Tuesday, 30 June 2009

When store closure can be a good thing...

Fashionista remembers as if it were yesterday (and it practically was...) that Liberty launched its first concept store in London's Sloane Street, marking the brand's first departure in London from its flagship Regent Street store. Now, less than a year after opening, the store is already marked for closure. Pessmistic fashionistas will see this as another casualty of the recession. Liberty, however, is pitching this as great news, having received an unsolicited request for the premises from a European brand seeking prime retail space in London. Better news still, Liberty will not use the move as an opportunity to lose staff and stock - all of which will be transferred to the Regent Street store.

Is this an indication that department store expansions don't work? House of Fraser had a fleet of nationwide stores (including the once legendary but now closed Dickins & Jones and Barkers) but has found itself closing stores in the last 5 years. On the other hand, both Harvey Nichols and Selfridges have opened new stores in the UK. So what is key to successful expansion? geography? local competition? timing? excellent marketing and PR? Fashionista suspects it comes down to all of the above, and this leaves Fashionista wondering: is Liberty's news a positive indication that the market is turning (let's hope so), or is it clever PR spin on expansion that hasn't survived?

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Who's got the look?

US retailer Abercrombie & Fitch are in the headlines this week, as they defend a high profile disability discrimination claim. Twenty two year old Ms Dean, who was born with her left forearm missing, was granted permission to wear a plain white cardigan to cover the join of her prosthetic arm by the employer, but was subsequently told her white cardigan broke the "look" policy of the shop and was sent from the shop floor to work in the stockroom. It is alleged she had to continue to work in the stock room until the winter look policy came in. The claim continues and a Tribunal will decide if Ms Dean suffered disability discrimination.

All fashionistas out there should be aware that employers should not discriminate against workers and applicants on the grounds of disability, should not treat them less favourably for a reason related to disability, should not victimise them and they also have a duty to make reasonable adjustments – otherwise they could find themselves in a rather unglamorous Tribunal.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

IP in the Fashion Industry

The programme for this year's annual handbags-at-dawn conference, "Intellectual Property in the Fashion Industry", has now been published by event organisers CLT. Quite a few of Fashionista's more savvy friends are in the cast, not to mention Fashionista herself. The event, held in association with this weblog, takes place on 22 September 2009 in London, at a venue which the organisers are cunningly keeping under wraps in order to create a tantalising aura of mystery. There's also a special BOGOF promotion ("book one, get one free") too, so you can bring a friend.

Topics covered during the day include industry-specific updates on the relevant IP rights, the perennially vital issue of brand clearance plus features on distribution networks, valuation and securitisation of fashion IP assets.

You can download the programme in glorious technicolour here, or cut straight to the registration form online here.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

The Perry battle: Katy vs Katie

Would you believe it? There's more than one Katie/y Perry. The US pop starlet (famed equally for her annoyingly catchy pop tunes and bizarre fashion sense) Katy Perry (real name Katheryn Hudson) isn't happy. And here's why.

Australian fashion designer Katie Perry (real name Katie Perry - but sometimes Katie Howell) filed for an Australian trade mark last September (i.e. when Katy Perry had just exploded onto the music scene) to protect her name for clothing. Katy (with a -y) also plans to file for an Australian trade mark. News reports have it that US Katy has asked Australian Katie to stop using her own name for her clothing range, withdraw her trade mark application, and other relief you would expect from a cease and desist letter. Oh, and she's filed an opposition against the designer's mark. The US singer has since posted on her blog to say that she isn't suing Katie Perry - but simply putting her on notice of the American's rights (who is also filing for Australian trade mark protection), but the opposition is yet to be withdrawn.

So here is the issue. At what point are you not entitled to trade under your own name? In the UK, a registered trade mark is not infringed by a person's use of his own name, provided that the use is "in accordance with honest practices in industrial or commercial matters" (and, of course, that last bit is a grey area...).

This dispute brings home the importance of protecting your brand by securing trade mark registrations early on. Wait until your business has taken off and you may be too late if someone else has already registered your name as a trade mark. Whilst logic (and a perfect world) would assume that anyone should be entitled to use their own name, the reality is that a trade mark registration can prevent this. Designers (or celebrities who put their names to clothing or accessory ranges) are often caught out because they are not using their name "personally" - but instead, through a company. Although UK law has an "own name defence", this only applies if you are using your mark in your own name - and not through a company. Realistically, few designers operate in this way.

Fashionista wonders how this will play out before the Australian trade mark registry, particularly as the Australian designer has identified herself as Katie Howell on her trade mark application. Is this a case of possible co-existence between the two Kates, or will infringement successfully be argued? In which case, given that trade marks are national rights, which of the two Kates will be the infringing one in Australia?

Monday, 22 June 2009

Cookie monster still threatening

Most fashion websites use cookies or similar devices. Usually this is for no more sinister a purpose than to enable users to navigate through the site and to track forwards and backwards at the customer check out. They are increasingly also being used to facilitate affiliate and behavioural marketing techniques to be deployed.

Until now, website operators have simply been required to tell users about the existence of cookies and what they are used for (usually contained somewhere in the privacy policy) and to enable users to disable them through their browser settings.

Potential changes to this legislation which are being discussed by the European institutions would greatly increase this burden however. The draft provisions require operators to obtain users' "consent" to their use. One of the problems with this change is that it is not clear what is meant by consent. There is a real risk however that it could be construed as requiring an "opt in" prior consent. This would be very uncommercial for websites and the advertising industry and is it really protecting individuals in an appropriate manner? The last thing Fashionista wants when trying to race to the latest sales bargains on her favourite sites, is to be confronted with lots of pop up boxes about cookies.

The European institutions aren't going to be discussing this change again until mid September but hopefully this will give some more time for industry lobbying to ensure a proportionate and commercial approach is taken.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Amazon to launch footwear site

Today Retail Week reported that Amazon is to launch a standalone footwear site in the UK following the success of its Endless site in the US and Javari site in Japan. Although Amazon has been selling footwear on its main site since 2007, it is thought that the new site will have a broader product range, which will drive sales. One big advantage for consumers is that the new site will provide next-day delivery and free returns.

Fashionista's friends at Verdict conducted a survey recently in which 29.4 % of respondents said they purchased fashion items from Amazon. Consulting director Neil Saunders said that Amazon's new launch was likely to pose a threat to existing retailers. "The shoe retailers have not got as strong an online offer as they could have," he said. "Amazon is really stealing a march on them. It brings to the market a very recognised and trusted brand."
Given Fashionista's shoe fetish, anything which increases shoe shopping opportunities has to be welcome news!

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Fashionista congratulates...

Christopher Bailey (Creative Director of Burberry)
Jeff Banks (Designer amongst other roles),
Professor Frances Marie Corner (Head of London College of Fashion)
Natalie Massenet (Founder and Chair of Net-A-Porter.com)
Safia Laila Minney (Founder and Director of People Tree)

...who have all been honoured in the Queen's 2009 Birthday Honours List for services to the Fashion Industry and, also for services to Charity and services to Fair Trade for Jeff Banks and Safia Minney respectively.

Fashionista is thrilled to see that leaders in her favourite industry are being recognised so highly for the work they do - and across such a broad spectrum: design; education; charity; sales; and ethical sourcing to bring green issues to light.

This is such a great honour and illustrates the importance of the fashion industry to our economy now more than ever. Hopefully this will encourage aspiring young designers to keep doing what they do to help: their image; the image of those they dress; and the image of the UK fashion industry more generally. Fashionista remembers a time when, looking at "fashion", you would only look to France and Italy. Fashionista holds her head up proudly as we are now leading the charge, with so many British designers and retailers headlining the industry. Congratulations to all.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

LFN "Trading Online" event

Fashionista loves any event which enables her to combine her love of fashion with her love of wine and so tottered all the way to Kentish Town on Thursday evening to attend the London Fashion Network event "Trading Online: Getting Noticed" at the Prince of Wales pub.

The panel of industry experts included Stephen Pratley (Shine Marketing), Richard Thorpe (Screen Pages Ltd), Joel Vertes (Olswang) and Barnaby Brown (motelrocks.com) who discussed a number of ways of optimising a website so that you attract traffic to your website and keep people coming back for more. The added bonus was that the event was chaired by Leon Bailey-Green - Fashionista loves his blog!

Some of the more interesting points which came out of the discussion were:
  1. The landscape of "paid search" results has changed dramatically since the Google AdWords policy change. It is now possible to buy a 3rd party's trade mark as a keyword, so that when someone types that mark into a Google search engine, your website appears as a sponsored link.

  2. Questions were raised as to whether this was "legal". Clearly, it is allowed under the Google AdWords policy, but the question of whether it is a trade mark infringement is currently awaiting determination by the European Court of Justice. There are a number of pending references to the ECJ on this very topic so we will have to wait to see what they conclude.

  3. The importance of protecting your brand from the outset was emphasised and a good tip was make sure that your brand name wasn't overly descriptive as this makes it harder to protect - the best brand names in terms of being able to protect them are those that are arbitrary and have little to do with the actual product. Registering the trade marks is crucial as well as buying the key domain names in the .uk and .com space.

  4. Recovering domain names which infringe on your trade mark is not as difficult as you might think and there are various ways of doing this - depending on the rights that you have and what the domain name is being used for.

Fashionista picked up some useful information and met some fabulous people - roll on the next event!

Friday, 12 June 2009

Facebook Username Change - from Saturday 13 June

Fashionista has been made aware of Facebook's recent announcement that from today trade mark holders can record their trade marks with Facebook to prevent the registration of these trade marks as usernames. Their announcement was as follows :

"On Tuesday, June 9, Facebook, Inc., a social networking website company based in the United States, publicly announced that beginning Saturday, June 13th at 12:01 a.m. U.S. EDT, users of the Facebook website will be allowed for the first time to create personalized URLs for their Facebook pages (facebook.com/yourname). Facebook, Inc. has created an online form for rights owners interested in preventing their trademarks from being registered as usernames by Facebook users. Trademark owners can reserve their trademark on the Facebook platform by submitting relevant information to Facebook, Inc. through their trademark protection contact form, available at http://www.facebook.com/help/contact.php?show_form=username_rights. If you have further questions or concerns, please contact Facebook directly or see its Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page, available at http://www.facebook.com/help.php?page=896. "

Although the registration page implies that a trade mark registration (rather than application) is required, there is very little information provided as to eligibility or the evidence of the trade mark right required. Further, the online form requires the trade mark to be inserted together with its registration number, but without any box to insert the relevant jursidication.

While the form may not be perfect, it only takes 5 minutes to complete and will, according to Facebook, prevent a third party from incorporating your brand into their Facebook username. On this basis , it seems to Fashionista that it is worth spending the 5 minutes needed to register your brand and prevent someone else from getting there first!

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Cat fight over catsuit

Thanks to Vicki Day for getting Fashionista hooked on the recent posts by Susie Bubble on her fabulous blog Style Bubble. For those who have missed the furore, Susie recently posted some photos of herself trying on a catsuit in Pam Hogg's London boutique which did not go down at all well with the designer's people who subsequently requested that the images be removed from the blog.

Hogg's people apparently argued that Susie had violated intellectual property rights by posting a photo of an item that she hadn't bought, but Fashionista suspects that the real issue was that the designer wanted to keep a tight rein over the publication of images of her products as, to be fair, most designers do. However, control can only go so far and given the corresponding negative publicity that Pam Hogg has attracted via Susie's blog (413 commentators have expressed their opinion on the Bubble's follow up post "Hogg Roasted" of 2 June 2009 and most are anti-Hogg comments), Fashionista suspects that Pam Hogg's people are wishing they hadn't taken the matter quite so seriously - talk about a storm in a catsuit!
Photo: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Fashionista investigates green . . . .

Fashionista has been reading about sustainability in the fashion world and is interested to know the thoughts of her fellow fashionistas on this topic. So please click here to let Fashionista know your views on the importance of sustainability for recessionistas and for fashion companies planning for a new world post-recession. Just how relevant is this for consumers . . . . . ?

McCartney childrens range for Gap announced

With so many of Fashionista's colleagues and friends having babies at the moment, Fashionista was thrilled to read the article from Reuters today about Stella McCartney's planned new range for selected GapKids and babyGap stores.

It's another fantastic celebrity and high street store partnership which certainly sorts out the question of what presents to buy whilst promising to make Fashionista look the most fashionable of doting aunties ever.

The range is expected to launch at the end of this year so make sure you keep your eyes peeled for delivery annoucements and waiting lists nearer the time to ensure you don't miss out.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Jaeger: dressing women 125 years on

Originally the choice of adventurers on exploration to the Antarctic, Jaeger is now the choice of fashionistas on exploration to find a luxury brand which is fashionable, functional, fun, elegant, timeless. Jaeger has stood the test of time and for this it has much to celebrate as it reaches its 125th anniversary. The brand originally focused on the benefits of clothing made from natural fibres, and Jaeger (named after Dr Gustav Jaeger, professor of zoology and physiology and who poineered the benefits of animal hair in clothing) remains true to this thinking today, sourcing the purest cotton to the softest cashmere. Fashionista is thrilled to see that one of Britain's oldest brands is doing so well and not only fighting off the competition, but challenging and directing it.

There is much to be said for a birthday fanfare. In the current economic doom-and-gloom, it is refreshing to see a brand with something to celebrate. The psychological message is strong: this is a brand that is not buckling under the pressure of the economy. Its longevity is a testament to the strength of the brand, reinforcing its reputation as a serious player in the fashion world and increasing customer appeal. If the brand sends out such an encouraging message, customers will surely be encouraged by what the brand provides. After all, surviving 125 years in an industry where the customer is faced with immense choice and loyalty can be fickle suggests that Jaeger is doing something very right.

To celebrate its 125th birthday, Jaeger is honouring its heritage with the help of fashion curators Amy de la Haye and Judith Clark from London College of Fashion, who hosted an exhibition at the London College of Fashion earlier this year showing pieces from Jaeger's archives and who have co-authored the book "Jaeger 125". Fashionista turned the pages of the book with fascination, as she was taken on a journey illustrating the history and development of this iconic brand and documenting its success. Jaeger has also launched the 125 Collection - a capsule clothing collection drawing its inspiration from the brand's archives and putting a modern spin on a few key designs from the 60s: the defining era in Jaeger's history.

For the Fashionista-at-Law Birthday Q&A, Fashionista was lucky enough to speak with Shailina Parti, Buying Director for Jaeger, and asked:

(1) What is the Jaeger brand?

Jaeger is an iconic, stylish lifestyle brand stretching from womenswear to mens, to fragrance, to home - built on luxury, quality, style and wit. Whimsical and fun, it does not take itself too seriously. It is confident and bold with clean lines and fabulous fabrics.

(2) Who is the Jaeger customer and how has she changed over the years?

A confident woman of 35 and older who wants beautifully made and well fitted contemporary fashion. At first, she touches the fabric. If it feels wonderful, she'll try it on. She wants to look and feel fabulous in what she wears. It used to be that the brand was perceived to be for mothers and fathers. But with Jaeger appearing at London Fashion Week alongside Topshop and other youth brands, and lowering the price point for certain products, it is now appealing to the younger fashionista, so that mothers and daughters have a one-stop shop for their fashion needs. Jaeger dresses women, certainly. But the menswear collection does surprisingly well amongst young men who, armed with their first big paycheque or bonus and wanting to treat themselves to a great quality suit, are increasingly heading to Jaeger. Menswear is hardly advertised. There is no PR drive. The quality and fit of the suits are the selling point.

(3) What inspires Jaeger?

Everything around us: vintage markets, films, art. Exhibitions at London museums are a regular source of inspiration. You can guarantee that if there is a Byzantine exhibition in a museum, you will see Byzantine inspired pieces appearing on the market shortly after. Importantly, Jaeger's own archives are a great inspiration, showing that great designs transcend time.

(4) What does the future hold for the brand?

Further development of the luxury lifestyle values. The Internet has provided an incredible sales platform, allowing the brand to reach a far wider audience and attracting: new and younger customers; those who may not otherwise have entered a store; customers who are time-pressed but know they can rely on the quality, design and fit of Jaeger clothes; and - importantly - "Rural Fashionistas" who may be after catwalk items which are only available online or in the Regent Street flagship store. An online presence goes hand-in-hand with the brand's international expansion and Jaeger's plans to broaden the range of products, introducing a larger range at a more accessible price point to rival top end high street favourites such as Hobbs and Reiss, together with expanding the Jaeger Black demi couture range for that ultra-special piece.

Fashionista happily remembers raiding her mother's wardrobe as a little girl and dressing up in beautiful Jaeger pieces. A few decades later, and Fashionista is raiding her own wardrobe to dress up in her own beautiful Jaeger pieces. In the words of one of the iconic brand's early advertising slogans: "We don't sell clothes, we dress women". Fashionista says: Happy Birthday Jaeger, and thank you for dressing us so well!

Monday, 8 June 2009

The Whispering rebrand

According to Drapers online, UK high street supplier Rajan Group is searching for brand acquisitions or licences now that it has rebranded its business as Whispering Smith. The group reckons that recession-struck young fashion brands are ripe for the picking. Group sales rose 10% to £60 million for the year to year-end 31 March, with net profits rising 43% to £250,000 -- a sign of how slender profit margins can be in the cut-throat market for fashion goods.

Fashionista has been listening to the financial pundits and agrees that Whispering Smith may find that now is the right time for a shopping spree. And although a good name counts for a lot in some circles, Fashionista is less sure that the name of a holding company is that important. Perhaps the trendy young brands in Whispering Smith's sights may prefer to be bought by a group with an interesting name but ultimately survival, especially in this market, will be uppermost in their throughts.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Primani turns to Beckham for inspiration

Although, hand on heart, Fashionista can't say with absolute truth and certainty that she has never set foot inside Primark, she can say that-- as a keen reader of the Urban Dictionary -- she knew the bargain basement retail brand was nicknamed "Primani" for its ability to turn out designer fashions at high street prices.

People who are rude about soccer-celebrity-turned-fashion-icon David Beckham will probably sneer that he'd think Primani was the name of the manager of the Italian football team. Dashing David might just have had some ground for grievance against the chain -- had it not already been kind enough to enter into an out-of-court financial settlement following claims by Superdry that key features of its Beckham-driven signature Brad leather jacket had mysteriously appeared on jackets sold by Primark. According to Fashionista's source,
"The worn-in leather jacket with double collar costs £175, and has become something of a classic since Beckham first stepped out in it in 2007, with 70,000 sales to date and 25,000 on order for this autumn".
Source: Guardian.co.uk, 28 May 2009.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

New improved design law down under

Fashionista has received word from her Antipodean friend and fellow fashionista Lisa Lennon at Gilbert & Tobin of some interesting test cases under the new Australian designs law. Under the new legislation, designers can register fashion designs that are new and distinctive. Designs are simple to register as applications are immediately registered, but must be certified (examined) before they can be used to stop others from copying the design. The new law replaces the older system, which was considered toothless when confronting actual copycats – according to Lisa, the saying went that under the old law all designs were valid but never infringed. One of the notable changes is the requirement to give more weight to similarities than to differences when comparing a copy to a registered design. Minor changes will no longer get copycats out of hot water. All of this sounds like great news for fashion brands - but does the law work in practice?

Women’s fashion chain, Review, decided to roadtest the new law and sued three companies for allegedly copying one of their dress designs. In the Review cases, the Court found that two of the defendants had infringed Review’s design of a sleeveless cross-over dress (see above image). While the Court did not award Review damages for lost sales (on the basis that that women who bought the copy dresses were unlikely to have bought the more expensive Review dresses in any case) it did award compensation for damage to its reputation for originality - us ladies hate to see a copy of their latest designer purchase for sale at less than half the price.
Review was awarded damages of AU$17,500 in one case and AU$85,000 in the other. However, the deterrent effect on other would-be copiers is probably worth many times these amounts to Review. Lisa has heard that other designers are starting to take notice and she is aware of another designer who is considering similar action in relation to a discount copy of her dress design.
Fashionista would be interested to hear from its readers about their experiences of enforcing their rights in Australia - are they now more likely to take Court action under the new system?

Monday, 1 June 2009

Oasis online marketing results in domain name loss

Brand owners tend to have a high success rate at recovering domain names featuring their trade marks where they are registered by cybersquatters or domainers. However, Fashionista has come across a recent decision of the Appeal Panel of Nominet's Dispute Resolution Service (DRS) overturning its earlier decision requiring the transfer of the domain name oasis.co.uk. to the retailer.

At the outset, the case appeared to be typical: The registrant was using the domain to point to a parking page displaying sponsored links which, amongst several other links relating to women's fashion, included links to Oasis' official website. Oasis filed a complaint with Nominet DRS arguing that the registration and use was "abusive" and seeking a transfer. The Respondent failed to respond, and given the evidence filed by the retailer, the Nominet expert found the registration abusive and ordered a transfer of the domain name.

The registrant subsequently appealed and asked the Appeal Panel to accept late evidence as his Reply (He argued that the paper copy of the Complaint had been sent to an old address and he had overlooked the email copy). The new evidence included a statement from Imodo.com (a domain parking company) explaining that the sponsored links appearing on the website accessed via the domain name were automatically generated based on, among other things, the keywords purchased by third parties for the domain name. Since Oasis the retailer had purchased keyword advertising with Yahoo for the terms "oasis.co.uk" and "oasis.com", it was the retailer's own action which had caused the parking page to link to clothing retailers including their own website. The registrant claimed not to have been aware of Oasis the retailer when he originally purchased the domain name, and said he had plans to use the domain for a financial services site.

When considering this new evidence, the Appeal Panel did some of its own research and found that the retailer's website used metatags which included the domain name. It concluded that "this information tends to confirm the thrust of the allegations made by the Respondent - namely that the Complainant (the retailer) is itself seeking to use the domain names oasis.co.uk and oasis.com to attract traffic to its own site". Further, although additional evidence is not normally admissible in the course of an appeal, in this case the Appeal Panel was prepared to use its discretion to admit the evidence since to do otherwise would deprive the registrant of a valuable asset.

This is the first case Fashionista has seen where a registrant has relied on the brand owner's actions to overturn a negative decision. The messages are clear: (1) try to secure the key domain names for your brand at the outset, and (2) before you take action to recover a domain, ensure your legal team knows the full extent of any marketing activity surrounding the domain, whether as a metatag or keyword before any complaint is filed.