I’m researching an essay about the art market at the moment, so obviously made a beeline for Warhol, whose stuff I love anyhow. The photograph of Marilyn Monroe that he used as a basis for his series of silk-screenings came from publicity photos taken for Niagara, which was released in 1953 and made by Twentieth-Century Fox. I can’t find the name of the actual photographer anywhere online. Perhaps it was taken by someone contracted to the studio for a salary. Perhaps their name has simply disappeared from history as the numerous jpegs we find on a Google Image search have been bumped from one site to another over the last two decades of web design.
I’ve also still been banging on to anyone who’ll listen about my thoughts on copyright in the fashion industry, specifically in the recent case of Claire’s Accessories and Tatty Devine. (Full post here - basically I think copying design ideas is fair game, because the practice is so rampant it’s the one thing that binds every single person in Western society together, and allows the fashion industry to flourish on several economic levels while still being accessible by all.)
Then, just now, someone on twitter said that she couldn’t understand why bloggers don’t link to their image sources when posting. Initially, I didn’t link to my image sources because it never occurred to me that I should, and then I didn’t start doing it because I couldn’t be arsed. Now, having thought about my position a bit, I kinda think that carefree sharing is what makes the internet go round, and if you’re going to be precious about ownership, this isn’t the forum for you.
“BUT THINK OF THE ECONOMY!” you all shout. And yet the economy is built around the tangible. The fashion industry flourishes because we get dressed in the morning. Warhol paintings still sell for gazillions because you can hang them on a wall. When the oil runs out, the oil market will disappear because a jpeg won’t power our vehicles. I think we may just have to make our peace with this, and think long and hard about the purpose of the internet.
I don’t want my main channel of communication to be monetised by anyone.
Anyway, these are my thoughts for today.
If you’ve been on twitter at all today, you’ve probably seen this post doing the rounds. Basically, Tatty Devine are upset that Claire’s Accessories have copied some of their designs. A second post says that they are taking legal action.
I bought a Tatty Devine necklace once. It cost me more than thirty quid. At the time I could afford it.
I’ve wanted one of their dinosaur necklaces for ages, but they cost £132. I’ve also wanted one of their banana necklaces for ages, but they were £66. And they’re no longer available.
I read their outraged blog post at breakfasttime today, and at lunchtime I went into town and bought a banana necklace from Claire’s Accessories. I also bought some matching earrings. (The dinosaur had sold out.)
Here I am looking well chuffed (if not a bit stoned).
One of my music industry lecturers keeps going on about how there is no copyright law for the fashion industry and that’s partly why it’s worth gazillions more than the music industry. I have taken him on his word until today, but
did a quick Google search looked into it a bit and it seems that there wasn’t any fashion copyright until the FDPA lobbied for it, and even now the British Copyright Council only refer to ‘garments’, and not items of jewellery. Let me know if I’ve misunderstood, but it doesn’t seem like the Tatty Devine designs are covered at all.
And, let’s be honest, the garment thing is a bit shaky too. In Leicester Primark, a whole corner of the store is given over to what can easily be classified as the House Of Holland section. There is also a Mary Katrantzou section. As an artform, fashion is the great social leveller. We can all participate.
If I had £900, I would buy a dress by Marc Jacobs. If I had £50, I would buy one from TopShop. If I had £8, I would buy one from Barnado’s.
If I had £650 to spend, I would buy a Christopher Kane rainbow jumper. If I had £25, I would buy one from the hippy shop in town. If I had no money at all, I might ask my Mum to knit one for me for my next birthday.
Yes, individual designers might be a bit miffed if they feel their work has been copied. Mary Katrantzou was interviewed recently and said that part of her reason for doing a high street line at TopShop was that it gave her some element of control over the fast-profligating rip-offs. And that’s what’s key, I think. The designers get the prestige of having the idea. They get the prestige from being slightly unobtainable. It’s about the chain of aspiration, and the idea that we, lowly capitalist spawn, can climb the ladder. And in the meantime, for overdrawn students who want to adorn ourselves with bananas and still have change from a tenner, there’s Claire’s Accessories.
And, if Tatty Devine want to get all litigious about it, they should also point their lawyers in the direction of this moustache necklace. And this one. And this one. And this fish necklace. Or this one. Or these name necklaces. But let’s not be fooled into thinking Tatty Devine were the first to make those.
The fashion industry will continue to create new must-have items, they will continue to be copied several times over, and we will continue to fall for their tricks, over and over again until the banks set dogs on us. And all the time, those who can afford Tatty Devine will buy Tatty Devine, because they want the prestige of having the original, the most expensive. This is from your entry-level branding seminar, people.
We all have to get dressed in the morning, and we all like nice things, and I for one fucking love bananas. Some of us simply aren’t rich enough to pay a three figure sum for plastic jewellery.
(I should point out that I have another banana necklace which is an EXACT COPY of Warhol’s design for the Velvet Underground and Nico album. It cost £15. I should never have spent that much.)