Hedi Slimane may have left Yves Saint Laurent in March with his successor, Anthony Vaccarello, slated to make his debut this evening, but that does not mean that the Paris-based design house is not still reaping some of the benefits of its polarizing former creative director. Case in point: the slew of new patents that YSL has been awarded since Slimane left for designs from his tenure at the famed fashion house.
Despite the fact that Slimane is listed as the “inventor” of each of the footwear and handbag designs protected by roughly 15 recently issued design patents – including but not limited to the Star-Embellished High-Top Leather Trainer, 40 Side Stars Ankle Boot, Studded Fringe Cat Boot, SANTIAG 40 Strap Boots, Signature Court Classic Sl/18H Fringed Sneaker, Monogram Cabas Bag, 5 Fragments Zip Pouch, Anita Fringe Crossbody Bag, Monogramme Bourse Mini Fringed Leather Bucket Bag – YSL owns them. This means that YSL – and YSL alone – has the exclusive right to manufacture and sell the designs at issue and the right to prevent others from making, using, or selling products that resemble the patented products.
A bit of background on design patents in fashion: Compared to both trademark and copyright protection, for which is relatively inexpensive to register, patents are costly; recent reports suggest a patent (and the corresponding legal fees) will cost you upwards of $10,000. The turnaround time – or the pendency, the term that refers to the time taken between the filing and issuance of a design patent – tends to be about 18 months, with some taking quite a bit longer. As such, we tend to see such protection sought only by brands for their staple items, and/or ones that they intend to push as hot selling items.
This seems to suggest one of two things for YSL: Either YSL is left with a somewhat bad investment (due to no real fault of its own) in designs that will be discontinued given its change in creative direction. It is worth noting that the house filed the majority of these patent applications in 2014 and 2015 long before rumors of Slimane’s potential departure began to swirl in early 2016. YSL could legally continue to market and sell these items, as it is the rightful owner of the design patents, and so, the other possibility is that YSL might keep these Slimane-era designs in stock even after Vaccarello makes his debut, given the rather significant investment it has made in them.
The latter option seems quite likely – at least to an extent – considering that a Slimane-designed bag appears in a recently released Saint Laurent campaign, which was produced under the direction of Vaccarello. Moreover, if we look to Gucci, another brand under the Kering umbrella with YSL, there are some clues. Since ousting Alessandro Michele’s predecessor, Frida Gianini, the brand has continued to stock an array of her designs despite a shift in executive-level talent and a very drastic shift in aesthetic.
BoF reported that late last year, in November “only 25 percent of the leather goods on the shop floor [were] from Michele’s collections, with the majority from previous creative director Frida Giannini’s reign. By February 2016, Michele’s share of what [CEO Marco] Bizzarri terms ‘the bulk of the business’ will rise to 50 to 60 percent.” As of this month, a spokesman from Gucci confirmed to TFL that “the most recent statement on this topic is from the Kering conference call held on July 28 about the Q2/H1 results, which held that the weight of the new collections, meaning Alessandro Michele’s collections, represented approximately 70 percent in Gucci Q2 revenues.”
While Saint Laurent’s General Counsel is unable to comment on creative decisions in relation to the house, she did note that Saint Laurent’s increasing success on a global scale has resulted in an elevated level of attention to intellectual property protections. She further noted that “IP protection is evidently key in such a challenging moment for our Brand.”