Amazon – hot to trot with fashion offering…

DVDs, CDs, Zak Posen, Books…Hang on a minute; did you just say Zak Posen…on Amazon?

It’s well known that Amazon has been trying to enter the fashion world for some time, and 2015/2016 has really seen it step up its efforts to break the notoriously difficult market.

Amazon

Hey little guy! We love the Ama-bot! Perhaps all Amazon fashion deliveries should come in a package like this one…

The beginning…

Amazon has been on the fashion trail since as early as 2006 when it first acquired online retail website SHOPBOP. In 2011 it launched MyHabit, another online retail website created “in response to customers’ desires to shop intelligently from a selection of great brands”.

In 2012 it really took a leap of faith, opening a huge Brooklyn photography studio, hiring Barneys’ Fashion Director as an advisor and launching My Fashion on the Amazon website, a section dedicated to all things fashion. The following year saw the launch of East Dane, an equivalent to SHOPBOP targeting the male market.

Barneys NYC

Amazon pulled out all of the stops, even hiring Barneys’ NYC fashion director to advise on all things fashion!

Louis Vuitton on Amazon?

So has Amazon attracted any high fashion brands?

Well, not as yet, unfortunately! Designers such as Louis Vuitton have been reluctant to create an association with Amazon, preferring to keep their designs exclusive and prices high. In fact, the then Louis Vuitton Chief Executive, Yves Carcelle, made this perfectly clear during 2012, telling Vogue UK that “Amazon will never sell Louis Vuitton, because we are the only ones that sell it.

LV

“Amazon will never sell Louis Vuitton”…

In 2015, the Chief Marketing Officer of Amazon’s fashion division explained to Business of Fashion that they were not targeting designer brands, confirming that “there has been a lot of speculation on us entering the luxury market and that is just not something we’re focused on right now.

So which brave brands have been enticed by Amazon? Well, high profile designers such as Zac Posen and Kate Spade are both available on the US site, whilst Lacoste, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and Hugo Boss can also all be purchased via amazon.com. Amazon also has a partnership with department store giants Debenhams. So whilst many designer brands may have thus far resisted Amazon’s call, Zac Posen can hardly be considered downmarket (especially not when a handbag could set you back $595!).

Lacoste

…but it will sell Lacoste!

The mission continues

Not one to be defeated, Amazon has continued to try and develop its fashion credentials, sponsoring the first ever New York Men’s Fashion Week held in July 2015, and the OCFDA/ Vogue Fashion Fund Fashion Show held during October 2015.

Vogue

All about British Vogue

It has also partnered with up and coming British model Suki Waterhouse, marketing her favourite Autumn/Winter pieces that are all purchasable on Amazon, whilst East Dane has launched a new Michael Kors collection dedicated to ‘streamlined accessories’.

October 2015 saw the purchase of the new season of the fashion based reality show ‘The Fashion Fund’. The show features none other than fashion royalty Anna Wintour and Diane von Furstenberg, and a dedicated section on the Amazon website will be set up to sell a collection of the 2015 finalists’ designs.

The new Prime Now service may also be a step towards the coveted fashion elite, with customers able to buy clothing and accessories with one and two hour delivery slots.

The future…

It’s clear that Amazon has increased its efforts to become a fashion destination, and there appears to be no sign yet that it will be slowing down any time soon. So whilst you may have to currently shop elsewhere for your Chanel handbag or Louboutin heels, there may be a time very soon when you can buy these alongside your books, DVDs and CDs, perhaps even by drone delivery!

Chanel

Wonder what Coco would think about her legacy brand being potentially bought alongside groceries?!

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Hey! Hands Off My IP! (Patents)

Have you designed the next influential thing in fashion? You might want to patent it…

Patents can be used to protect inventions. With wearable technology on the rise, patenting enables inventors to stop third parties from using their invention without permission.

Fashion bubbles New York

Wearables, like those displayed in the Fashion Bubbles exhibit in New York, are becoming ever increasingly popular, leading to a rise in patent applications!

“Perfect solution” you say? Hold your horses, there are strict requirements on what you can and can’t patent and this post will take you through those hurdles. Also, applying for a patent can be time-consuming and expensive. Doesn’t sound too appealing does it? Well the good news is that the benefits can outweigh the negatives, which this post seeks to explore…

Jump those hurdles

Patents are only available if you have invented a new product or method for doing things. In the fashion industry, this may be a design feature of the garment or a technical feature, such as drag resistance technology, for example.

Patent plate from 1879

Patents are a long established form of intellectual property protection…check out this patent plate from 1879 – retro!

One of the earliest examples of patenting in fashion technology is by Danish company Novozymes which revolutionised the traditional use of stones to create stone-washed denim effect by utilising enzymes and microorganisms to create the exact same effect on jeans. Other examples of patenting being used to protect fashion inventions include products such as Speedo’s FASTSKIN FSII swimsuit fabric and Geox’s footwear technology.

The invention itself must be new, inventive and be capable of manufacture, but what does this mean?

  • New? There must be no public disclosure prior to putting through a patent application. Fashion tech company XO once deliberately designed wristbands that detect user’s emotions to not work outside the auditorium they were in. This prevented the product from becoming accessible to the public in any way, which would have affected their patent application.
  • Inventive? The invention must not be obvious to another person skilled in fashion design.
  • Commercialisation? The product should have the ability to be made in any kind of industry.
Brand new

Gotta be brand new baby!

This means that aesthetic creations, designs or logos, such as the iconic Louis Vuitton symbol, cannot be patented. Instead, a trade mark application could be pursued. For more info on trade marks, see my post on trade marks in the “Hey Hands off my IP!” series here.

Another often over-looked point is that it’s not usually possible to patent software. Software is protected by copyright in the UK. Here’s some more information on copyright from the series.

Sounds great – my invention fits the bill! How do I register a patent?

This is where the fun begins! Unlike copyright, patents need to be registered. Applications have to be made to the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) in the territory or territories in which you want patent protection (usually wherever you are trading) and will require the following details, among others:

  1. a written description of the invention;
  2. drawings;
  3. claims that precisely set out the distinctive technical features of your invention; and
  4. an abstract that explains all of the important technical aspects of your invention.
A lot of 500 to 700 nm of exquisite light strewn across a pixelated matrix in linear crisscrossing fashion for your optical eye's delight and your mind's eye's respite

Fash tech’s 700m of exquisite light sewn into fabric for the eye’s delight!

Once the application has been processed, the IPO compiles a search report to investigate and assess if the invention is new and inventive, which can take up to 6 months! If all of the formal requirements are met, the application will be published approximately 18 months after filing.

Unfortunately it doesn’t end there…

Patent pending

It’s a long old process, so be prepared to wait!

Within 6 months of publication, more forms will need to be submitted along with an additional fee requesting a substantial examination for any changes required and this is reported back. If all of the application requirements met, the IPO will then grant your patent, publish your final application form and send you a certificate. Hurrah!

How long does a patent last for?

Patents can be granted for up to 20 years, but have to be renewed regularly during the 20 years, incurring a further fee! The first renewal is due 4 years after the date the patent was filed, and then annually. However, as always, there is a price to pay. This ranges from £70 for the first renewal to £600 for the 20th year!!

Wow, that sounds like a lot of effort – why bother with all this hassle?

Although the process to obtain and maintain a patent is long and expensive, with the right product, it is a great tool and can provide many benefits to those looking to generate a long-term investment return.

INTIMACY is a fashion project exploring the relation between intimacy and technology

INTIMACY is a fashion project exploring the relation between intimacy and technology. These Smart fabrics turn transparent when worn in close proximity to another person  resulting in feelings of an intimate nature! Yikes!!

In a fast-changing industry such as fashion where trends change season-by-season, it may not always be appropriate to register a patent and another form of IP protection may be better. However, with more and more start-ups looking to combine fashion and wearable technology, patenting could be very beneficial as this industry increasingly becomes mainstream, especially to prospective businesses or investors.

Patenting an invention gives you a monopoly right over your product. The mere existence of a patent application can also deter rival businesses from patenting a similar piece of technology.

Got my patent, now what?

It is your responsibility to police any unauthorised third-party use of the invention where they have manufactured, sold or imported it, not the IPO’s. It may be advisable to set up a watching service so you can keep an eye on any newly filed patent applications within the area of your invention.

Patented 1923

Keep a watch out for any potential infringements of your patent – it’s your responsibility, not the IPO’s!

A notable example of patent infringement in the fashion industry was when global retailer H&M infringed the ‘coveted bra technology’ of UK manufacturer Stretchline Holdings in a multi-million pound dispute. H&M sold bras using Fortitube technology without obtaining a licence from Stretchline Holdings. Tut tut!!

This goes to show the importance of having clearance searches carried out before applying to register a patent and also monitoring any future patents – not doing so could lead to a legal nightmare, which no one wants!

3D printing by Novabeans India 2

3D printing is also on the rise in the fashion industry – yet another form of fash tech!

Top Tips before applying for a patent?

Research, research, research – if the invention is not novel, inventive or capable of being manufactured, then the patent application will fail and your money will be wasted. Research online and through the IPO’s published patents catalogue to ensure there is nothing similar within your industry. This will not only help to ensure your invention is new, but will also ensure you don’t infringe anyone else’s patent rights.

Keep it a secret – confidentiality is crucial if a patent application is being considered. If your invention has been made accessible to the public in any way, this could seriously sabotage your application.

Secret

Ssshhh! It’s a secret – don’t spill the beans to avoid having your patent application declared invalid!

Be prepared for commitment – once your invention has been patented, it is important to analyse whether renewals are necessary and to monitor potential developments or inventions within your industry.

For more information on patents, feel free to contact me!

Hey! Hands off my IP! (Copyright)

As promised, FTL is continuing with the “Hey! Hands off my IP!” series of blog posts. The first post in the series was on trade marks, you can access it here. Next we take a look at copyright.

It’s a common error to mistake copyright as a registerable right and get it confused with a trade mark. This piece aims to demystify the differences, provide greater clarity on copyright and explain why it’s a useful tool for those in the fashion/fash tech industries.

 

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Protect your designs and avoid copyright infringement by reading on…

What’s copyright?

Contrary to some general public perception, copyright cannot be legally registered in the UK, which is one of the key differences often confused with a trade mark.

Recently when listening to the radio (yes I’m a retro gal!), I heard numerous presenters assuming that certain objects, lyrics and recipes need to be registered to attain copyright. WRRRRONG!! This really infuriates me…

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Glued to my radio!

Copyright automatically arises on the creation of a Work. An idea alone cannot generate protection, the idea must be Recorded to become protectable under copyright. The Work must also be Original.

What does it mean to be a Work, Recorded and Original?

A Work: to be classified as a Work, the piece must fall within one of the following categories (for the legislation buffs out there, the relevant statute is here):

• a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work;
• a sound recording, film or broadcast; or
• the typographical arrangement of a published edition.

For those in the fashion industry, this could include sketches of new clothing, handbag designs, shoe drawings, photographs of mock-ups or photos of the final product for example. However the garments themselves would not generally be protected by copyright, as it would be hard to drop them into one of the above categories.

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Copyright would exist in these very designs!

It’s worth noting that in other countries, garments can be protected by copyright due to their more openly drafted laws on copyright. This is the case in France, Germany and the US and was how Bijules could register its nail ring for copyright protection in the US.

Fixation: A further hurdle to leap before copyright protection applies is that the Work must be fixed. This means the literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work, for example, must be put “in writing or otherwise” (section 3(2), Copyright designs and Patents Act 1988, or CDPA for short!).

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“Record” everything to achieve fixation!

Originality: Finally, the work must be Original! It’s no good copying someone else’s work and then claiming copyright in it – that won’t work!!

Interestingly, it’s not necessary for the whole piece to be original for copyright to exist. Generally, the level of originality required in the UK is low; for example, copyright in calendars and competition cards have been accepted in the UK.

For fashion photographers, originality of photographs has raised questions, but European law states that:

“Photographs which are original in the sense that they are the author’s own intellectual creation shall be protected… “

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Photographs are able to achieve copyright protection. Follow the steps outlined above to ensure they’re safe!

Who owns copyright?

Normally the owner of copyright within a Work will be the creator. However Works created in the course of employment by an employee will usually be owned by the employer, due to express terms in the employee’s contract.

Also, where a piece is commissioned, let’s say Vogue UK commissioned the famous milliner Philip Treacy to create an exclusive design as part of the 2016 100th year anniversary, it’s unlikely that Vogue would fail to formally contract with Treacy to secure Vogue’s ownership of any copyright in the design. So here, the commissioning party will typically own the copyright.

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Philip Treacy’s amazing creation for the late Alexander McQueen’s Spring/Summer 2008 collection. Wonder if Treacy was commissioned by McQueen and if so, who owned the copyright!?

How long does copyright last for?

Copyright exists from the moment a work has been created. The duration of this depends on the type of work created, by way of example, an artistic work affords protection for 70 years from the death of the author/creator.

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Vogue is celebrating its 100th year this year! Continuing the theme, copyright even exists in these vintage Vogue covers dating all the way back to 1916, provided the date of the author’s death was not before 1946 of course!

What rights does copyright give the owner?

The copyright owner has the exclusive right to do the following with the Work:

• copy it;
• issue copies to others;
• rent it out;
• perform, show or play it in public;
• communicate it to the public; and
• make an adaptation.

Are any rights reserved for a creator who may no longer own the Work?

The author automatically acquires a number of moral rights in relation to their Work including rights:

• to be identified as the author;
• to object to derogatory treatment of the Work; and
• not to have a Work falsely attributed to him or her.

What happens when someone breaches copyright?

Copyright is infringed if, without the permission of the owner, someone does, or authorises another to do, any of the acts that are exclusive to the copyright owner as outlined above.

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Universal sign for copyright. Stamp on all of your works capable of copyright protection to warn off any copyright thieves!

This can apply to the whole of the Work or only part of it and relates to direct or indirect infringement.

Round up

Being an automatic right, and not one that can be legally registered in the UK, copyright can often be difficult to prove. For example, a startup fashion business may create a wonderful design, which is then totally ripped off by large corporate retailer. The startup may not have filed evidence of its creation, which would prove originality prior to the date the corporate giant made a copy. The startup would therefore find it difficult to its ownership of the Work.

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Although your studio may only have humble beginnings, be sure to record your original works to benefit from copyright protection!

What can be done?

A way around this is to record and keep dated copies of your file drawings, plans and photographs. This will then go some way to prove you are the owner and that the Work does not belong to those trying to steal your work!

Copyright can be mind-boggling and legal advice often needs to be tailored on a case by case basis. If you’ve hit a copyright wall and don’t know where to turn, contact FTL via the contact me page.

Until next time…

NAT-A-PORTER NO MORE!

The shock-resignation of Natalie Massenet from Net-A-Porter, just before the merger with Yoox Group was due to take place, has sent shock-waves through the fashion industry!

Starting out

Massenet’s start-up story is a familiar one. Founding the company in her spare room in 2000, the ultimate Fash Tech entrepreneur saw a gap in the market for an online platform supplying luxury fashion. This led to the birth of Net-A-Porter and forever changed the way we shop online!

Massenet is an American-born former journalist who began working for Women’s Wear Daily and Tatler, which is where her idea of an e-commerce website in a magazine format began. However, the glitz and glamour of the early stage setup was not so high-brow, as Massenet initially stacked the signature Net-A-Porter black packaging in her bath! How times have changed!

bathtub+vintage+image+graphicsfairy002c

Perhaps Natalie’s bathtub will no longer look so rosy!

In Natalie’s words

So what happened? In her own words this week, Massenet gave us an insight into her decision, saying:

“The completion of Net-a-Porter Group’s merger with Yoox Group is the right time for me to move on to explore new ideas and opportunities…The business I started in 2000 could not be in better shape today. Having joined forces with Yoox Group, the company will be bigger, stronger and superbly well positioned under Federico Marchetti’s leadership to lead the industry and create the future of fashion. As a continuing loyal customer I will be excited to see the next chapter for this amazing business.”

natalie-massenet-vogue-9sept13-pr

So long Natalie!

The FTL verdict

Is this really such a surprise? Well, given the fashionista’s position following the merger was to be restricted to an editorial and communications role, perhaps it’s not completely unexpected!

If all had gone to plan, Ms Massenet would have become the executive chairman while Mr Marchetti stepped into the chief executive role. To add fuel to the fire, over lunch with the Financial Times in May this year Mr Marchetti was quick to clarify where the power would lie. There was to be only one boss, he said, “And that’s me”.

Marchetti

In the wise-words of the Godfather of Soul: “Paid the cost to be the Boss!”

Yet to be seen is how the merger between these two rivals will work in practice, in a marketplace that has become increasingly crowded and competitive. For example, is it business-savvy to retain The Outnet, Net-A-Porter’s cut-price site that directly rivalled Yoox? Most definitely not, but which of the two will bite the dust?! There are many questions surrounding what the future holds for Yoox-A-Porter (by the way, I highly doubt this will be the new branding!), but what’s certain is that the new group will have to act decisively to retain shareholder confidence.

Both companies have faced mounting pressure from new businesses entering the luxury e-commerce space, as well as from traditional brands beginning to sell their products online to consumers directly. With big brands reeling from the ongoing economic slowdown in China, and the feeling that the days of rapid expansion are behind them, the mood of the luxury industry, as a whole, is far from sanguine.

NAP bag

Will the branding change post merger?

Also, despite Ms Massenet’s diplomatic statement, it looks like this was a rather contentious departure: Bloomberg reports that Massenet leaves with over £100 million ($153 million) after the sale of shares in her company. The Financial Times reported that the sum came as a result of a dispute over the value of the Net-A-Porter Group that led to her quitting.

The FTL concludes a trouble at the mill scenario, what other explanation could there be for such a sudden departure?!

Do you know what really caused this turn of events? Do you have an opinion on the matter? If so, we’d love to hear from you via the comments box below!

Jean-Genious! Levi and Google develop jeans that text

Fashion and tech continue to merge in thrilling ways. One of the most exciting has been born out of a recent collaboration between Levi Strauss and Google.

Levi Strauss is not well-known for its tech ventures, yet there’s something about the partnership that makes perfect sense. What do the iconic denim brand and the tech super-power have in common? Simple – both brands have delivered undeniably iconic products and become global household names.

Project Jacquard aims to develop interactive fabrics that empower wearers to use their phone by simply tapping or swiping their clothes. Soon, silencing a call or sending a text message could be as easy as a shimmy or a shake!

Retro Orange Tab makes a come back this season

Retro Orange Tab makes a come back this season!

An opportunity to be present in the moment without the invasion of screens and technology is emerging and the simplicity of the production method makes it ever sweeter. How is this done? Via a standard loom, replacing the normal thread with a conductive yarn.

Such insight suggests Levi’s contribution is far more involved than may appear on the surface. The 1853 established company is the daddy of denim: it’s globally renown for its heritage Orange Tab flares to its 501 Originals! In line with this is Google’s reputation as our go-to search engine.

Levi’s presence will be a crucial factor in the credibility and design of the future product, a much-debated topic in the fash-tech sphere! Customers who might normally be put off by a function over style concept might be swung by a warranted trust in the Levi’s brand.

jacquard2x

Of course, this is just the beginning. With interactive fabric now developing into a relatively easy concept to pursue, partnerships such as Levi Strauss and Google could fuel many more similar collaborations. Might we be observing the birth of the ‘Super Jean’?

I’m setting up a fashion business: where do I start?

Establishing a fashion business can be electrifying and a roller-coaster journey. To avoid pitfalls, read on…

Think of an amazing brand name, and protect it!
A catchy brand name can make all the difference, as it’s the basis on which your business will be established and will flourish. It’s therefore crucial to first ensure your name is unique, and avoids confusion with other names already out there. Once you’re clear on this, get the brand name and any logo associated with it registered as trade marks. This will allow you to protect your brand from copycats, and safeguard the value of the goodwill you generate.

What can the quarters of a burgeoning fashion startup look like? This is the Everlane Studio in San Francisco

What can the quarters of a burgeoning fashion startup look like? This is the Everlane Studio in San Francisco

What legal structure is most suitable for you?
Three most common business structures are below:

Sole Trader: you run your business as an individual, retain all profits post tax and can employ staff. You are accountable for the business and personally responsible for any losses your business makes. For tax purposes, you are considered self-employed.
Partnership: responsibility is shared between you and your business partner (or partners). The profits of the business can be shared between all partners in the business. Each partner pays tax on their share of the profits.
Limited Liability Companies: a company is a separate legal entity owned by shareholders. The company is responsible in its own right for everything it does and its finances are completely separate from your personal finances. Any profit made by the company, after payment of corporation tax, can be distributed between the shareholders.

Have you thought about your location?
Some of the most famous start-ups have begun in a back bedroom, but as you expand you might need to relocate to an office or shop space. Space is often bought via leasehold, but don’t be too eager to sign without ensuring you fully understand and agree to the terms. A more cost effective strategy might be to trade over the web. If doing so, it’s a great idea to get expert advice on trading over the internet as there’s a whole host of complex laws and regulations surrounding this.

Make sure to do your homework before starting your fashion business, which includes having the correct contracts in place with partners or staff.

Make sure to do your homework before starting your fashion business, which includes having the correct contracts in place with partners &/or staff

Do you have the right agreements in place?
Before entering into a business relationship, you should ensure that you have all of the appropriate agreements in place. For instance, if negotiating with a third party – such as a supplier or developer – you should have signed a non-disclosure agreement to protect any confidential information you may exchange. Having the right contracts set out from the beginning is essential, particularly to avoid complexities in the event of a dispute!

For more information on setting up your business don’t hesitate to contact me.

Technology in Fashion: Fad or Future?

The appointment of Burberry’s Chief Executive Angela Ahrendts at Apple suggests the company does not simply plan to dip its toe in the fashion pool, but intends to fully submerge itself. With the current hype over the marriage of the fashion and technology industries, Sarah Simpson, Associate at Taylor Vinters and fashion law expert, asks whether the collaboration between technology and fashion will really take off, or whether it’s just the latest fad. Sarah also looks at the serious data protection implications that designers and developers of fashion-led technology need to be aware of.

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