Thursday, April 15, 2010

YSL & Le Smoking

by Ariane Ankacrona

YSL with his muses. Betty Catroux on the right and Loulou de la Falaise on the left.

The name Yves Saint Laurent conjures up both a highly successful star brand and an incredibly talented designer with a powerful social presence. It was his talent that led him to success at an early age but his later glamorous life and beautiful entourage that helped shape the image of the brand. Saint Laurent had an acute awareness of the atmosphere and desires of the time he was designing in and this gave him his elevated and successful position in the fashion world. Although his designs instantly became the fashion of the day, Saint Laurent himself was more interested in the lasting style of his creations.

Iconic 1975 photo of Le Smoking shot by Helmut Newton

Testament to this fact is the re-occurring appearances and interpretations of many of his original designs throughout the last fifty years; his female tuxedo, ‘le smoking’ is one of his most powerful creations. The 1960s was the decade in which Saint Laurent really flourished. This time period coupled with his endless talent and glittering social circle enabled Saint Laurent to become one of the most powerful and influential designers in the world.

YSL's last show, 2002 at Centre Pompidou. Final bow taken with models old and new, all in Le Smoking.

Conflicting Hegemony

by Sam Shaw

by Tommy Ton of

The concept of androgynous fashion has been largely ignored, marginalized, and criticized over the past two centuries. While most contemporary theorists suppose that the idea of androgynous dressing is an idealist concept at best, history shows that androgynous fashion is neither a new concept, nor an unexpressed contemporary aesthetic. In current French fashion, androgynous fashions are becoming increasingly relevant, as designers such as John Galliano, Stephano Pilati, and Jean Paul Gaultier present androgynous-leaning styles. Furthermore, androgyny is more and more evident in the streets of Paris, as both men and women adopt gender-neutral garb.

The connection between androgynous style and the masculine hegemony is particularly interesting when considered in the context of contemporary French “high” fashion and Parisian street style. The bilateral occurrence of an androgynous trend indicates the presence of societal reflection on conceptions of gender, sexuality,
and the male hegemony. In the twenty-first century, men’s and women’s fashions have become nearly interchangeable, leading one to question if, after centuries of sexualized clothing, we have arrived at a period of de-sexualization, as evidenced by a new form of androgynous dressing.

The Horse: A power symbol in the French fashion industry

by Isabella E. Isbiroglu

“For a long time, moreover, the status of the horse stimulated strong feelings because it endorsed the identity of socially dominant groups and symbolized wealth and power, and also owing to the horse’s place at the heart of rituals and social differentation. All this made it the focus of interests both intellectual and affective, both passionate and partison.” (Roche, p. 2)

Hermes flagship, Paris

Andrew Roche explains in his quote the horse’s role in French society. He believes this figure symbolizes wealth in dominant groups. The Horse has been a part of French history for centuries and has remained to be a significant code in French culture that can be seen in the French fashion industry through design and symbols today.

Tom Roche explains that there are three main reasons as to why the horse has been significant in France. He states,
First, there was the need throughout society for the performance of numerous horse-related services; second, there was the pleasure produced by activities such as hunting, dressage, the schooling of horses and (slightly later) horse racing; and thing, there was the way that power was express in war.

Roche’s main goal of the article is to explain the horse’s relationship with France between the 16th and 19th century. Through this quote he points out that the horse has had many purposes in French culture including transportation, leisure, and war. He believes that understanding the relationship between horse and man helps us understand the world of social order through our own understanding of materialism.

The horse has had many functions in French culture such as hunting, dressage, the schooling of horses, horse racing, use in war, and for transportation (Roche). Horse racing is a momentous part of French culture. One region of France, Chantilly, is sometimes referred to as the “Capital of the Horse”, or at least according to journalist Jade Dalleau.

Horse competitions, hunting and horse racing have always considered to be prestigious sports. Why? Because these sports are expensive. Riding gear, horses and housing horses will cost a handsome sum of money. So it is only natural that the participants and spectators would attend and participate in these events in style. In many cases only the elite take part in these events, so they dress the part and use only the nicest of equipment.

Hermes and Gucci both started out as companies focused on horse equipment.Both companies branched out into the fashion industry expanding their luxury image. Even though they are mostly recognized today as luxury brands for apparel, they still have their image of traditional equestrian heritage intact. Both companies have sponsored horse shows and Hermes also still to this day sells horse gear.

Hermes horse gear

Any sport or occasion involving the horse usually has a certain dress code. Usually a rider of a horse wears riding boots, tight pants with chaps, a crop in hand, on occasion a quilted jacket, and a helmet. I should know because I used to ride horses myself. Due to France’s strong powerful and prestigious relationship with the horse, it is no surprise that the horse became a part of French fashion. Equestrian style is associated with aristocracy and wealth. The horse being the face of the equestrian world, along with its own attire (the bit, the saddle, etc), speaks to its audience.

Consumers want to feel like they are part of this elitist class, so naturally attire styled after the equestrian style or merchandise with a horse on it, makes them feel that much closer to that particular class. An example of this can be seen through John Galliano, the designer of Christian Dior. Galliano not only designed equestrian inspired pieces for his Spring 2010 couture show, but in his most recent Fall 2010 Ready to Wear show as well. Galliano took elements from the dress code associated with the horse rider and combined it with his own personal modern designs to create two beautiful collections. Models came out wearing side saddle skirts with crops in their hands in the Spring couture show. In addition, the Fall ready to wear show presented woman dressed in thigh boots, equestrian inspired capes, baker boy caps and blanket coats. (Mower)

Equestrian inspired Dior, S 2010

The horse itself is represented in numerous places. A horse and rider is the symbol for the brand Longchamp. Longchamp is actually a horse race track in France and has been called the “flagship” racecourse. In addition, we can see the horse on many of Hermes’ products like its ashtrays, bracelets and scarves. Hermes uses its history with the horse as a its main symbol because of the meaning behind this symbol. The horse to Hermes is tradition, luxury and ultimately power. It holds the traditional expensive ideals that horse riders and luxury consumers share.

Through examining the French labels Hermes, Longchamp, Dior and Gucci (French owned) it is evident that the horse is a symbol represented in French fashion. France’s history with the horse has been significant on its culture ranging from sports to leisure to war. Even in some cases, designer houses such as Hermes and Gucci, started out as caterers so the horse rider. The bridge between fashion and the horse is a strong relationship embodied through such brands and the representation of the horse they still carry with in their fashion brands. The horse is a dominant creature, assisting the French from transportation to fashion.

Eco Fashion in Europe

by Elizabeth Barthelmes

Kami Organic blouse and skirt, made with organic cotton and low-impact dyes. Kami, formerly operated under LVMH, became independent in 2008 to produce this organics under the design leadership Jérôme L'Huillier, who has worked with labels such as Givenchy, Pierre Balmain, Lapidus and Junko Shimada (KAMI Organic)

In the past decade, a subculture of eco-fashion designers has emerged, who are driven to recreated the standards of the fashion world, but evolving their designs and practices so that they are sustainable. In the current culture of fast fashion and accessible luxury, eco-fashion designers are challenged to work not only upon redefining the industries production processes, but educating the consumer on product’s impacts, as well as maintaining price points, style, and comfort that satisfies their customer’s desires.
These efforts have shaped the development of eco-brands and stores within Paris, and throughout the world, slowly revolutionizing the preexisting mindset and establishing legislation to secure these ethics. While the existing seat of power in the fashion industry is comprised of only a select few, their decisions and impact are global, with its textile manufacturing accounting for “10% of the world’s productive energies”, just behind food (Oakes 1). With the introduction of “eco-labeling”, for clothing generated under specific low-impact criteria, the consumer will be able to more effectively utilize their purchasing power to shift the paradigms of the existing fashion structure. Already eco-fashion is stepping into the mainstream, but it will only establish itself within the coming years through effectively combining and utilizing power, within images and terms through media, the consumer’s choice, government and celebrity endorsement, and of resources of environmental organizations.

Emma Watson’s line from PeopleTree, a progressive UK sustainable and fair-trade fashion brand, demonstrates both Eco-Fashions utilization of celebrity power and the need to explain the concept of eco-fashion to the mainstream consumer.

Eco-Labels certify that the labeled product has followed a specific and environmentally conscious criteria within its material and production. Top: Certification seals of Made-By (UK NGO), and the Global Organic Textile Standard (NGO developed by US, UK, Japan, France). Bottom: H&M organic clothing label and the EU-flower green certification for over 3,000 products (Governments of European Union).

Princess for a Day: The Power of the Wedding Gown

by Samantha Goodman

Figure 1: Henry Roth, Style No: 31655772. Photograph. Kleinfeld Bridal. Web. 13 Apr. 2010.

“Fashion, a naturally ambitious princess, tried to dethrone Usage and turn his kingdom upside down,” so wrote Antoine de la Roque in 1731 after seeing a ballet of twelve vignettes entitled “L’Empire de la mode” (Benhamou, 35). While the summary was certainly pertinent to the ballet, it can still be applicable today when regarding the wedding dress and the spectacle of the wedding, as the wedding gown, an element of fashion, usurps the necessity of usage as an expensive item that is only worn once. Today’s wedding gown, or bridal couture as top designers such as Vera Wang refer to it, is an example of eighteenth century finery still in use for the representations of extravagance and hierarchy it possesses. Though the large skirt and small bodice of the traditional gown might not be favored by all women, the idea of the gown still seems to hold an element of courtly power only attainable to the bride, playing the role of queen for a day. Where does this power come from? Why is it attributed to a dress that is only worn once in a woman’s life? And why does there appear to be an almost mythical reverence embodied in the wedding gown? To answer these questions, one must look to the past in an examination of the haute couture of the eighteenth century, specifically in the court of Marie Antoinette, as well as observe how deeply the Queen’s style has or has not influenced the bridal couture of today. A look at the modern wedding ceremony and reception is also necessary in understanding the themes of courtly power that are still present, even if only for a day.

Figure 2: Example of gowns at Cymbeline, Paris. Personal photograph by author. 2010.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Vogue Paris March 2010

by Katherine Hom

Cover by Mert & Marcus from "L'Allure, pas la guerre"

Power is indicated and negotiated in all aspects of Vogue, from its place in the fashion world, down to the images that are displayed in it. Specifically I looked at the editorial of the March edition of French Vogue.

The first of the series is call "L'allure, pas la guerre" translating to "The look, not the war." It was photographed by Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott. The two were both born in 1971 and came together in 1994 and started doing fashion photography. They're known for spending a lot of time on make-up and hairstyling and this kind of scene with the model against a neutral background in common in their work. They have done 7 covers including this issue's for French Vogue. The shoot was styled by Carine Roitfeld, who has been the editor in chief of French Vogue since 2001. Before finding her place at Vogue she worked as a model, writer and stylist for French Elle, as well as freelancing.

The next series is called "Commando," above. The photographer here is David Sims, a British fashion photographer. He won the Young Fashion Photographer of the Year Award at the Festival de la Mode in France in both 1996 and 1994. He has done 9 covers for Paris Vogue since 2002. The stylist/director is Emmanuelle Alt who has been the head fashion editor of Vogue Paris since 2000.

"Lady Cops" was photograph by Bruce Weber, an American photographer who was born in 1946 and also makes films and music videos. The stylist here was, Joe McKenna. This spread was interesting, it seems to be a parody of American cop shows, with actresses acting as models, in overly sexualized scenes a bit ridiculously. "With a lipstick or a gun, they get their man!" I would say that this exhibits mockery, one of the 3 styles that Roland Bathes outlines in "Fashion Photography".

The next is "en Permission" photographed by the British photographer Alasdair Mclellan. He gets more creative in using the format of the double page spread, often using this technique of placing a color photograph opposite a black and white photograph is a common theme in his work. Jane How is a London based stylist.

"Mission Lanzarote" above was photograph by Cedric Buchet. He was born in 1974 and specializes in landscape photography as well as fashion. The stylist was Anastasia Barbieri.

The photographers and editors/stylists are both figures of high status and neither of them are emphasized over the other in the print. However, while the make-up artist, and hairdresser and assistants are noted in small print on the last page of the spread, nowhere is the name of the model to be found. She becomes this unidentified figure, though she is essential in realizing the vision of the director and photographers. She simply embodies femininity and takes on the attitude and role dictated by the director, but is bleached of any particular identity. Except in the case of celebrity/actresses turn models in "Lay Cops" in which their names are plastered everywhere.

Models go without recognition

If you look at the past work and clients of these photographers and stylists, they often work with magazines and brands. By looking at who exactly is working on these photographs and the clothing that is being featured, you can see that the magazine works with a set of high caliber photographers and stylists who are familiar with and often work with each other. I think collaboration happens from time to time but I'm sure it depends on the renown of the photographer, the editorial vision and the relationship between the editor and photographer.

The interjection of an editor/art director might compromise the photographers vision. I spoke with the photographer Stéphane Bourson who said that sometimes an art director will tell you exactly what they want and need and you just control the light and take the picture, while others will just tell you the subject they want and let you do whatever you want. You might not agree with the direction that you're given at all. But direction isn't necessarily a bad thing, cause as with art its easy to fall into doing one specific thing that you like and the art director can push you to try things you normally wouldn't that look good.

The editor really has a strong influence over everything that happens in the photographs and everything that happens in the magazine in general. In deciding what goes into the magazine they decide what is worthy to be looked at and celebrated. Vogue itself is published in over 18 countries an was declared by NYT book critic as "the world's most influential fashion magazine".

What might seem like a simple glossy photo is connected to and is a product of this whole other social hierarchy where most of the power rests with the magazine editor within a network of other fashion elite in which power is constantly being negotiated.

Beyond the Glass: The Role of Window Displays in the French Fashion System

by Diana Vassar

According to Tom Beebe, the creative director of Paul Stuart’s menswear, “Stopping traffic is the goal for any window designer worth their salt.” (Droganes) Retail shops allot a significant amount of thought and, typically, money to the design of their window displays for good reason: would we as potential customers be inclined to venture through a mysterious, impenetrable door without first getting a peek of what is available inside? Would we even be able to discern a clothing boutique from a supermarket without store-front advertising? Windows offer a glimpse, a snapshot, a quick summary from which we can form the fateful opinion that determines our pursuing actions. To enter or not to enter is the question and window displays offer the answer. They wield power to reel us in, but the final decision is within our own control.

BCBG Paris 2010, What does this window say?

What is it that makes a shop window speak and customer compelled to act? Is power concentrated in the corporation, the brand, the shop space, or simply the windows themselves? Is power invested in the hands of the consumer? These are the questions that have led my study of shop window displays that frame the streets of Paris. The answers, I have discovered, rest in the inherently dynamic nature of fashion and shopping: the power of the window depends on the active participation of consumer, commodity, and place. As part of the fashion system, each constantly moves, changes, and negotiates power as quickly as fashion re-dresses itself.

Le Pantheon, rue Soufflot, 1877 and today

Beginning in the mid-19th century, both Haussmann’s physical redesign of and the World Expositions held in Paris contributed to the city’s new identity as the culture capital of the world. Vast changes had a profound effect on the everyday lives of Parisians who, in an attempt to reconcile the unrecognizable city, took to the streets walking. These walkers were flâneurs, as Baudelaire called them, engaging in an active, evolving relationship with their surroundings. Thanks to mass production, displays of fashion proliferated both in shops and on the streets. As the surroundings and fashions became familiar, they also began to change, thus trapping the street walker into the fashion cycle of differentiation and equalization, defamiliarization and familiarization.

The Louis Vuitton flagship in Paris, displaying a dream

Shops play a significant role in this cycle by means of their displays: they attempt to lure walkers and shoppers inside with a clear message, a spectacle, a dream. In response, the commodity and the consumer negotiate power between the panes of the glass window. The walker and the shop engage in a moving dialogue and the cycle begins again.

Fashioning the Self

by Angela Marzan

Marie Antoinette’s clothing was social currency to her during her life at the Court of Versailles. It oftentimes, like this pouf in support of the American Revolutionaries, had a political agenda as well.

How does one fashion the self? Indeed how does one fashion the political self? Was not, after all, Marie Antoinette merely a young girl, young wife, young mother? Was not Diana, Princess of Wales, the same? And what of Carla Bruni, former beauty queen, now current queen to France’s president? Is she not also just a woman? To define these women is impossible, but to define them through their fashion is dangerous. For clothing, as Oscar Wilde writes, is not a symbol of a nation but rather, it is its own political entity, carrying a power so explosive, for women particularly, that one seldom knows what to do with it. To begin, one must uncover in dress its implications of ladyhood – that ever elusive, surreal embodiment through dress of what it is to be a woman. Then one must regard these marks through history. It is only after that one can begin to witness the place in history that Marie Antoinette, Princess Diana, and Carla Bruni hold. And through an understanding of female dress, on these women in particular, is one finally able to postulate to the why and how of political dress and how it has come to hold such power.

This picture, taken during her tour of India in 1992, reveals the strength and power of Diana, Princess of Wales, as she worked side by side with Mother Teresa to help the poorest of the poor, despite the unraveling of her marriage. All of which, I might add, she did in style.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Official Preppy Handbook

In society, fashion is used to assert, affirm and refute power. Prep helps sustain status quo style. In the The Official Preppy Handbook (1980) writer Lisa Birnbach uses semiotics to de-code preppy subculture. Prep is based on economic resources for a life of advantages emphasizing college preparatory education. It is also associated with American aristocracy, WASP subculture, and traditional values expressed through classic outward aesthetics. Because is it largely about socio-economic status, it is promoted in consumer culture as an achievable style that drives many brand visions.

Prep subculture was originally about quality education in the classics and could be recognized by accent, through region and schooling. Now it is the clothing that serves as index.

The Preppy Handbook is based on Britian's Sloan Ranger Handbook and has been followed by the Filthy Rich handbook below and also below a Japanese version.

Historic northeastern prep, the Kennedys, and in LA Robert Evans at home in the 1960's.

Prep is evident in many fashion brands and campaigns.

Brooks Brothers 2006 above & JCrew 2008 below

Italian heritage brand Marina Yachting, 2010

Juergen Teller, Washionton DC, W , 2009

Some suggest prep subculture is increasingly irrelevant. The following ad for alcoholic tea was targeting the American collegiate audience but the product did not succeed.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


by Nora Daly

Unlike subcultures who use the fashion system to express difference, fashion resistance is people or groups who resist taking part in the fashion system for various reasons

Barnard: 7. Fred Davis, “Anti Fashion: The Vicissitudes of Negation”
Fred Davis was emeritus professor of sociology at the University of San Diego. This article is an excerpt from his book Fashion, Culture and Identity, published in 1992.1 The article comes from a contemporary, academic context; nevertheless it is structured in a fashion that makes it easy to digest. In the introductory paragraph, Davis identifies six anti fashion movements, which he proceeds to discuss individually in the remainder of the body of the essay.

The first anti fashion movement Davis calls “utilitarian outrage.” This perspective criticizes fashion on a moral basis for its “wastefulness, frivolity, impracticality, and vanity.” Davis contends that the viewpoint can be traced far back in history, citing the bible as an early source of the anti fashion sentiment. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries economic and social theorists are continued proponents of “utilitarian outrage.” However, Davis mentions that people outside of the intellectual elite also experience “utilitarian outrage,” and criticize fashion for its instability and excess. Davis also points out that established designers sometimes champion “utilitarian outrage.” He cites as examples the early work of Chanel, and Liz Claiborne.

Exponents of “utilitarian outrage” advocate a simple mode of dress based on function rather than aesthetic. In extreme cases they may subscribe to “modular dressing,” an aesthetic of “loose-fitting, single colored garments,” usually unisex.

Davis refers to the second anti fashion movement as “health and fitness naturalism.” He emphasizes this movement’s roots in the nineteenth century dress reform movement, which was a reaction against restrictive Victorian styles, in particular the corset. Davis cites as the modern day equivalent the health and fitness craze that began in the late seventies and continues to this day. There are two options of dress in for “health and fitness naturalists,” the first “loose, baggy, and under-designed” (sweatpants for example), the second skintight, Lycra stylings such as bike shorts or leotards. He points out the quick acceptance of these rebellious forms into the fashion mainstream, in particular the absorption of Spandex by fashion in the eighties.

Leisure, leisure everywhere. While it began apart from fashion it has become common to see people wear athletic clothing in public, negating all the fashion codes for appropriateness.

The next movement is “feminist protest.” The objections of this group to the fashion system are fairly well known- they feel that the majority of styles (created by men) are restrictive to women and attempt to maintain the status quo by relegating them to traditional, subservient roles (such as “domestic/housewife” and “sex object”). Davis notes that within the fairly large category of “feminist protest” there are several sub-divides. There are those who believe women should dress in a masculine fashion, thus closing the gender gap. There are others who feel that society must produce a new form of dress, free from gender bias, in order to move forward.

The fourth movement Davis called “conservative skepticism.” This category was particularly interesting in that it did not stem from any particular intellectual or social movement, but instead from “millions upon millions of women” who object to new fashions on the ground that they are unflattering, or do not reflect the individual consumer’s personality. Interestingly this group seems to wield the most power, “killing off the new fashion altogether or causing it to be so modified as to greatly neutralize its symbolic intent and visual impact.” Also interesting is the fact that the members of this anti fashion group are not inherently anti fashion, the normally do follow fashion, which is why undesirable new styles are a threat to them.

Conservative skeptics are also those in general who doubt or do not take part in fashion. While women with occasional skepticism about an aspect of fashion can influence the market, conservative skeptics such as critics negate fashion in society and themselves dress in consistent plain clothing.

The last two anti fashion movements Davis discusses are closely linked. “Minority group disidentification” and “counterculture insult.” The former phenomena stems from cultural subgroups attempting to distinguish themselves through fashion. As examples Davis cites religious sects (i.e. Hassidic Jews or the Amish) and racial minorities (i.e. African Americans). The primary difference between the two forms of “minority group disidentification” is that when employed by religious sects different dress serves to keep mainstream society out, while the styles of racial minorities often “float upwards” helping to bridge the gap between societies.

Clothing is not only away to indicate group association but it is also an extension of values which is why faith based clothing stands apart from the fashion system

In 1943 in a series of riots between sailors and Latinos, the Latino dress of the Zoot Suit made them an easy target and more notable to media

The last movement, “counterculture insult,” Davis argues is the most easily integrated with mainstream fashion despite being the most directly anti fashion of all the movements discussed. Integration occurs for a variety of reasons. Firstly, the proponents of “counterculture insult” are usually middle-class teenagers, thus they are members of the very group they rebel against (Davis cites the hippies and the punks). Younger designers seeking to find their niche in fashion often latch on to these counter culture fashions as a way to set themselves apart and give themselves an edge. Also, fashion has a historical link to counterculture, since the earliest designers collaborated with avant-garde artists at the dawn of the twentieth century.

Davis article applies in particular to our course because it discusses a classic power struggle, that between fashion and anti fashion. In a close reading of Davis’ text it is interesting to note that each of the anti fashion movements he discusses attempt to seize power away from fashion, except for the “conservative skeptics.” These women adhere willingly to the power of the fashion system, and yet they are the only group truly successful in wresting power from it. While the other groups become integrated into the fashion mainstream in one way or another, this group alone is able to defy and change edicts of fashion by subverting trends.

The afro once a minority expression has not only been accepted into the fashion landscape but has been recently elevated to a high position of beauty and style, above in Vogue Paris Nov 2009 by Mario Testino

Article: Brian Hilton, Chong Ju Choi, Stephen Chen, “The Ethics of Counterfeiting in the Fashion Industry.” Journal of Business Ethics, Vol. 55, No. 4 (Dec. 2004), pp. 345-354

All three of the authors of this article are on staff at the Australian National University. Brian Hilton works for the National Graduate School of Business. Chong Ju Choi is the dean of the University’s National Graduate School of Management, and Stephen Chen is the senior lecturer at that same school. In the article, the authors discuss the ethics of counterfeiting in the context of high fashion and luxury goods. The first distinguish between three types of goods, then between four ethical perspectives, and finally between four types of counterfeit products. Afterwards they analyze the four types of counterfeits based on the four ethical perspectives raised earlier in the article.

To begin with, the three types of goods are: “credence goods,” “experience goods” and “search goods.” The value of a “search good” is apparent before purchase. That of the “experience good” becomes apparent after purchase and sometimes even after a period of use. It is extremely difficult ever to determine the value of “credence goods.” The authors specify that while counterfeits may fall under any one of these three categories, authentic high fashion holds the mystical value of a “credence good.”

Next, the four ethical perspective by which the authors analyze counterfeit products: The first is “utilitarianism,” which dictates that if intellectual property goes unprotected there will be no grounds for innovation on behalf of the producer and society as a whole will suffer. The second, “distributive justice,” argues that the benefits you reap from a product should be equal to the amount of effort you put into it. By this argument, designers deserve the full profits of their designs on the grounds that they are responsible for the creation of the intellectual property on which counterfeits are based. Third is the “moral rights of man perspective,” which states that “there are certain basic human rights that need to be respected at all costs.” If you view intellectual property as one of these rights, this perspective also becomes an argument against counterfeiting. Finally, “ethical relativism,” which “bases decisions on what others are doing under similar circumstances.” This perspective offers the least grounds for defending counterfeiting, for (as is discussed in the article’s introduction) while most countries have copyright and intellectual property right laws, they are for the most part rarely and loosely enforced.

The authors then introduce the four types of counterfeits: “vanity fakes,” “overruns,” “condoned copies,” and those fakes produced by the same house whose high fashion product they imitate. The authors proceed to examine the four types of fakes based on the four ethical perspectives, and largely find within each perspective grounds for the defense of the counterfeiter.

“Vanity fakes,” have both a low use value and a low mystic value. However, as this low value is apparent to the consumer before they purchase the product. On the grounds of “moral rights” producers of these “vanity fakes,” usually working out of low-income countries, have the right to make their living. Also, the consumer targeted by the product, most likely in a similar low-income situation, has a right to purchase the product that brings them some joy. On “utilitarian” grounds, the cheap copies can encourage designer innovation, as the designer must produce new designs more rapidly to distinguish their name and brand from the cheap, counterfeit styles as they become readily available. Also, the authors make the argument that the prospective consumer of the “vanity fake” would never have the buying power to purchase the genuine luxury product; therefore no one is harmed in this equation.

“Overruns” are counterfeits created by the owners of factories that produce genuine designer products. The counterfeits are forged from the left over material, they are of good quality, and often are identical to the designer’s product save a name or logo. The authors defend this kind of counterfeiting on the grounds that many designers produce their luxury products in sweatshops, through producing “overrun” counterfeits, workers are able to supplement meager wages, which would otherwise constitute only one percent of the cost of the designer’s product. Clearly, this defense works from the perspective of “moral rights.” It also applies to a “utilitarian perspective,” without the additional income of counterfeiting workers would not receive a benefit from the product that equaled their share of the labor. Finally, from the “relativistic” perspective, the majority of societies condemn sweatshops as unethical, so this small revenge could be seen as fair.

UNESCO's campaign to expose counterfeiting in connection to the other crimes and abuse of the black market

Third, “condoned copies,” in which legitimized fashion houses produce less expensive copies of haute couture designs (the authors cite as examples Victor Costa and Jack Mulqueen) is defended on “relativistic” grounds. Designers themselves often agree to the use of their designs, and one could argue the entire industry of fashion is based on copying, therefore this form of counterfeiting could be deemed acceptable.

“Self-Copies,” are designers’ reproductions of their own work. It is difficult to turn a profit in the luxury good industry; therefore many designers rely on supplementary ready-to-wear lines to keep their businesses afloat. However, if not handled carefully, increased production can flood the market with your product, thus diminishing its mystic value (the authors use as an example Gucci in the 1980s).

The main ethical dilemma around “self-copies” and other counterfeits of a high quality, equal to that of the luxury good they imitate is that it confuses the value attributed to the original product. Designers must rely solely on mystic value, brands and logos, to justify the higher cost of their product when counterfeiters begin producing products of equally quality at a lower cost.

At the conclusion of the article counterfeiting remains an ethical “gray area,” where equal arguments can be made for and against the practice.