Process Posts Pub 101

Can you copyright clothing designs?

Last week Emma Chamberlain posted to her Instagram. In the photograph, she was wearing a sweater that was gifted to her by Courtney Mawhorr. Courtney revealed this week that she would be releasing a small collection of sweaters similar to the one worn by Emma. Everything seems alright, correct? Wrong. The problem here is that Courtney gave Lindsay Vrckovnik credit for her idea in an Instagram post a few weeks ago. Courtney claimed in her caption that Lindsay’s work inspired her and gave her full credit for the sweater idea. However, after hearing the news about Courtney’s latest capsule collection for the sweaters, Lindsay took to Instagram, proclaiming her disappointment at Courtney profiting from her idea. She expressed displeasure that someone who openly credited her is selling sweaters and gaining credit for the new super cropped sweater trend. This enraged Lindsay’s supporters, who commented on Courtney’s post, saying things like

“This is cute and crediting Lindsay was the right move! Buttttttt starting your own collection of pieces that you admit are based on the unique designs of another person is NOT RIGHT!”

@emilyjdeyo on Instagram

This whole situation coincided well with this week’s lecture-discussion on content and copyright in my publishing class. In the article, You Say Tomaydo, I Say No Copyright Infringement: Recipe Book Not An Original Compilation, the issue raised by the author is copyright in Canada and the States. The article follows a court hearing regarding past business partners who are fighting over copyright infringement concerning recipes. Throughout the case hearing, it is explained that recipes do not have copyright protection. This is analogous to fashion design since garment innovations are not protected by copyright in Canada or the United States. Moreover, courts have concluded that clothing is non-copyrightable because clothing serves a utilitarian purpose. Yes, clothes do look nice, but its primary purpose—at least in the eyes of the law—is that it keeps us warm, keeps our delicate feet from being cut up by rocks, and covers us up enough so that we meet public community decency standards.

As exemplified through the Courtney and Lindsay drama, although copyright does not directly protect fashion designs, it is still a fashion faux pas to reproduce somebody else’s creation. The power of social media is evident. If the law won’t uphold designers accountable, fashion enthusiasts will.


Javiera Guevara

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