Famous Fashion Design Pieces

'Is it legal', 'can I do this' type questions and discussions.
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MrsTwosheds
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Famous Fashion Design Pieces

Post by MrsTwosheds » Sat Jun 16, 2018 1:07 pm

Hi guys

Would be grateful for your thoughts on this one, please.

I am intending to make a recycled plastic garment for use on a carnival float, and have come across some thick nice silver plastic linings to dog food bags. They would lend themselves very well to cutting into discs or squares and sewing up into a Paco Rabanne style 60s silver metal disc dress. I am dimly aware of some sort of (reasonably short) copyright on mainstream fashion, but am thinking that catwalk fashion may be different? I am assuming that Sr Rabanne may have some objection to someone parading around in dog food bags fashioned in the style of one his most famous 60s signature pieces (quite literally as a ‘dog’s dinner’).

Would I be right? If I am, would it still be possible to create something using silver plastic pieces in a similar way but different style, or is the whole thing a non-starter? I have pored over fashion pictures and can’t find any evidence of copies of this particular idea, but can’t decide whether this is because it isn’t permitted or because the wearing of a garment made of metal discs would not be a great seller on account of the general discomfort involved.

Thank you so much for your help.

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AndyJ
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Re: Famous Fashion Design Pieces

Post by AndyJ » Sat Jun 16, 2018 7:54 pm

Hi Sally,

Fashion designs are rarely protectable by copyright once they have been turned into actual items of clothing because, since these are usually mass-produced so they do not qualify as works of artistic craftsmanship. However in the area of iconic designs, particularly low volume, hand-made items, things have changed legally speaking in the last couple of years. Prior to the repeal of section 52 of the CDPA, things were reasonably clear: anything which started out as an artistic work but was then reproduced by an industrial process in quantities above 50 items, was only to be protected by copyright for 25 years. However the repeal of this section now means that any item which features sufficient artistic qualities can be fully protected even though its main function might be considered practical rather than aesthetic. Some pieces of furniture by Italian designers are often used as examples (you can read the IPO's Guidance Note on the subject here). So on that basis, some of Paco Rabanne's garments, such as the one you wish use as your inspiration, may qualify for copyright protection. But of course that doesn't necessarily mean that the designer himself or his company will seek to use copyright law to prevent near reproductions being created, or that the courts would take a strict line in dealing with a claim of that sort, given that in previous times the law has tended not to protect fashion items under copyright law

Because copyright has, historically, not been an appropriiate method of protecting the fashion industry, design right was introduced around 60 years ago to fill the gap. This is probably the sort of protection you were thinking of, as the unregistered variety of design right (which comes into being automatically, like copyright, when an item is made to a design drawing) lasts for up to 15 years, and its more versatile big brother, Registered Design Right, lasts for 25 years. Given the relatively ephemeral nature of fashion with its traditional 4 ranges per year, these periods of protection provided by design right are quite adequate for the purpose of commercial protection. The fashion industry in general is not a particularly litigious bunch, seeming instead to accept that copycat versions of even highend garments are a fact of life. And not that many fashion designs are registered, probably because the expense is not justified by the relatively short shelf life of the average garment. The ones which are registered tend to be longer-lived items like branded trainers or sports clothing where the respective industries face major problems with counterfeit goods.

That's by way of background. I don't think design right represents an issue for what you want to do because you are not making the garment for commercial purposes, which is an absolute defence against a claim for design infringement (section 7(a)(2) of the Registered Designs Act 1949 and section 226(1) of the CDPA 1988).

So that just leaves copyright. As I have already explained, the Paco Rabanne dresses of the disc variety probably would be considered as artistic works, and hence even if they were also manufactured in large quantities, they would now have the full term of protection of copyright law in the UK (ie the artist's lifetime plus 70 years). However, provided that you just copy the idea behind the dress design and not the actual dress you should be relatively safe. I wouldn't normally say that with regard to most other forms of copyright work, but in this case, given that there are currently several copycat versions (eg here) commercially available which don't appear to be facing any pressure to cease doing what they are doing, and yours would be a totally non-commercial use of the idea, I think the risk here is very low indeed.
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007

MrsTwosheds
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Re: Famous Fashion Design Pieces

Post by MrsTwosheds » Sun Jun 17, 2018 9:16 am

Hi Andy

Lovely - thank you so much! I will get to work immediately. I have just found some pictures of Japanese samurai mail armour (Kikko), which seems to be constructed in a similar way, so I may have another line of defence if necessary (no pun intended!).

Thank you as always for your excellent, speedy and informative reply. As you will know, I do a fair bit of costume making and your general background information relating to fashion industry copyright will stand me in good stead for many projects to come.

Grateful thanks and very best regards

Sally

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