Luxury & Fashion Biz News: September 8th, 2012 (Fashion law and bitter feuds; plus, Fashion’s Night Out is a drunken mess, and Zegna brings Stefano Pilati back to menswear)
LOUBOUTIN vs. YSL — The Louboutin brand won an affirmation of its red-sole trademark from a US court, but YSL gets to make its own red shoe anyway: “Shoemaker Christian Louboutin is entitled to trademark protection for its iconic red soles on the bottoms of women’s high heels, except when the shoe itself is red, a federal appeals court has ruled . . . (Louboutin) sued Yves Saint Laurent in April 2011 after its rival announced plans to introduce a ‘monochrome’ line of women’s shoes, which would have the same color throughout.”
A ruling which made Luxury Daily’s Rachel Lamb wonder if the bruising, expensive (and still ongoing) court battle has been worth it for the Louboutin brand:
YSL vs. Louboutin: Was this battle more trouble than it was worth? – “‘All that happened was that they jeopardized the very heart of their protection,’ said (attorney Steven Gursky). ‘A red sole on a red shoe was something that never should have been attacked . . . Louboutin’s victory is just that it did not lose what it already had. This was a very expensive effort to get back to where it started.’ . . . Reportedly, Yves Saint Laurent filed a counterclaim seeking to cancel the Louboutin trademark on the grounds that the Trademark and Patent Office awarded it fraudulently.”
The point being that, while trademark holders are obliged to defend their trademarks in order to keep them strong, this wasn’t a cut-and-dried case of trademark infringement; rather, Louboutin was asserting that YSL’s monochrome red shoe was “confusingly similar” to its own product line, and that since consumers associated a red sole with the Louboutin brand, then YSL was not authorised to use a red sole on any of its shoes, even an all red shoe.
YSL cried foul, stating that they’ve been making monochromatic pumps for decades and that a fashion brand should not be allowed to trademark an entire colour (in this case, red) to keep for itself. The original judge hearing the case sided with YSL and even went so far as to question the validity of the Louboutin trademark altogether (that was not a good day for Louboutin’s lawyers).
But the case was appealed to a higher court, which just recently issued the ruling that yes, Louboutin’s trademark appears to be valid, but only in the case of a contrasting red sole, not when the shoe is all red — so YSL gets to make and sell its monochromatic red shoe, after all. And to add insult to injury, YSL has now threatened to challenge Louboutin’s trademark, stating that it’s too broad, too vague and should never have been awarded in the first place.
*NOTE: Earlier this year, Louboutin lost a similar court case in France against fast-fashion retailer Zara: “‘Since the original decision favoring Zara, Louboutin has re-filed his French trademark to name a specific shade (Pantone 18-1663TP, ‘Chinese Red’) rather than the color in general — so his claim to red isn’t dead, just limited,’ said (Susan Scafidi, Academic Director at Fordham’s Fashion Law Institute). She also notes that this particular court decision only holds up in France.’”
AS LONG AS WE’RE ON THE SUBJECT OF FEUDING FASHION BRANDS: Hermes turns up the heat on its spat with LVMH, filing suit in a French court over the legality of LVMH’s acquisition of Hermes shares back in 2010 (see: Hermès and LVMH dispute escalates).
LVMH reacted by immediately filing a countersuit for “slander, blackmail and unfair competition.”
OTHER HERMES NEWS: In grand pre-Fashion Week style, Hermes invited the press and wealthy tastemakers/influencers to a behind-the-scenes Festival des Métiers event in New York, where guests could down champagne, nosh on caviar and watch select Hermes craftsmen at work.
The craftsmen behind the beauty and quality of Hermes objects
ALSO: Despite reporting that profits grew by 28% in the first half of 2012, Hermes announced that it will be scaling back on opening new boutiques in order to preserve its reputation for exclusivity.
See: Hermes to protect exclusive image with fewer new stores — “Hermes, which has 340 stores worldwide, still plans to open more stores in Middle East, Latin America and China but not in Europe, the CEO said. It targets a total of 350 to 360 stores in five years.”.
*Related but disturbing: And a Chinese court just handed a man a life sentence in prison for counterfeiting Hermes products: “The sentence is related to a broader regional crackdown launched in February to fight market manipulation, counterfeit products and bribery. Guangdong authorities have said the crackdown is aimed at increasing market innovation and social stability.”
Obviously, some Party Members’ wives weren’t too thrilled about the recent influx of counterfeit Hermes bags in the region (see: Fake Hermes bags sold as real using Hong Kong receipts).
*SPEAKING OF CHINA AND LUXURY: A recent scandal in China over a government safety inspection official caught grinning broadly at the scene of an industrial crash where 36 people were killed prompted concern that luxury brands may soon feel some heat.
Chinese citizens uncovered photographs of the official wearing eleven different luxury brand watches, several different types of expensive designer glasses, numerous designer belts and at least one custom-tailored Armani suit (see: Online muckraking of luxurious official continues).
An article from The People’s Daily Online states that, “The controversy has stirred up a larger hornets nest. An anchorman from a TV station in Weinan, Shaanxi posted a microblog comment, claiming that a group of officials took off their watches together before they accepted interviews on TV” while a WWD ChinaFile article reports that, “This sudden, unwelcome spotlight on luxury watches is now serious and no doubt will have an effect on the sales of luxury in general in China, and, in particular, watches. Gifting has been an important contributor to the high sales growth of luxury watches here . . . If you cannot flaunt it, will people still want it?”
*More Excess and Scandal Among China’s Politicial Elite: Ferrari crash reports bring political scandal in China — “Photographs of the wreckage were briefly circulated online, sparking questions about how the son of a government official could afford a luxury sports car worth a reported five million yuan (around $800,000) . . . (these) stories underscore how rich the top of the Communist Party nomenklatura and their family have become. Another blow to the party’s political legitimacy.”
*And the luxury-related hits just keep on coming: Self-described “US Non-Profit” World Luxury Association comes under fire — “You’re being questioned because you hoodwinked the Chinese people.”
*MOVING ON TO FASHION WORLD EMBARRASSMENTS: Vogue editor Anna Wintour’s recession-inspired shopping party, Fashion’s Night Out, an attempt to get consumers back into the fashion spending game, has taken a turn for the chaotic and out of control as vehicles are damaged by drunk revellers and police have to be called to the scene.
How A Worldwide Shopping Party Became A Dangerous Liability: “Four years in, FNO now takes place in 19 countries but may draw the biggest crowds in New York, where it’s becoming an increasingly frightening drunken mob scene, with much of the chaos fuelled by hysteric attempts to view celebrities appearing at various stores.”
FNO: Lots of drinking and partying, but not so much shopping
NYTimes fashion critic Cathy Horyn predicted this back in 2011: “F.N.O. was a good idea when it began, back in the depths of the recession when stores were virtually empty. But now it’s become a party, an institutionalized kickoff to Fashion Week, and though it apparently raises money for some causes, I have to believe that the costs of security, crowd control and entertainment, not to mention the traffic headaches, outweigh the actual benefits.”
Not to mention the massive amount of shoplifting that must occur when thousands of people are cramming into stores for free booze, DJ’s and hyped-up celebrity appearances. Though I think I might have braved the throngs just to see Miss Piggy and the New York firefighters . . . together!
The pig lands in the arms of the FDNY (via Gothamist)
2.) STRANGE SCENTED STORIES:
A.) Who wants to smell like a Swedish glass blower?: “An American artist working in Sweden says he plans on collecting the sweat of Swedish glass-blowers and selling it to tourists as perfume . . . ‘The glass-blower’s sweat and work is something that tourists appreciate when they come here and look. So for me there isn’t such a huge difference in selling the glass-blower’s sweat and the finished glass,’ (conceptual artist Daniel) Peltz told the local Norrkopings Tidning daily newspaper.”
Which has to be way cooler than smelling like Lady Gaga. Or Justin Bieber. Or even James Bond?
Speaking of Lady Gaga (and James Bond), Robin at Now Smell This takes Lady Gaga’s recently launched Fame perfume for a test drive (so you don’t have to). And the verdict: “Fame is exactly what any long-time watcher of the celebrity fragrance market would have expected it to be: a sweetish fruity floral of no particular distinction.”
That’s a big ad budget for such a weak perfume
And getting back to that pesky Bond character, the Telegraph UK is reporting that the new James Bond 007 fragrance #1) has sold out in its initial exclusive run at Harrods, and #2) that it smells of vetiver, lavender and apples.
So, I guess, not like cold steel or super-spy sexy intrigue.
B.) The Perfumes of War: “Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency reported that an Iranian inventor created a “fragrance making and spraying device to deceive enemies on the battlefield.” The invention, called “Deceit Perfume” and jointly built as a “strategic project of the armed forces,” is intended to camouflage the smell of gunpowder by spreading odors over “vast areas.” Tehran’s troops will also have a choice of four agreeable aromas: fresh air, rainy weather, seaside weather (for the navy) and tea.”
Which, arguably, sounds much more interesting than vetiver, lavender and apples.
C.) After purchasing Bulgari for over $5 billion in 2011, LVMH is shutting down the Bulgari skincare line but will keep the brand’s perfume division running: “Bulgari skin care is being discontinued, but the brand’s fragrance business will keep on being developed, according to industry sources . . . Bulgari entered the skin care segment in fall 2007 … The treatment collection was subsequently rolled out to other markets, including the U.S. in spring 2009, and expanded.”
Fragrance is cheaper to make and easier to sell than expensive skincream, even if the skincream supposedly contains “extracts of gemstones,” which (*cough laugh cough*) is hard to believe.
ENDING ON A BIT OF GOOD NEWS: Former YSL designer Stefano Pilati has been hired by global menswear giant Ermenegildo Zegna, a brand known more for its cutting-edge techno fabrics than its cutting-edge design (which usually plays it safe to the point of dull).
Ermenegildo Zegna Spring 2013: All beat, no passion
Eric Wilson writes: “The company is a powerhouse in men’s tailoring and textiles, which have always been Mr. Pilati’s strengths, from his years designing men’s wear for Giorgio Armani and running fabric research for Miuccia Prada. And he will still have room to experiment in women’s wear. Mr. Pilati will also be the creative director of the Agnona collection, also owned by Zegna, which could really use his spark.”
Pilati took YSL from a money-losing brand in 2004 to profitability in 2008, and though the brand struggled in the subsequent recessionary climate, sales for YSL grew 31% in 2011, with Pilati delivering one of his strongest collections for his last act.
YSL Fall 2012 womenswear — Stefano’s final bow