Few brands have blown up quite a much in the past several years as Glossier. In the span of roughly three years Emily Weiss’ brand went from zero to international expansion. Born out of IntoTheGloss – a cosmetics blog that Weiss launched in 2010 – Glossier, a brand of beauty and skincare products, came to be in 2014. Weiss – a former Teen Vogue intern and thereafter, assistant to both W magazine and Vogue editors – managed to parlay her site’s enormous following into shoppers (of her brand) by doing what Into The Gloss did – and still does – best: Connecting directly with that audience, or talking to them, as opposed to talking at them, as Weiss has said.
The appeal of this millennial must-have brand is not lost on its beauty brand competitors … and as evidenced by at least one new offering from Zara, the Spanish fast fashion giant, known for its lookalike wares, might be trying to benefit from the known appeal of Glossier.
In addition to its super simple-yet-rather distinctive largely unbranded packaging, which has become a mainstay on social media, Glossier has rolled out its own brand vocabulary, whether it be the product names (i.e., “Wowder” aka powder, “Cloud paint” – that’s blush, “Balm Dotcom” lip balm, etc.) or the name, itself, which is based on the word “dossier,” and as Weiss has said, refers to the fact that "every product that we launch is a new chapter of what we're curating together with our customers.”
With these clever branding techniques comes legal protection, of course. Just as “Glossier” is protected by trademark law, so is “Cloud Paint,” “Wowder,” “Boy Brow,” etc. Also on that list of legally protected trademarks: “Glossier You,” for which Glossier just received a trademark registration last month for use on “perfumes; colognes; fragrances; eau de toilette; parfum; scented body spray.”
This is where Zara comes in. The fast fashion retailer is offering an interesting new t-shirt for sale, it’s $19.90 “slogan t-shirt.” The slogan it is referring to is a bold “New York” graphic, with smaller writing underneath that reads, “Glossier you 1960.”
How is that legal, you ask? Well, it might not be. While Glossier’s “Glossier You.” trademark registration does not extend to t-shirts, the beauty brand might be able to argue that because it sells some select merch, namely, its Glossier sweatshirt, that consumers might be confused by the Zara t-shirt. Confusion is the name of the game when it comes to trademark infringement, after all.
To make a successful claim of trademark infringement, Glossier would have to show that due to Zara’s use of its “Glossier You.” trademark, consumers are likely to be confused as to the source of the Zara tee. In plain English: Are consumers going to be unsure about who was involved in the creation of the allegedly infringing goods, – i.e., the Zara tee. Of interest for us is the fact that this notion of “confusion” firmly includes consumers erroneously thinking that a collaboration exists or that the rights holder (Glossier here) authorized the alleged infringer (Zara) to use its intellectual property.
As we noted at length in a recent article about Vetements and adidas, this might not be a tough thing, as given the rate at which so many brands collaborate.
Fast fashion copies do not tend to give rise to frequent legal action (more about that here). However, trademark law can prove useful for brands that have had their names or logos copied. With that in mind, I would not be surprised if this Zara tee disappears from its site in the not-too-distant future.