Fashion apparel is a multi-billion dollar industry that has no national boundaries. Designers, [1] retailers and consumers follow the game of international fashion. Within the last decade, consumer knowledge of specific designers has increased dramatically. Magazines and newspapers now cover the fashion industry as part of their national news coverage, focusing on the ever-changing world of creative designer expressions. [2] The general public has a ready command of the names and faces of fashion models and the designers for which they model. Countless television shows and feature films [3] exploit the fashion industry world. Consumers can now recognize the distinct style of their favorite designers: Chanel, jersey-knit double-breasted suits in contrast colors with trademarked brass buttons, and quilted leather accessories; Gianni Versace, colorful handprinted silks with reproduced 17th and 18th century illustrations; Issey Miyake, sparse deconstructed gender neutral garments in natural fabrics or highly unnatural polymers, which redefine both form and movement. [4]

 

In 1977, former Register of Copyrights Barbara Ringer stated that the issue of design protection is “one of the most significant and pressing items of unfinished business” of copyright revision. [5] This issue remains unaddressed today, even though the need for revision is even more significant, because garment designs lie along the fringe area of creative expressions that exhibit the same qualities as protected matter. This paper suggests that the traditional reasoning which denied certain articles copyright protection is no longer reasonable, and that protection should now be extended to garment designs. Further, this paper proposes solutions to the problems of implementing copyright for fashion and what effect copyright will have on the garment industry and consumers.

 

Jennifer Mencken*