not why it's embarassing for women to turn up dressed alike, or why we maintain the fiction of uniqueness in the face of mass-market fashion, although both of these issues are fascinating.  Instead, we might ask what social forces caused four affluent women with access to the vast resources of the fashion world to choose the same rather matronly, $8,500 ensemble. 

Maybe they all just liked the outfit.  Or maybe the groupthink endemic to the executive branch has made its way into the wardrobes of its First, second, third, and fourth ladies as well.

December 06, 2006

Leave it to a Hip Hop Artist...

...to creat an anticounterfeiting campaign that rhymes.

Sean Jean Canada, Diddy's north of the border division, has launched a "Don't Buy a Lie" campaign to combat the brand's "copycat crisis."  Click the logos below to visit the website, complete with musical interlude.

The best detail?  The dateline on the press release reads "St-Laurent, Quebec."  No relation, of course. 

December 04, 2006

Counterfeit Quiz

Would you buy a counterfeit?  And if so, would you admit it?

Nicole Hasselfeld, a student at the University of Redlands in California, has created an animated game to provoke discussion of the answers to these very questions.  Counterfeit Mania will take you on a gender-specific shopping trip for the real -- or fake -- objects of your desire, rewarding you along the way with unexpectedly funny pop-ups and stock characters.  There's even an opportunity for buyer's remorse, prompted by some frequent justifications for buying, or not buying, copies.  Once you've acquired your prize, Nicole will leave you with a few suggestions for futher reflection -- so head over to her blog afterwards and share your thoughts. 

The animation is clever, the topic is timely, and best of all, Nicole credits Counterfeit Chic with inspiring her project.  So what are you waiting for? 

December 03, 2006

Knockoff News 42

A weekly (or thereabouts) collection of news about counterfeits, fakes, knockoffs, replicas, imitations, and the culture of copying in general around the globe:

And in the midst of a rather quiet week on the fake front appeared these observations on "authenticity" as the newest harbinger of retail success:

But for something to be perceived as authentic, that value has to be communicated cleanly through every detail — from the quality of the wash, if it’s a T-shirt, to the integrity of the physical environment.


“Every high-profile Gap executive has walked through my store,” Ms. Garduno said.


She continued: “Well, go look at the Gap. They claim to not want to rip you off, but the fact is they do. And it’s not working for them — not even lifting my ideas, and with all of their money and art direction. They still don’t have faith. They don’t have faith in themselves, and it comes out instinctually in the product. I think people know the difference.”

A Gap spokeswoman said, “This is the first we’ve heard of it” and declined further comment.

If the ongoing slide in Gap, Inc.'s sales and investment ratings is any indication, a bit of self-authentication might be in order. 



December 02, 2006

Cupcake Comedy

Regular Counterfeit Chic readers may remember Johnny Cupcakes, the T-shirt designer who allegedly got burned by Urban Outfitters and fought back.  But where is Johnny now?

I'm happy to report that the intrepid cupcake baker went back to the kitchen and whipped up a series of new designs, which are available both online and at his Newbury Street boutique in Boston.  Whether or not inspired by his brush with intellectual property law, Johnny also seems to have developed a taste for transforming famous images.

What would happen, for example, if a postretirement Michael Jordan indulged in a few too many cupcakes?

Johnny Cupcakes JMan design

Or if E.T. had preferred cupcakes to Reese's Pieces?

Or if one of Johnny's own cupcakes were inspired by the name of another much-copied, trendy clothing line?

It seems that Johnny has managed to turn tragedy into comedy -- and his newest designs are just the icing on the cake.