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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Topshop has announced a new designer collaboration. Not with me, sillies! Instead, the U.K.-based fast-fashion chain struck a deal with 27-year-old British designer J.W. Anderson. Apparently, he’s an up-and-comer, but he’s certainly not a Margiela, Lagerfeld or Versace as far as name recognition goes. The latter three designers/design houses have all worked with H&M, a fast-fashion retailer that favors the mind-blowingly famous. Topshop seems more willing to work with emerging designers such as Anderson, Mary Katranzou and Louise Gray. This interests me because I had been wondering if I was too obscure for Topshop and if that’s why the company knocked off my swear-ring design instead of asking me to collaborate. But Fashion Group International named me a “rising star” this year, so I think I would have fit right in.

If you’re new to my Topshop saga, here’s what’s happened so far. I introduced my “swear rings” in 2008.

Click to buy my sterling-silver swear rings.

At the end of April, the lovely Sarah Graham pointed out that Topshop was selling this “Punctuation Ring Pack.”

Click for my April 29, 2012, post.

All my social-media friends got angry! Topshop apologized and said it would stop selling the rings.

Click for May 1, 2012, post.

Unfortunately, a month later, my spies in Russia and Australia spotted the rings in their local stores.

Rings in Russia. Click for original post.

That happened last week, when I was in London on vacation. I had hoped to meet with Topshop during my visit. But the two people who deal with jewelry design were out of town, so I sent one of them an email about the Russian and Australian rings and then went to Topshop’s flagship Oxford Circus store to look around. I didn’t see my ring design, though there were tons of other four-ring sets including words like “Love” and “Kiss.” I was intrigued by that because when I introduced my multi-ring sets in 2008, it was, in part, a reaction to the popularity of single rings that spanned multiple fingers. Lots of fashion bloggers were buying those rings from fast-fashion chains. I always liked that big “brass knuckles” look but hated having all my fingers stuck together, so I started making sets of three and four rings. The style puzzled some people, who kept asking why I had to make the rings separate — why couldn’t it be one big F@#! ring? My answer: You can get the single, multi-finger ring anywhere and I didn’t feel the need to do my own version.  Recently, I noticed that I don’t get asked that question anymore. I guess now that big retailers have adopted the style, people are used to it. As I always say, “Never is the next new thing™.” Anyway, while I was in Topshop, I decided to take a picture of the “Love” set.

That’s MrB’s hand.

To my amusement, a security guard told me not to take pictures. I could hardly wait to tweet about that.

About 20 minutes after my tweet — coincidence? maybe! — a Topshop employee responded to my email about the Russian and Australian rings:

“Thank you for your time in highlighting this error, there seems to have been a miscommunication with some of the international stores and for this I sincerely apologize.

“I have looked into this as a matter of urgency and please be assured that the issue has now been dealt with and the style in question is being removed.”

I thanked her for her swift action and figured I was done with this. And I was, for 24 hours. Then gorgeous blogger Sara of Sunny Blonde Studio tweeted this photo, which she took in Topshop’s Loughborough, U.K., store.

Sara’s photo — and the reason why Topshop doesn’t want people taking pictures!

I took one look at that and called my intellectual-property lawyer. Quite a few of you have asked me whether I had a lawyer and, yes, I spoke to her back in April. But, contrary to popular belief, suing isn’t the first thing you want to do. Even asking for advice is expensive! Lawyers, unlike designers, don’t give ideas away for free, so you’re paying for every minute of every phone call, not to mention emails and cease-and-desist letters. A good attorney will encourage you to try to work things out without his or her very expensive help, and that’s what I tried to do. When I got a public apology and Topshop’s promise to remove the rings from stores, I was satisfied.  Then I saw the Russian and Australian rings, but I got a private apology and another promise to remove the design, so I was satisfied with that. But now it seems those promises don’t mean much, so I have called in assistance to try to get my name put on Topshop’s “Don’t fuck with this designer” list once and for all.

By the way, my visit to Topshop’s flagship store was the first time I ever handled the jewelry there and … bitches, please! I know that my limited-edition designs are not in everyone’s budget, but I assure you with a little effort — try eBay! Etsy! small stores! — you can find inexpensive, higher-quality options. That lightweight, disposable Topshop stuff smelled like old pennies. I suggest you save up your actual old pennies and spend them with me, because I have some new options for you. Lately, I’ve been unable to say no to customers who asked to buy single letter rings from my sterling-silver multi-ring sets, even though that messes with my ring-set inventory. For instance, Patti Gibbons bought a “G” ring from my OMG set, and Nicole Widder bought an “M.”

Nicole says, “I love it because my last name is Widder and my fiancé’s last name is McDonald. So I can use it for both!”

Looks great on her, right? I’m going to give in to popular demand and make all letters available individually. Rings that are part of existing sets that I manufactured in Asia and have in inventory will be $110 each. Those are O, M, G, N, Y, C, L and F. All other letters will be made upon request in New York and will cost $230 each (for more information on why U.S.-made goods cost more, read my Huffington Post story on small business). The numbers 1 through 9 will also be available. You can send your requests to me at wbjewelry at hotmail dot com. Most New York-made rings will be ready in two weeks. And if you have a spare $50,000, feel free to holla at me about that too. That’s the cost of the minimum production run for all of these rings to be made overseas so I could then sell them for $110 each. I’d be happy to have an investor!

Related reading:
The DIY Couturier: “Inspiration vs Copying: A Demonstration
The London Intern: “Can We Copyright Designs in the 21st Century?

UPDATED JUNE 15, 2012, TO ADD: Topshop found someone else to blame for originating the design: DCK Concessions. DCK’s website says it produces over 60 million pieces a year for more than 15 retailers. “Even if you’ve never heard of DCK Concessions,” the website says, “you are undoubtedly already familiar with our product …” Well, yes, if you’re a reader of my blog, you would indeed be familiar with one of the designs DCK produces! Ha! This still doesn’t explain why Topshop continued selling the design after twice promising to remove it, of course. I’m not letting Topshop off the hook, but I will be reaching out to DCK as well.

Meanwhile, I’m working on as many new designs as I can afford to do. I expect a new red-carpet-worthy earring design to be finished this month, along with a companion cufflink design. After that, I have two rings to complete. (I have wax models for two additional ring designs finished, but I don’t know when I’ll be able to do those. This year, I hope) I’ve also completed a number of styles for my WENDYB by Wendy Brandes diffusion line. There will be lots of fresh looks for the fall!

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22 Responses to “Topshop Drama Drags On; Letter Rings for Sale”

  1. Those Topshop knock offs look so nasty and cheap! Pretty typical that they knock off your designs, I mean, don’t all big retail chains have people whose job it is to go around the world, find what’s cool and then basically knock it off?

    • WendyB
      Twitter: WendyBrandes
      says:

      They don’t even have to travel anymore — they just poke around online! That was one of my concerns when I was putting my website together, but there’s no way to avoid having an online presence, so it was a risk I had to take!

      • Melanie says:

        Wendy I totally understand how you feel but don’t get disheartened what this shows is you are bang on trend. So many of my designs have been copied over my 25 years of jewellery designing, is its any help focus your energy on your next project rather than wasting your energy on them.

      • WendyB
        Twitter: WendyBrandes
        says:

        Hey, Melanie. I assure you I’m not disheartened and I’m working on as many new designs as I can afford to do (there are four finished that I haven’t revealed yet and four long-term projects still underway). And when I’m done with those and hopefully have some more money, I have dozens of other ideas. That’s not a problem. I am quite entertained by this situation and don’t think it’s a waste of energy to put my foot down and say I’m not the one they should mess with. No need to be a doormat and make their lives easier!

  2. Megan Mae says:

    This right here is why I:
    -stopped buying cheap shoes
    -thrift almost all of my clothing (only really financially feasible thing)
    -only wear gifted jewelry

    I don’t wear a lot of jewelry due to my lifestyle, however if I do decide to buy jewelry, it has come from artists. People who make the things with their own hands. So far, I’ve only made small purchases, but I am badgering the hubs for a Wendy B design to wear with my wedding band (hopefully for our year 5 anniversary!).

    I’ve always felt like jewelry is something that should be sentimental – and these topshop pieces do not inspire that. They look cheap, I imagine they feel cheap/smell cheap, and react with skin in the worst way.

    I know it must be exciting for teens/tweens these days to find cheap, “affordable” options to feel fun and fashionable, but the real cost that these fast-fashion businesses is a bigger cost than the customers realize.

    I hope you get it sorted out, sooner rather than later. However in the mean time, I hope social media continues to send people your way and inspires them to purchase from you.

  3. stacy says:

    I really hate Topshop.
    You need a new set of rings… DFWM!! Let’s call it the Topshop Lmtd. Edition “Don’t Fuck With Me” rings!

  4. mystyle says:

    Hi my dear! Looking forward to getting mine, will be in touch with sizing soon! xxx

  5. Samantha
    Twitter: bougtalk
    says:

    I agree about topshop jewelry, very cheap feeling and smelling- you could get better for the money. Or save up as you say…

    Keep us all informed about topshop. I’m boycotting them personally. x

    • WendyB
      Twitter: WendyBrandes
      says:

      All the jewelry I bought for nothing back in the ’80s is nicer than what I saw in that store. So I guess I should stop saying that I would have loved Topshop when I was 13…because I have my purchases from 30 years ago and I think I had better taste even then!

  6. You go, Wendy. I feel so special in my G ring, and the Topshop ripoffs look crappy.

    If I add an “O”, I could have “GO”, which would have been very handy in my youth for the persistent barflies.

    • WendyB
      Twitter: WendyBrandes
      says:

      If I start selling “Go,” I’ll give you full credit! ;-)
      It certainly would be, um, handy for young ladies with undesirable suitors.

  7. Kelly says:

    I adore ure blog hunnie xoxoxo

  8. lisa says:

    I’m totally SMH at Topshop.

  9. HelOnWheels
    Twitter: HelOnWheels
    says:

    I adore the swear rings I purchased from you. They are unique and fun and a conversation piece. On top of that, they are of the highest quality silver jewelry I own. Everybody that’s ever tried them on or held them has said the same thing. That’s the difference between buying from you (and other small designers) and buying something that’s globally mass produced. Well, that and the fact that you get something very unique…until some d*ckhead high street giant steals from your favorite designers!

    I will continue to save up for your jewelry, Wendy, because I love it and it’s worth the wait and the money! (Maybe one day I will win the lottery and buy both the Onyx Skull and the Marie Antoinette rings, both of which I’ve coveted, dreamed about, and over which I have drooled for YEARS!!)

    PS – my spam filter word was “coldbeer”! I think I will!!

  10. Pearl Westwood
    Twitter: pearlwestwood
    says:

    Urgh why can’t they just stick to their damn word! You are so right about quality, I absolutely love my exclamation ring, every one demands I hand it over for them to try on as soon as they see it! The quality is beautiful and for such a small amount of money, it is a piece of jewellery I will have forever, also the fact I can alter the size is perfect for my rheumatoid arthritis. Did I show you the photo’s I took of it: http://fashionpearlsofwisdom.c.....ation.html
    I am now saving up for my next Wendy B purchase x

  11. Bastards! I won’t be buying from Topshop, or promoting them on my own blog in any way, until they give you a major public apology and a wad of cash as compensation.

  12. frances c says:

    Good for you but the benevolent P Green could well afford to pay you a design fee (seeing as he pays no UK tax on Arcadia profits). I hope you succeed in getting an apology and your legal costs back at least.
    Let’s face it the Topshop ‘design team’ just trawl through other peoples work, knock it out and make the big cash themselves whilst killing off a unique look that came from a small business or an individual.
    They could have approached you to do it as one off concession or collaboration but that would dent P Greens uber profits and we can’t have him going short of £££ to spend on more yachts and stuff.