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Nothing Says "Luxury" Quite Like Vera Wang's Changing Room Fee.

Mar 26 2013

Vera Wang:China:Cabin Fee

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.


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When the Americans reproduced French designs in mass quantities in the early 20th century, it was called "the invention of ready-to-wear". Now that the Chinese copy the Americans and Europeans, it is called "counterfeiting". And as the Europeans and Americans still copy one another, it is called "inspiration". Talk about double standards.

i'd like to comment intelligently on this post but i've been rendered speechless by the picture of that fantastic gown.

In the west shame and derision is a BIG deterrent because we value creativity and innovation. In China, until recently I guess(ish) most still believe hey if it sells why not-they want a piece of the action. They are more open and forward(if not proud) about copying that the west whereas we(west) prefer to claim to be "inspired by..."
yes I am azn(though born in the west) and the claims were made to me by ppl from china operating knockoff factories.

Hello Fashion Abecedaire!

Nice to hear from you.

To address your point, while Browns Bride may charge such a fee (and possibly other bridal boutiques as well), what makes Vera Wang's policy controversial in large part is that it is specific to the Shanghai store. To my knowledge, the brand does not charge a fee to try on dresses anywhere else.


Browns Bride also charges a fee for trying on gowns, although much cheaper at £25 (£30 on Saturdays). For them, it's probably more about making sure the people coming to their store are serious about buying than it is about copying since it's not their own designs anyway.

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The Luxe Chronicles is a collection of interviews, profiles and musings on various aspects of the luxury industry and occasionally, a rant on our celebrity obsessed culture and the dumbing down of our collective sense of style and esthetic.

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