United States Enforcement
As far back as the 19th century, there have been incidences in the U.S of imitations made to look like they were from European markets long before the purse party. At the country’s infancy, there was a sort of patriotic pride in the act of imitating the European designs including the designer purse and making them in the “Good old’ U.S. of A.” Back then it was mostly in fabric design, fine collectibles and furniture designs. Some of it grew from necessity because the coveted European originals were not obtainable during wartime. So, manufacturing “look-alikes” has long been an acceptable practice in the United States explaining how the counterfeit purse party was born. Many looked at it as a child trying to imitate its parents. The United States has always had a “Europe envy” complex.
In the early 1990’s, the U.S. Court of International Trade even tried to put a disclaimer on products imitating brand names to save the manufacturers from trademark infringement in an effort to break up the monopolies. Established on free enterprise rights and non-government involvement in commerce, the United States has reluctantly “turned the other cheek” as far as the production of knock-offs. As a result, many American consumers believe it’s their “right” as savvy shoppers to hunt down the bargains at a purse party or in flea markets without giving a second thought to if it’s counterfeited or not.
According to the article by Robyn Givhan of the Washington Post in August 2007, while designers admit fakes and knock-offs are an aggravation, in many people’s minds, the bargain basement knock-offs are considered a frugal shopper’s right. Within hours after the Oscars, knock-off evening wear and designer purses worn by the stars as a one of a kind go on sale in reputable stores. Knock-off Kate Spade or Marc Jacob bags are a huge part of the tourist industry in big cities such as New York.
However, there have been very recent moves, backed by high names in the designer arena, to change the laws and broaden them to include the design and fashion industry. Perhaps this is because American designers such as Kate Spade are reaching the levels of the European Design Houses that have been around for decades and decades. This change in the law will affect purse sellers and buyers and will affect the sale of fake designer purse at the purse party.
Several congressmen including Se. Charles Schumer and Rep. Jerrold Nadler have tried to introduce into committee the Design Piracy Prohibition Act. In an article by the New Observer on August 13, 2007, these two politicians took the stage along with designers at the Fashion Institute of Technology to promote the urgency of this bill. The bill would allow the copyrighting of designer’s designs and take a bite out of the black market’s profits (if it ever makes it through Congress to actually become law).
Many European designers think the best way to combat the fakes and legal knock-offs is to either: a.) introduce less expensive lines of their products to meet the demand of shoppers, or b.) make the attorneys rich by going to court and suing.
To quote from this article in the News Observer from August 13, 2007, “The disregard for designer creativity – for what might be called ‘research and development’ in another industry – reflects the way in which American culture has always viewed fashion. In the early 1990’s for example, French designer Yves Saint Laurent sued Ralph Lauren…”
In 2003, Counterfeit Chic out of Canada stated that it was commonplace for clothing designers in America to watch the New York shows with an eye for how they could knock-off the competitor’s designs and manufacture them in mass. Doing this doesn’t break any infringement laws because they can claim the imitations are only “designer inspired”.
For that reason, a designer gown worn by a movie star at the Oscars can be copied and on the store shelves of Macy’s or Sax Fifth Avenue within days. The line crossing into crime is only if it can be proved the design is a forgery. As long as the tag doesn’t state it’s a designer’s product, it’s legal.
Taking matters into their own hands, many designers have hired private investigators to purchase fake goods and track down their sources, giving a whole new meaning to the term “mystery shopper”. If you’re going to sell fake designer purses at your purse party, you better think twice.
When Mario Prada founded Prada in 1913, it quickly became renowned for its waterproof handbags and shoes. When his granddaughter, Miuccia Prada took over the family business in 1978, she created waterproof handbags out of a material called pocone. Today, the bags made out of this material are still known as the epitome of the classic Prada bag.
Prada does not usually adorn their bags with bright, flashy colors and patterns. They are elegant in their sleek, simple lined style of sophistication. They are classic and durable, but of course, pricey.
Guccio Gucci first produced handbags in 1921 in Florence, Italy. They were originally equestrian inspired. One of his most famous bags was known as the “Bamboo Bag” and was produced during the 1940’s when, due to the war efforts in Europe, materials traditionally used to make handbags became scarce. The Gucci trademark is distinguishable by the green-red-green web derived from a saddle girth.
Later creations can also bear an interlocking double “G”. Because she was seen often sporting a Gucci bag with her pillbox hat, Jackie Kennedy Onassis became the unofficial spokeswoman for Gucci bags in the 1960’s. Her favorite style was nicknamed the “Jackie O”.
Kate Spade is the new kid on the block, so to speak, and one of the few Americans to make it in the top design house world. She was an Accessories Editor, so she was well acquainted with the fashion world. Combined with her boyfriend’s talent, they launched their own line of handbags in 1993 and took the industry in a whole new direction.
Just three years later, in 1996, the Council of Fashion Designers honored her with being America’s best new fashion accessories designer. Her company was started through collaborations with a few old friends that she knew were savvy as well. Her first shop opened on Thompson Street in New York City and quickly became too small, so she re-located. The next ten years she opened shops in Greenwich, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco and Washington D.C.
In 1998 her company branched out into personal organizers, address books and journals.
Her empire keeps on growing with a carefully monitored Internet store that thwarts the fakes from getting into the market place. Her stunning use of color and design sets her apart as does her use of unorthodox materials such as elephant and ostrich leathers.
Louis Vuitton is a name many in the fashion world associate with high quality handbags, though the design house also fashions shoes and other accessories. The first shop opened in 1854 in Paris. His luggage (remember handbags were like luggage in that era) became so popular that by 1860 he relocated to Asnieres. In 1885, the company expanded once again into London. The popularity of his craftsmanship soon became world renown.
In 1888, he came out with what’s now considered one of his signature patterns even over 100 years later, namely the Damier Pattern. It’s characterized as a checkerboard of light and dark brown boxes. His Monogram Canvas is one of the most popular styles still sold today. He never rested on his laurels. His legacy now includes 12 classic patterns. In 1924, he added the Kepall to his line and in 1932, he introduced the Noe Handbag. Unfortunately, but to be expected, his designs are the most replicated by counterfeiters worldwide. For that reason, you’ll almost never see Louis Vuitton handbags wholesaled. Replicated “inspired” bags are commonplace in kiosks throughout American Malls.
As I said earlier coach is another designer name you’ll see a lot at a designer purse party is Coach. Let’s take a look at how they got started.
The Coach line of purses and handbags is another of the few American designers to reach the status of high-end fashion world. Coach’s meager beginnings in the 1940’s were launched in Manhattan by six artisans in fine leather goods. Their hand skilled methods of working with subtle leather were passed down through the generations to today. Believe it or not, the handbag lines developed from one of the craftsman examining baseball gloves. He liked the way the leather softened as it aged, and that inspired him to perfect the technique.
Even today, the classic tan leather is associated with the Coach product line.
The Coach signature is almost exclusively in the craftsmanship of fine leathers. They have leather finishes, grains and colours that can only be found in their products.
The two interlocking “C”s in a mirrored image back to back can only mean CoCo Chanel. Mostly famous for her perfumes in the 1920’s,
Gabrielle CoCo Chanel also branched into a more relaxed look of fashion highlighted by the Roaring Twenties shocking deviation from traditional women’s fashions. She first opened her shop in France in 1912 and in the United States in New Jersey within a decade. Even though the Chanel line didn’t originally include handbags, which is what the company is best known for today, as well as its enduring perfumes. But it was not until after the founder’s death in 1971 that the handbag line really took off and became internationally coveted when the handbag designs were outsourced to a man named Karl Lagerfeld.
He was the one who developed the famous trademarked double “C”s. His handbag styles became the “in” thing for Hollywood celebs in the 1980’s and continues to be a status symbol among actresses and stars. Celebrities such as Christina Aguilera and Brittany Spears are known to have Chanel bags dangling from their arms.
A married couple, Eodardo and Adele Fendi in a small Italian town known as Del Plebiscito, established the Fendi Design House. Because of the high standards of their furs and leather goods, the couple’s fashions soon became noticed.
In 1960, they initiated their couture line designed by Karl Lagerfeld – yep, the same one who was hired by Chanel later on.
With their introduction to the United States, and specifically Hollywood, the popularity of the Fendi bag skyrocketed as an essential “must have.” The stealthily designed F into the patterns of the bags is a classic signature. Today, the company has branched into ties, belts, gloves, hats and even jeans.
It didn’t take long before every elite Parisian lady wanted one in her closet. And, of course, with the gown came the evening bag. After WWII, his innovative sense of style ushered in a more utilitarian flair but in the new brighter colors of the modern age. The look quickly caught on in the United States during the affluent 1950’s. His company expanded into fashion accessories for the everyday woman (rich of course), including handbags.
The founder died in 1972, but his family continues to honor his unique sense of style today in their leather handbags as well as the glamorous gowns.
* Many of the histories were compiled courtesy of designer fashion trends.com
There are many lesser-known designers who are trying to break into the design arena. The designer handbag is growing in popularity, not diminishing. The Internet has been able to make back room, one-shop designers known worldwide and as their trends catch on, they too, may one day be considered high-end.
Of course, with the Internet go scam artists, black market fakes and people who claim they can sell you designer bags at half the price at designer purse parties.