Racked.com published an interesting article this week, suggesting: “Maybe the new path to fashion stardom is cool copycatting.” The site’s columnist Lauren Sharkey is referencing Gucci’s recent partnership with Brooklyn-based artist, Trevor “Trouble” Andrew, who may be better known as GucciGhost. He is the force behind the graffiti-laden bags and garments in the Florence-based house’s Fall/Winter 2016 collection.
As Racked’s article notes: “Andrew’s logo obsession led him to create his very own insignia: a cartoon Gucci-eyed ghost that would be drawn wherever he could lay his hands on. ‘There’s a lot of power behind logos. They represent beauty and greatness,’ he recently told WWD. This understanding of branding and influence came from Andrew’s entry into skate culture.” Gucci’s creative director, Alessandro Michele, told WWD: “I saw the way Trevor was using the symbol of the company and I thought it was quite genius. It’s completely different than the idea of copying. It’s the idea that you try to [take to] the street the symbols of the company.”
Aside from the problematic elements implicit in its title, the article does, in fact, touch on a number of interesting points – some of which are more merited than others. For instance, while Gucci decided to take Andrew under its wing, so to speak, this season, tha approach is likely not the norm for a design house of Gucci’s size and stature. As Racked noted, “Chanel issues lawsuits for misuse of its name, the new Gucci blares it for all to see,” writes Sharkey. And to an extent, this is accurate, but not entirely so. It seems the F/W 2016 collaboration is an exception to the rule, as Gucci – like Chanel – does not take kindly to the unauthorized use of its name and/or logo.
Over the past several years, Gucci has initiated an array of litigation based on trademark infringement and counterfeiting grounds. It sued the heck out of Guess, as you likely remember. And more recently filed suit against members-only e-commerce site, Beyond the Rack. To say that Gucci is going to welcome copycats on any sort of a regular basis is almost certainly not going to be the case.
Moreover, it is worth noting that attempting to follow in Andrew’s footsteps may very well land you in court. As Racked notes in its article: “He even profits off of the Gucci logo through an online store selling GucciGhost apparel and accessories, including several hand-painted vintage pieces that seem to sum up the anarchy of youth.” Profiting off of the Gucci logo? That can probably also be coined trademark infringement and that is something to which design houses do not take kindly.
So, before we get ahead of ourselves, do remember that design houses logos' and other trademarks are not necessarily fair game. While there are certainly legal arguments that artists can assert when faced with trademark allegations (parody has been a popular one), they tend to be rather difficult prove. And remember: one brand's embrace of an artist's use of its intellectual property does not mean that same brand will overlook potential instances of trademark infringement and/or dilution coming from anyone else.