Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Good news for the alert customers/readers who recently tipped me off to some knockoffs of my swear rings! The peeps at e-commerce retailer Nasty Gal have followed in the footsteps of Patricia Field and pulled a copy of my swear rings from their website. It seemed to be the same product Patricia Field got from from a Los Angeles-based vendor and, of course, I’m trying to get to the vendor to try to cut it off at the source.
I think Nasty Gal has gotten more sensitive to the issue of carrying knockoffs of small designers’ work after some recent experiences. The rings were removed quite quickly after my intrepid employee Eryn found the right person to speak to in the legal department. That took a little doing, however. A note was sent to a general email address, then there was a call to the customer-service center, and eventually Eryn got to legal, at which point there was a little back and forth about the right solution. The ability to purchase the rings was disabled immediately and there was no way to navigate to or search for the product on the site but a direct link to the page was still live. Once the page itself was taken down, I was totally happy.
In other words, it does take persistence, so if you’re a designer, don’t give up. Admittedly, there is a cost to that. Another, smaller retailer required six phone calls (including voicemails left) after an initial email. There were a lot of things Eryn could be doing instead of spending so much time following up on this one issue. Time is money.
Speaking of money, if you enlarge the screenshots above, you can see the price difference between Nasty Gal and the other boutique: $7. That’s huge! Consumers think luxury goods have crazy-ass markups, but that’s not always the case. My prices, for instance, reflect a keystone markup at best — considered the minimum amount you need to stay in business. (I also have loss leaders.) But when I saw the accounting for a company that was selling a knockoff of one of my necklaces, it turned out that the necklace being sold for a bargain $30 was being made for a mere 30 cents. I’d say 100 times cost is a crazy-ass markup. Having seen that and considering the lowest retail price for this knockoff ring set, I’d guess that the cost of manufacturing all four rings seen in the screenshots above is less than I would pay, overseas, for a single ring in the same material. That would be due to the low quantity minimum production order I’d be placing if I bought for my own inventory. I’d have to place a Walmart-level order to be competitive price-wise. (An example of a “small” Walmart order from a 2005 story in the Wall Street Journal is 48,000 units. My biggest production ever has been 100 units in silver. My minimum production for brass, like the knockoff rings, would be 280 units.) And when I make a single sterling-silver letter here in New York, the cost for that ONE ring is a multiple of the retail price for all four costume jewelry rings here. Lower quantity = higher cost, always.
As I’ve said before, I don’t own the concepts of word or letter jewelry, or the concept of censored swear words, so I wouldn’t have a complaint if the companies manufacturing these weren’t using a font I created specifically for my letter jewelry. Get your own damn font! There are hundreds to choose from. Jebus, y’all are lazy! Another issue that sticks in my mind is that I spent years pitching my swear rings to retailers, starting in 2008. I was angling either for a big order or a collaboration that could bring the price down. Everyone who took a look — and not many were willing to look — thought the design was too edgy. Years later, the same look is “way cool.” Maybe I was just too early. You know, being too early can be as bad or worse than being late in fashion. I’ve said this before, but I always envision a train station. It doesn’t matter if you’re two hours early or five minutes late — either way, the train ain’t there! So that could be it. (Seriously, try not to be first in business. It’s better to be third or fourth. Refine what other people are doing, so consumers will be comfortable with the concept by the time you come along with a superior version. Unless your last name is Prada. In that case, do whatever the hell you want.) Another possibility is that something that seems scary when a lone designer comes to you with one sample is no longer frightening when a vendor you’ve bought from before has already invested in making thousands, or tens of thousands, of the design. If the vendor felt confident enough to invest that money, it must be guaranteed to sell, right? So you buy it. It’s a bit of a self-fulfilling prophesy.
Anyway, props to Nasty Gal and the other boutique for doing the right thing. Readers, feel free to let me know if you see this or another knockoff using my font anywhere else, because I’m willing to go after all of them. It’s a Sisyphean task, but it’s worth doing.