Photo: Courtesy of Brian Lichtenberg.
The trend of co-opting designer labels and inserting a tongue-in-cheek spin has been swimming through the zeitgeist for sometime now. For instance, Brian Lichtenberg has parodied Céline with Féline, Hermés with Homiés, and Balmain with Ballin. Conflict of Interest has Benzo, and Reason Clothing spoofs Balmain with Nawman. They highlight the interesting conversation between youthful consumption of highbrow design, while also muddying the definition of free speech and blurring the lines between commercial and business law.
Parodies themselves present two different legal issues, according to Joseph Gioconda, an intellectual property attorney: If there is consumer confusion between the two brands and if a parodied brand's value gets diluted. Legally, it's a case-by-case situation. For the most part, the products are simply pulled, and all will sleep well at night if the law feels a brand's reputation has been tarnished. At the end of the day, however, it's a fight or flight kind of response.
For example, a rep from Hermés told WWD that the brand is aware of its appropriation, but "protecting its brand against unauthorized uses that infringe upon its valuable intellectual property rights" is a gray area especially when it also "respects the freedom of artistic expression." Brands could follow in Louis Vuitton and Dolce & Gabbana's lead and adamantly fight to protect the reproduction of their logo in any form with cease-and-desist letters, or they can appreciate the parody as an homage. WWD reports that many of LPD's "Tisci" jerseys were ordered by Riccardo Tisci himself. Talk about being a good sport.
Culturally, these street-wear trends present a fascinating convergence of luxury and affordability. Why buy a knockoff T-shirt desperately trying to be Givenchy when you can wear something that's blatantly not? Olivia Wolfe, the founder of American Two Shot, believes "it makes luxury accessible and at the same time it says, ‘F--k you, I’m going to rep this my own way.’ It’s a new form of luxury.” She then goes on to say how the script of who influences who, the streets or the runways, has been flipped. Nowadays, the runways are inspiring street wear, and these parodies are mirrors to the big brands that have been taking inspiration from the streets for years.
Honestly, though, there are bigger fish to fry than a cheeky jab at a fashion house. Like a Harry Potter fan fiction, this trend introduces a brand to a wider audience who could become future customers once their budgets allow for it. In the meantime, it seems better to ride the trend than fight it. (WWD)