As you may have read, Chinese brides-to-be hoping to find their perfect dress for their perfect day at Vera Wang's shiny new Shanghai flagship store will be asked to fork over 3,000 yuan (482 USD) merely for the privilege of trying on the gowns. In the event the customer decides to purchase a gown, the fee in question is to be deducted from the final purchase price. It is the brand's only store to adopt such a policy.
In a public statement, the company explained that the policy is aimed at protecting the brand's design copyright. The brand hopes to curb the practice of photographing merchandise up close to enable reproduction by counterfeiters. While I'm not unsympathetic to Ms. Wang's attempt to protect her intellectual property, I have to wonder just how much of a deterrent the fee will be to a large-scale counterfeiter intent on cashing in on the brand's designs. I would think such a fee would be considered just another cost of doing business.
I find this anecdote particularly interesting in light of last week's kerfuffle over Phoebe Philo's Geoffrey Beene look-alike coat where the "similarities" were politely noted but effectively glossed over by the industry. The West clearly has a different policy when it comes to Chinese copyists than to to the homegrown variety and it isn't merely a question of scale or potential for consumer confusion. While the Topshops, Zaras and other high street chains of this world may not be directly trading on brand names per se (unlike counterfeiters who appropriate brand names, logos and in some cases, entire retail environments), they are none the less trading on design DNA.
It's still not clear to me why the industry tolerates one but not the other. At some point, the fashion industry will have to confront the elephant in the room and provide a clear articulation for the difference in attitudes. Were I a Chinese customer, I would demand no less.
The Luxe Chronicles