Fashion-Incubator: a good idea while it lasted

[amended] Welcome visitors from Boing Boing! See the back story.

Sounds dramatic doesn’t it? Bye-bye Fashion-Incubator. It was fun while it lasted. Truth be told, I have to change my business model and get into something else. Am I happy? No, not one bit. I’m a bit resentful, nearly 30 years of work in the toilet. The reason for the change is it is likely the Design Piracy Prohibition Act is going to become law. If it does, F-I is history. So whether you believe it yet or not, I won’t be around to say “I told you so” -as though I’d get any pleasure out of it anyway. Consumers and enthusiasts will also be paying the price. Consumers will spend lots more money on clothes and enthusiasts won’t have any patterns since those designs need to be registered too and there won’t be domestic fabric if all the manufacturers go under.

It is apparent people are not taking the matter of the Design Piracy Prohibition Act seriously; the detrimental effects I mentioned before when I started the petition. If this law passes, I have to remove Fashion-Incubator from the internet; there won’t be any need for it and I cannot afford a law suit if my advice enables someone to commit what will be a “crime”. None of this is new, I first brought it to your attention two years ago. If CPSIA was an amputation, the Design Piracy Prohibition Act is a beheading.

Not all large businesses support this law; the largest industry group, the venerable American Apparel and Footwear Association is likewise opposed. They’ve created an automated widget where you can automatically email your legislators. Kevin Burke (CEO of the AAFA) says the bill’s passage is likely because legislators haven’t heard opposition from individual businesses.

First, read Kevin’s memo he sent to AAFA members. It includes the names and phone numbers of the most important people to contact, talking points and what to do. As you should have seen with the CPSIA fiasco, it’s impossible to change a law once it’s passed. It is within your hands to prevent your own pending bankruptcy.

Send emails. Sign the petition. That’s two more things you can do right now. I have over 5,000 daily visitors and I only got 1,300 signatures on my petition? You know, I could see it if this were just about me but it’s not. It’s about saving yourself. I suggest you also hold your suppliers and collaborators accountable. I will have all my site sponsors and advertisers get involved. If we die, they do too. I suggest emailing this to your suppliers with the handy “email to a friend” button at the close of the entry.

[Amended 6/5/09 9:00AM, comment from Heather]

I just spoke to Eric Garduno on the House Judiciary Committee.  He seemed interested in talking to me and said it is helpful to have the comments written.  His e-mail is . I told him of our group and the large opposition and he said to please mail in your comments!

If that isn’t enough to convince you, here are some comments from small designers like you:

Elizabeth: Independent designers are everywhere and this is just a reaction by big fashion to undermine their rising popularity

Jana: Protect all of us, not just the elite!

JM: This Act is clearly in favor of multi million dollar brands, please don’t use legislation to try to squash your competition! It’s hard enough for small designers to finance production let alone have a lawyer on retainer.

Jessica: This will kill my small business and put people out of work across the U.S. Is this is a good idea, especially in this economic downturn? The CFDA is an exclusive club of celebrity designers who [produce offshore and] do not care one bit for the average American’s job or family. The president of the CFDA herself, Diane von Furstenberg, has been caught red-handed committing design piracy. This act will do NOTHING to stop a handful of ultra-wealthy celebrity designers from stealing the “little guys” ideas – but it WILL stop us “little guys” from making an honest living for our families.

As a custom clothier, this law would not allow my clientele, who cannot find clothing that fits, to have clothing custom made for them! Costs of clothing will be out of reach for everyday people.

Charis: This is insane. How will people afford the major name brand styles? It would be impossible!

Debbie: It would be death to the clothing industry and a field day for lawyers!

Pamela: I’m fortunate, I can sew. But if this law passes, I might have to make my own patterns, too. And if it’s more difficult to get affordable designs (including patterns), even more fabric stores will close –so where will I get fabric to sew with? This is a bad law.

Charli: Once again, Big Business killing the Small.

Esther: If this bill is passed it will only be beneficial to the bootlegging big wigs who proposed it!

Lisa: As an independent knitwear designer, I’ve already had 4 of my designs ‘stolen’ and I have no way to prove it. Also, a number of times, I have seen designs that look just like mine when I KNOW I created something myself and there’s no way someone else could have seen it! The design process is too serendipitous to be ‘quantifiable’ Please don’t pass this bill.

Read Kevin’s memo. Send emails. Sign the petition. If this law passes, I will have to remove this site from the internet. I can’t afford the liability. And just so you know, I detest, loathe, publishing entries like this. My site traffic drops quite a bit because no one wants to read bad news. At this point, I have nothing to lose. So my site traffic drops for a week, that’s better than forever.

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  1. nicole says:

    What would be another great idea, would be to send the first lady Michelle Obama an email regarding this issue. In Jessica’s comment to the congressman above (The president of CFDA herself DVF has been caught red handed) she listed a link to the story that was written.The story mentions that DVF and other favorite designers of the First Lady made their way to capital hill to speak on this issue.

    So my point is, let the First Lady know what her favorite clothing designers are doing. Let her know that these same designers who are trying to pass this law, are the same people guilty of copycatting. Any, and everything is worth the try.

    To contact the First Lady Michelle Obama, visit the White House Website, there is a link that will let you leave Mrs. Obama an email message. If possible foward Mrs. Obama the link so that she may read the story herself.

  2. Kathy says:

    I appreciate very much what you’re doing here, and have signed the petition. We will certainly see yet another US industry driven overseas if this bill passes, since it has no power over designers and pattern makers outside the US.

    One other little thing. As an editor, I can’t help but notice a spelling error of importance in your petition. I would like gently to suggest that before submitting it to the House committee, you might want to correct the spelling of Prohibition. There is no “a”.

    Way to get the word out!! Very glad to be a part of it.

  3. Kathleen says:

    Hi Kathy, I’m so glad you left that comment! The petition site has been down for maybe two weeks now. I’d given up on it so I didn’t know it was up again. I knew the site was live tho because I’d asked the admin to correct a spelling mistake and they flubbed it substituting an “a”. So, I knew you’d seen the site recently. THANKS!

  4. Jess says:

    I just received an interesting phone call from my House Rep. – Congressman Brad Ellsworth (IN) – I wrote him a very heartfelt and passionate letter opposing the DPPA, and he actually read my letter, and cared enough to have his personal assistant call me back about it. He says that it has not passed the House Judiciary Committee yet, so he has no way to affect the outcome at this point – however, he understands my position as a small business/design business here in Indiana, and wants me to know that if the bill does pass to the House, he will keep my position in mind when he votes. SO. That’s heartening that someone IS listening! I guess we just need to keep writing letters and making phone calls – people ARE listening! They also left me their phone number to call back if I have any additional questions or concerns. Hope? Yes.

  5. Susanne says:


    Can you post your letter so the rest of us can use it as a form to be individually personalized. If it got you a response, maybe it will work for others.

  6. leila shams says:

    Hi there, I worked in the corporate fashion world for years and believe the current system is already working. Basically big companies are scared spitless of being sued by anybody, from Louis Vuitton to a tiny indie brand, even Forever 21 is scared now. You might think they don’t care about knocking off the little guy, but the threat of a lawsuit coupled with bad publicity has them terrified. So most companies are now making sure their inspiration is not obvious and are copyrighting their original prints. Of course this copyrighting business is very time consuming and expensive, small brands will not want to do it. Trust me, it’s a nuisance for big companies too. But even without a copyright, under the current law if you create a print or artwork or lace layout that is exactly like someone else’s you can get sued. I have only seen a lawsuit succeed when both the body and the print, logo, or pattern is exactly the same. And I think this is fair. If you’ve seen the Foley and Corinna stuff knocked off by Forever 21 you know what I mean. Big companies generally don’t care to sue a small brand unless they’re knocking off the big brand’s identity. I see this legislation more as the high end runway people (CFDA) protecting themselves from the Forever 21s and H&Ms of the world. And I think the current notion, that it has to be an exact replica of the artwork coupled with the styling, where there is 0% doubt that the design has been stolen, is the only fair way to go. I really really don’t think they should pass this law, it’s causes agita for designers on both ends of the spectrum.

  7. Karin says:

    If I’m not wrong, Coco Chanel herself embraced ready to wear copies of her clothes. She regarded them as the best commercials for her designs, and realised that the people who bought her clothes would buy them anyway since the quality and fit was so much better then in the copies, and that the people who bought the copies still couldn’t affort the original. So for her it was a win-situation.
    Quite clever, wasn’t it? Things are rarely as simple as them seem at first glance, I wish the american politicians will realise that.
    And it would be a sad, sad bi-effect if fashion incubator disappeared, it would break my heart.
    Good luck with the campaign!

  8. kathleen says:

    Miranda (and anyone else following this discussion) I wasn’t ignoring you but was waiting for the opportunity to be able to post an announcement. Expect news very soon.

  9. Paul V says:

    Using a popular phrase, ‘this is only the tip of the iceberg’. Recently there have been laws proposed in Congress that would make it illegal for anyone to resell something they bought because it would violate the original copyright or trademark holders rights. In addition, Hollywood moguls are trying to prosecute a British blogger that had links in his blog that could take anyone to sites where they could watch a movie for free. Not download it necessarily, but just watch it.

    When Americans talk about corruption in foreign countries, they just have to look to Washington, DC to see the worst corruption of a legislative body anywhere in the world. In the Defense Authorization Act of 2011, Congress made it legal for the military to arrest American citizens and detain them without charges or trial indefinitely based solely upon suspicions of promoting or defending anyone accused of an act defined as terrorism. So if someone where accused and you defended them the military could arrest you and detain you anywhere they chose, including detention in a foreign country. What congressman or senator could propose such an article of a bill knowing full well that it violates the Constitution and known common law. Worse, how could a sitting president sign such a bill into law? Taking the oath to uphold the Constitution has become a joke in Washington. This extends to the internet, to the way you communicate, and to Facebook where people put all the data about their lives and their pictures, which becomes part of the NSA database for facial recognition. Some will say there are honest people in Washington, but you don’t hear many speaking out against the corruption. If they don’t speak out, then they are part of the problem too.

    When you talk about design copyrights you should consider what Monsanto has done with native varieties of rice from S.E. Asia. Monsanto has patented varieties that have existed for hundreds of years in an attempt to prevent the free distribution of seed and they are getting away with it. It all started with the patent of Monsanto’s Roundup-Ready soybeans. The seed can only be sold by Monsanto but the DNA doesn’t remain in one field. The pollen gets spread by bees and other insects into adjoining fields contaminating non patented seed. Monsanto can then claim the other varieties as patented because the patented DNA can be found in the other seed. There was a lawsuit filed that went to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court sided with Monsanto. Three of the justices and well as the US Attorney General all had ties to Monsanto. Eventually, all varieties of soybeans will be contaminated and Monsanto will have absolute control over the market. This is where we are heading. The few and the most influential will have control over everything we do. Brave New World is here.

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