This week saw the finale of London Fashion Week 2021.
By this point we are normally reading articles about who sat next to Dame Anna Wintour, who Gigi Hadid was walking for, or any fashion faux pas that may have happened on the runway. Not this year though, as we were all able to watch the magic unfold from our very own living room, whilst still wearing our loungewear. Although completely virtual, London Fashion week still came with the same high level of prestige and precision that we expect from such a highly anticipated event.
This year saw themes around sustainability, diversity, ethics and responsibility, and it did not disappoint.
Vanish, one of the event sponsors, had a 9-minute advert titled “The Rewear Edit” which preluded a talk on “The Circular Fashion Ecosystem Project”. As well as a collection by Bethany Williams and another by Temperley.
Bethany’s upcycled coat collection used blankets sourced from flea markets and car boots sales, and used organic cotton wool sourced from Wales. An article by Olivia Petter for the Independent described Bethany’s collection as a “gender-neutral twist on the standard spectacle that defines London Fashion Week”.
Temperley’s decision to reduce their collection from four per year to two has already reduced their carbon footprint in the fashion world, and now more of their clothes are being manufactured locally…and they even have a collection of waterproof jackets made from recycled plastic bottles.
We also saw Priya Ahluwalia crowned winner of the Queen Elizabeth II Award for Design, which critics say was no surprise when you look at her Liberation collection created in a response to the Black Lives Matter movement and other pieces of work that tackle such issues.
Keeping with the theme of inclusivity, we also saw stars of RuPaul’s Drag Race season 2 walking the runway. Awhora and Bimini Bon-Boulash walked the virtual runway for up and coming fashion brand Art School. The collection by Art school is designed by Eden Loweth who creates collections with a genderless label.
You could say that London Fashion Week hit some very important topics this year and executed them perfectly. But with all the glitz and glam going on, and the mind of the designers on the creation side of the event, where does that leave their Intellectual Property (IP), because where fashion goes, Intellectual Property (IP) isn’t far behind.
Whether that’s trade marking a designer’s brands, registering a new design, copyrighting a performance, or all those unregistered rights which are both a blessing and a curse - and with this new virtual element giving the whole World access to your new ideas, there are lots of different IP and legal issues to consider. For example:
· Trade marks (Designer’s name, brand name)
· Designs (products themselves)
· Unregistered designs (products themselves)
· Copyright (products themselves, catwalk performance, design documents)
· Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs)
· Contracts (model contracts, supplier contracts, manufacturing contracts)
These legal issues will not always be at the forefront of a new designer’s mind, whereas more established fashion houses and brands, whilst still susceptible to IP issues, will be far more used to dealing with them and will likely have legal teams on hand to give advice and guide them through any IP (or other legal) problems which arise.
For young designers who are starting out, seeking the right advice and ensuring decent protection to guard against their designs being ripped-off and commoditised into the world of fast fashion, is key but is often considered too late and only once a problem has occurred.
Alternatively, many young designers accept the fact that infringement comes with the territory or don’t know where they can seek advice on these issues at a budget they can afford. Many find a voice on social media, naming and shaming companies who openly copy designers’ ideas.
However, designers can protect their IP in a cost effective way to help ensure their ideas and creations remain ‘theirs’ and the earlier designers engage with these issues and seek advice, the more effective their IP strategies will be in the long-run. Simply having a clear picture of the different forms of IP rights that are relevant and how you can enforce them is a great start and needn’t be overly costly.
Over the next few weeks, we intend to look at these topics one by one to see how designers, creators, models, collaborators etc can go about protecting their rights, and making sure that they aren’t swallowed up by the IP infringers.