Friday, May 17, 2013
Fast-fashion retailer Forever 21 has been widely accused of selling knockoffs of other designers’ work and blaming its suppliers for the copying. In a 2011 Bloomberg Businessweek story called “Forever 21′s Fast (and Loose) Fashion Empire,” Susan Berfield wrote:
“Starting in about 2004, the Changs decided to create different brands to appeal to slightly more sophisticated and older shoppers. Over the next couple of years, labels ranging from Diane von Furstenberg to Anna Sui to Anthropologie, about 50 in all, separately sued Forever 21 for copying their clothes. The company said that its buyers had to trust its vendors and couldn’t possibly know how those vendors came up with all their designs.”
Berfield pointed out that WWD had published an excerpt from documents related to the Anthropologie case, in which a U.S. District Court judge wondered whether the company’s business model depended on such behavior:
“‘We note the extraordinary litigating history of this company, which raises the most serious questions as to whether it is a business that is predicated in large measure on the systematic infringement of competitors’ intellectual property,’ Judge Michael H. Dolinger wrote on Mar. 12, 2009.”
Here are a few other links related to Forever 21′s purported knockoffs of small companies:
Considering this legal history, I’m torn between reactions of LOL and SMH over a trademark-infringement lawsuit filed by Forever 21 – which, according to Forbes, posted $2.6 billion in revenue – against sellers of off-price merchandise. California Apparel News reports:
“In a federal case filed in U.S. District Court, Forever 21 is trying to recuperate hundreds of thousands of dollars from David’s Place Off Price Clothing Co., Seven Lions, Damo Textile and Y.M.I. Jeanswear for selling merchandise that had been ordered by Forever 21 and then canceled by Forever 21 after the goods were made by apparel factories.”
Forever 21′s says it hadn’t authorized the resale of the merchandise and, moreover, that it had found the merchandise still bearing its label in a discount retailer. It says its vendors agree to that when they do business with Forever 21. I’m not sure the defendants are going to have much success using common sense to fight this.
“The defendants claim that Forever 21 does not own any right to the actual canceled goods because they hadn’t paid for them.”
Common sense doesn’t necessarily have a place in the courtroom. Anyway, Forever 21 wants “$1 million for trademark infringement and no less than $1 million for false designation of origin and unfair competition. In addition, it wants at least $1 million for trademark dilution.”
The Cornell University Law School site defines trademark dilution as:
“The use of a mark or trade name in commerce sufficiently similar to a famous mark that by association it reduces, or is likely to reduce, the public’s perception that the famous mark signifies something unique, singular or particular.”
In plainer language, Forever 21 fears that its brand image will be damaged by its unpaid-for merchandise being seen in discount retailers … kind of how designers feel when knockoffs of their products appear in Forever 21, eh? High!Larious!
Meanwhile, the occasionally reliable New York Post spoke with “a source” who says that pop superstar Rihanna may be filing suit against my dear friends at Topshop for selling a shirt with her image on it without obtaining her permission. Supposedly, the image was purchased from a photographer, but no artist licensing fees were paid. (You can see the shirt in question on the Huffington Post.) It’s also kind of awkward when Rihanna is working with competing high-street retailer River Island. The New York Post says:
“A source exclusively tells us the superstar’s team had tried to negotiate with Topshop owners Arcadia Group for eight months over the rights to her image, ‘but they offered her $5,000 and said they don’t care.’”
The story continues:
“A Topshop source told us: ‘This issue is related to a T-shirt provided to Topshop by a third-party supplier. We are aware it is the subject of litigation…’”
This story has been picked up by other outlets, but so far I haven’t found any official confirmation from Rihanna or Topshop (let me know if you see that). I will speculate that if there is an issue, the media coverage will pressure Topshop to make the shirt go away without money changing hands. That’s how these billion-dollar retailers work. Just this week, I got a comment questioning the veracity of my Topshop jewelry knockoff experience last year. “Hmmm wouldn’t she own top shop [sic] if this were true,” mused someone who signed herself as Monique. Such naïveté is endearing, isn’t it? As I said in this follow-up post last year, I spent $3,000 on legal fees and got no financial settlement whatsoever for the copy of my swear rings. It was surreal! First I got this tweet (from May 2012) …
… then, after I hired a lawyer because the “style in question” was still on sale in stores around the world, I got a lawyer’s letter telling me that Topshop would pull the rings — for real, this time. But I was put on notice that Topshop’s previous acknowledgements of the similarity weren’t acknowledgements of the similarity.
No money was offered in this letter, and I didn’t want to pay my lawyer to pursue money that I would never get, so not only do I not own Topshop — Rihanna’s not going to own it either, IMHO.
The DCK Concessions mentioned in the letter excerpt is a vendor that sells to Topshop and other retailers. Topshop said it didn’t manufacture the swear-ring copy itself; it merely bought it from a third party to resell, a la Forever 21. And that’s what commenter Monique fears I’m doing with my jewelry line:
“… you can buy some of ‘her pieces’ at Ali express whole sales for instance the middle finger earring yea I found them in silver for $8. I bet you get them from china wholesale and sell then $70.”
Even though Monique’s writing style resembles that of a troll or spammer, I’m happy she brought up the issue in case anyone else has been wondering. Rest assured, a hundred percent of what you see on my website has been made from scratch to my specifications (excluding standard parts such as chains, clasps, earring backs, etc.) in New York City or, infrequently, in Thailand. The manufacturing locale is identified on the product pages of my site. I haven’t bought finished jewelry to resell since 2006, when I was working with my late business partner. That was her thing: it made more sense financially because it’s less expensive. She was thrifty. I’m not so thrifty. After my partner’s death that year, I changed the business model to all original designs.
Though, really, what’s original? Often it’s not the concept that’s fresh — it’s the execution, as I pointed out in this post on designer Isabel Marant. Marant didn’t invent the wedge sneaker and I didn’t invent the middle finger earring. I’ve previously pointed out that I didn’t invent letter jewelry (all Topshop had to do to avoid stepping on me was use a different font). I didn’t invent heart jewelry or snake jewelry or acorn jewelry. It’s my personal take on the ideas that make my versions special. For instance, my middle finger earring is made with precious metals (your choice of silver or gold) because I love an obscenity rendered in fine materials. My version is also full of awesome because it’s based on Eminem’s hand and Em flips the best bird in the world. The middle finger earring complements all my other emoji-inspired hand-gesture stud earrings to encourage people to mix and match because I like asymmetry.
You can get a three-pack of white men’s t-shirts from Hanes on sale for $9.99, or you can get a three-pack of Balmain t-shirts from Barneys for $425. There are a lot of choices out there for consumers. The least expensive choices aren’t necessarily the worst … nor are they guaranteed to be the best. And the most expensive choices aren’t necessarily the best … or the worst! You get to decide what fits your budget and taste, and what brands you wish to support. I’m grateful to everyone who supports my brand. If you haven’t made a purchase from me yet and need to ask some questions about my line before you do so, feel free to email me any time at wbjewelry at hotmail dot com.
Thursday, May 16, 2013
Even though I have fond memories of the 1980s fad for painted denim jackets, I never owned one myself, to the best of my recollection. I don’t know why. Maybe I couldn’t decide which band I wanted painted on the back? I was equally devoted to the Beatles and Duran Duran.
I did have a standard Levi’s-style jacket in 1984. Here I am wearing it with my favorite neon-pink Guess top on the first day of my senior year of high school.
I then upgraded to an oversize jacket that I thought was much more stylish and “New Wave.” As you can see in this photo, I was still devoted to the pink Guess top (with a matching skinny scarf) and popped jacket collar.
If you look closely, you can see that I’m wearing the pink rhinestone heart earrings that I still own and previously posted here.
By 1985, I had switched from blonde bangs to dyed-black hair, but I kept the New Wave jacket. In the photo below, you can glimpse one of my favorite shirts under it. It was a long button-down with a cartoon pattern that I wore over leggings or Guess ankle-zip jeans.
The next photo isn’t very good quality, but you can see the shape and size of the jacket. It reminds me of my oversize leather motorcycle jacket from the same era.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Have any of you seen Baz Luhrmann’s Great Gatsby movie? What did you think? The reviews make me disinclined to see it. I hate the grungy, crowded movie theaters in New York City, so I don’t like to venture into them unless I know the movie is worthwhile. If I were out in Los Angeles, however, I’d happily go see nearly anything at the Arclight Cinemas in Hollywood. I’m obsessed with the Arclight! It’s very civilized there.
Years ago, I designed a necklace and a ring that were inspired, in part, by the delicate beauty of Mia Farrow as Daisy in the 1974 version of Gatsby.
The 18K-gold-and-diamond designs also have a Victorian influence. They’re scent lockets — known as vinaigrette lockets during Victorian times. You can put solid perfume or a little bit of cotton soaked in scent in the lockets, and tiny openings between the daisies allow the fragrance to waft out. Of course, you can just wear the pieces without anything in them too.
I introduced the necklace in 2006.
Five years later, I created a matching locket ring.
I tried to catch a little of the diamonds’ glitter on Vine. Click here to see.
Here’s a random factoid about Mia Farrow in Gatsby: she was on the cover of the first issue of People magazine when the movie came out. (Here’s the article.) That sticks in my mind because I was working at People when the publication celebrated its 25th anniversary, so I saw a lot of that debut cover image. Another important thing to know about the ’74 Gatsby is that my beloved Sam Waterston played Nick Carraway. Robert Redford starred as Jay Gatsby, and he’s great, but to me he’ll always be second fiddle to Sam and his magnificent eyebrows. Sorry, Bob!
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
I went to see Rihanna at Barclays Center on May 5 and took one of my best-ever concert photos!
When Bad Gal RiRi first came out in this costume, it took me a moment to realize what the print was. Then I thought, “Bitch stole my style again!” First, she ran off with a leopard Dolce & Gabbana dress that should have been mine. Now she is wearing a dollar-bill-print costume, which reminds me of the dollar-print vintage dress that I most recently wore in February.
But I ain’t mad. I was quite pleased because I’ve been collecting photos of people wearing currency prints. Just last month, comedian Will Ferrell wore a money suit at the MTV Movie Awards.
Doesn’t that look identical to the one worn by a fellow who wound up on Cheezburger’s FAIL Blog?
I previously wrote about money-influenced fashion — and my dress in particular — in 2009. Let me know if you see any other examples. And you can check out the rest of my Rihanna concert photos on Flickr.
Here’s what I wore to the concert.
What Wendy Wore
Jacket: Customized Levi’s (2013)
Dress: Vintage Clovis Ruffin (purchased on eBay, probably in 2009)
Boots: Helmut Lang (pre-2005)
Purse: Prada (purchased on eBay in 2008)
Necklace: My own IDGAF design
Lip color: YSL Rouge Volupte in Rose Culte
The jacket is from The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. I was searching for information on graffiti artist Lady Pink and came across a series of artist-decorated Levi’s jean jackets at MOCA. I’ve never lost my love for a lot of ’80s styles, including DayGlo colors, single earrings, rubber jewelry and turquoise leather. One memorable look from that era was the painted denim jacket, so I how could I resist one adorned with the work of the preeminent female graffiti artist?
I didn’t have my RiRi Woo lipstick in time for the show. That’s Rihanna’s collaboration with MAC Cosmetics. I already have two everyday red lipsticks — MAC’s Lasting Lust and Chanel’s Ruby Lite — but I do love a special edition. It wears a little pink on me. I wore it to a cocktail party, sporting a dress that should be my official red-lipstick debut dress.
What Wendy Wore
Dress: Prada (2012)
Shoes: Prada (2010)
Purse: Louis Vuitton (2001)
Jewelry: All my own designs
Lip color: RiRi Woo by MAC
The initial shipment of RiRi Woo sold out; when it’s back in stock in June, it’s worth a try if you can handle a very matte lipstick.
I’ve shared these photos in Not Dead Yet Style’s Visible Monday post; check out all the other fabulous, Visible ladies here.
Sunday, May 12, 2013
The Internets have already declared that my mother, BarbaraB, is a style icon, but in case you need further proof, check out this photo of us.
My appreciation of towering hair and a good hairpiece must have come from BarbaraB. Look at her rocking that wiglet! You can see more photos of her here. Happy Mother’s Day, BarbaraB! And to all you other mothers as well.
Here’s what was on the blog this week:
- Sunday: Looking for punk-inspired jewelry? I’ve got lots of options.
- Monday: If I’d been invited to the punk-themed Met Gala I would have dressed like punk goddess Wendy O. Williams. I wasn’t invited, however, so my favorite looks there belonged to Miley Cyrus and Linda Fargo of Bergdorf Goodman.
- Tuesday: My latest online press appearances are on the National Jeweler, Vice and JCK Magazine websites.
- Wednesday: May’s Jewels of the Month are new emoji and emoji-inspired single stud earrings.
- Thursday: For Throwback Thursday, I squeezed into a dress from 1989.
- Friday: More ass jewelry. And, no, those were not my rings on Anne Hathaway.
- Saturday: Sending good thoughts to blogger Mardel.
The 1989 cocktail dress I was wearing (just barely) in my Throwback Thursday photo reminded my designing friend Stacy Lomman that she wore a 1988 dress to my 2010 New Year’s Eve party.
Love that dress! It’s so classic. It could easily be sold in stores now.
Saturday, May 11, 2013
I met gorgeous blogger Mardel of Resting Motion in 2011, when a group of bloggers gathered for drinks during Fashion Week. If she didn’t have to leave a little early that night, I might have never have gotten around to talking to anyone else. Mardel and I just happened to sit next to each other and bond immediately. A couple of times we said, “We should probably mingle,” but then we went right back to our conversation.
I found out that night that Mardel’s husband was ill, so when blogger Louise Hornor directed me to a post on Mardel’s blog last weekend — one that she said made her gasp and tear up — I feared the worst, and rightly so. Hospice has taken over at-home care for Mardel’s husband. Mardel wrote about how drained she was from being on the phone, answering questions and “dealing with other people’s issues.” She continued, “Today I felt I needed a totem” … and posted this photo of herself wearing my swear rings.
I was surprised and very moved to see that my rings gave her little lift at this difficult time. I said so to Louise, who replied:
She was referring to gorgeous blogger Lynne of The Good Will Hunting Paralegal, who felt empowered by my IDGAF necklace while coping with a family health crisis of her own. I’ve said before that much of the jewelry in my gold and platinum signature line is inspired by powerful women. But to me, even my social-media-inspired WENDYB by Wendy Brandes silver line has always been about power. Most of the designs there are ones that make me feel stronger in some way. However, I don’t presume to know exactly what a piece of my jewelry means to a customer, and everyone is welcome to her own interpretation of what she’s wearing. I wouldn’t have dared dream that the jewelry would actually do exactly what I would have wanted it to do in these two cases.
Mardel, you and your husband are in my thoughts.
UPDATED TO ADD: I’m sad to say that a few minutes after I published this, Mardel posted that her husband, George, had passed away. Click here to leave your condolences.
Friday, May 10, 2013
I wrote so much about the Met Gala, yet somehow I almost forgot to comment on Madonna’s fabulous ass jewelry. Yep, just days after I admired the ass jewelry worn by Miley Cyrus in her V Magazine shoot, Madonna was wearing what could be described very literally as a big-ass cross on the red carpet.
It’s for the best that I didn’t make the ass jewelry I joked about in 2007. Because you know what would be happening now? The celebrities would still be wearing ass jewelry from other designers and I’d be all bitter saying, “But I’ve done ass jewelry! Why can’t they wear my ass jewelry?”
Along those lines, a lot of people have emailed me but I’m sad to say that Anne Hathaway’s four-ring set at the Met Gala was not one of my designs.
I use my special thorny-looking font for all my letter jewelry …
… so if the letters don’t look a little prickly, they’re not mine. Too bad, because Anne looked fabulous that night with her blonde hair and exposed nipples. I would have loved to have a picture of her wearing my pieces. I’m not broken-hearted over it though, because all my customers are celebrities to me and I’ve got lots of awesome pictures of y’all wearing my work, like this one of Julia here.
If you are a customer and haven’t been featured on the blog, holla at me at wbjewelry at hotmail dot com with some photos so I can do one of my Customer of the Day posts on you. If you would LIKE to be a customer, but haven’t taken the plunge yet, this is a good time to pick up high-end gold-and-diamond designs from one of my first collections, now on sale at eDrop-Off. I’m a guest editor at eDrop-Off today: click here to read my interview, get information on the jewelry that’s available there, see what other three items on eDrop-Off are at the top of my wishlist, and shop. I’m told that most of the bidding in eDrop-Off auctions happens at the last minute, so don’t make the mistake of bidding too low and thinking you’re safe because things seem quiet now!
Thursday, May 9, 2013
In yesterday’s post, I mentioned that my parents are moving out of my childhood home in New Jersey. They’re clearing out all their old stuff, so I visited last weekend to take a look around. I couldn’t believe some of the things I found! Just last month I was trying to figure out when I’d gone to my first concert, which was Journey at the Brendan Byrne Arena. I thought it might have been May 1983. But, according to the program that I had in a pile of papers all these years, the show was in May 1982, when I was 14. And, because we’re all obsessed with punk this week thanks to the Met Gala, it’s fun to see who was playing at Asbury Park a few weeks after my concert: The Clash!
The only other program I found was this one.
As I feared, all my ’80s concert t-shirts were gone. That idiotic closet-purging rule caused me to chuck all those while I was still in college, but I was praying for a survivor or two. I had such good concert shirts: Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Wham and a whole wardrobe of Duran Duran. Check out the way I layered and belted this one from 1984. Also, that eye makeup!
The only major piece of clothing I found was the black cocktail dress I wore to my 1989 college graduation party. I am pretty sure it was from Hartly Fashions in Westwood, N.J. Here I am wearing it back in the day.
Naturally, I had to find out if I could still squeeze into it. The answer: barely. I am proud to say that I managed to zip it all the way, with help from the family.
It was really only super-tight at the top, so I’m going to see if Jean from Ghost Tailor can let it out. I think this dress would be fabulous with over-the-knee boots, a denim jacket and lots of gold necklaces.
Even before I started looking through my personal memorabilia and reflecting on the punk-themed Met Gala, I was getting inspiration from the ’80s. (That’s why I’ve been adding more and more single earrings to my jewelry line.) In particular, I’ve been reminiscing about one of my favorite stores from my high-school days: Trash and Vaudeville. It’s still on St. Mark’s Place and for months, I’ve been telling my designing friend Stacy Lomman — also a Trash and Vaudeville fan from way back — that we have to go back there and take a look around. When Wall Street Journal style columnist Christina Binkley asked her Twitter followers earlier this week what they’d wear to the Met Gala if they could wear any designer, I didn’t waste a moment contemplating couture.
So I’m really excited that today’s New York Times has a story on Trash and Vaudeville by William Van Meter called “The Shop That Punk Built.“ There are some great anecdotes about customers like the Ramones and Tommy Hilfiger, as well as owner Ray Goodman and manager/buyer Jimmy Webb, who is described as a “punk of a certain age.” I would love to be described that way! But, as I told my family many times, I wasn’t punk; I was New Wave. Big difference. Anyway, I’m glad to see the 38-year-old store getting its due (again). And I still need to go there. I’m not as young as I was, but I have more spending money than I did, so it should be even more fun for me now!
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Last month I introduced five stud earrings inspired by the hand-gesture emoji. Four were official emoji: the okay sign, the thumbs up, the peace sign and the raised hand. But there is no middle finger emoji — a huge oversight! — so I created my own, based on Eminem’s famous bird-flipping hand. When Style.com wrote about my emoji designs, I said that the emoji creators were welcome to add my middle finger design to their collection. I’m so serious about that that I’m trying to track down the right people to make them an offer!
Meanwhile, I’ve done more emoji studs. This time only one is an official emoji: the punching fist. Here’s the original.
Here is my earring version.
Then I did three hand gestures that I think should be emoji. The first is the American Sign Language “I love you” sign.
I also have the Hawaiian “shaka” sign, also used by surfers to mean “hang loose.” I think Hawaiian-born Barack Obama should get this one for his daughters.
Finally, though I’m not a Star Trek fanatic, I was inspired to do the Vulcan “Live Long and Prosper” salute. (I always did like Spock the best.) The new Star Trek movie, Star Trek: Into Darkness, comes out May 16. Order your earring now and get it in time for the premiere!
If you’re more of a Mork & Mindy fan than a Star Trek fan, turn the hand sideways to get the “nanu nanu” hand gesture.
All of my emoji stud earrings — and all of my other stud earrings — are available as singles. Inspired by the single earrings I wore in the ’80s, I’ve been adding single earrings to my jewelry line since October. You need to hop on this look now. After all, New York Magazine said that Emma Watson’s single earring was among the “21 smartest sly nods to punk” at Monday’s Met Gala. My stud earrings are subtle, so they’re Supa Dupa Sly! And you won’t feel like a wannabe-punk throwback because my inspiration is so modern.
I’m not sure why the hand-gesture emojis appeal to me so much. Maybe it’s because I wore hand earrings back in the ’80s.
My parents are moving out of my childhood home in New Jersey, so I went there this weekend to rummage through my old stuff. (I’m going to have lots of material for Throwback Thursdays!) I was excited to find a photo from 1986 or 1987 in which I’m wearing a single hand earring.
I remember that shirt so well. It was from the men’s department at Bloomingdale’s. I wore it with leggings and big hair. Anyway, you can see that I was very literal about wearing a single earring. There’s nothing at all in my other ear. Nowadays, I wear a different earring in each of my three earlobe piercings. When you design your own line, the policy is always “The more jewelry, the merrier”!
To learn about ways you can customize your Wendy Brandes jewelry order, read this post.
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
A big thank you goes out to Hannah Connorton who interviewed me for National Jeweler. The story was intended to be about silver, but Hannah kindly let me ramble on about my inspiration and aesthetic for both my gold signature line and my silver WENDYB by Wendy Brandes diffusion line. I like that she wrote, “Brandes has a fondness for movement, color and extreme originality in her work.” Yay! I also enjoyed the caption that thoroughly explained the current-day meaning of “trill.”
Another thank you goes out to gorgeous photographer Verena Stefanie Grotto, who recorded a night on the town with Gangsta Boo last week for the New York State of Mind blog on Vice.com. (That was the night that Boo rapped about my silver jewelry during her DJing gig. Boo and National Jeweler are on the same wavelength!) I sneaked into two of the photos myself, and there are some fantastic shots of the pieces I’ve made for Boo.
I appreciate the support, ladies!
UPDATED TO ADD: Gorgeous Jennifer Heebner of JCK Magazine included me in her post on last night’s Met Gala. Read her piece here.