The rise of technology in fashion is a double-edged sword. It gives anyone who wants it behind the scenes access and connects them to runway collections, models, and designers in ways that were once unimaginable. But these benefits do not come without a cost: as access to collections becomes more widespread and immediate, fast fashion retailers are given a monumental head start in terms of getting their copies on the racks long before a designer can (and by now, we all know the array of human rights abuses and significant health an safety concerns that come hand-in-hand with fast fashion).
That being said, we’ve recently learned of something that makes technology look like fashion’s protector, and it comes in the form of an update to Brides magazine’s Wedding Genius app, which hopes to assist a bride in making sure she is buying the real thing.
As you know, counterfeiting in fashion is a really big business. And unfortunately, while a bride is thinking about cakes and caterers, she also needs to think carefully about where she is buying her dress, because the wedding market is in no way exempt from the reach of counterfeits and knockoffs. The New York Times recently reported that in 2012 alone, as many as 600,000 wedding dresses were purchased online from unauthorized retailers overseas, which represents hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue. This is paired with the rise in affordable (yay!) wedding dress options - some of which come by way of fast fashion retailers, which unfortunately are not a pretty pictures.
This also means that hundreds of thousands of brides received a poorly made dress that only bore a resemblance to the designer dress they had in mind. When Elizabeth Dye, a wedding dress designer based out of Portland, Oregon, discovered that one of her dresses, which retails for $1,300, was being sold online for a mere $188, she decided to order one to find out exactly what a bride-to-be was going to get. What she discovered was that instead of the French Chantilly lace and English tulle that she uses when creating her dresses, the dress she received in the mail was made of stiff synthetic fabric that reeked of chemicals. “There’s no soul, there’s no heart in it,” she said.
This update to the Wedding Genius app, called “Brides Against Counterfeiting”, hopes to change the damage that counterfeit and knockoff dresses have on not only a designer, but also a bride. With the “Brides Against Counterfeiting” feature, a bride simply has to locate and scan the BRIDES Authentic Manufacturer or Retailer seal on a participating manufacturers’ or retailers’ website in order to find out if the site is an authorized retailer or not. And, according to Brides VP-publisher Michelle Myers, "This initiative will also protect our advertisers by pinpointing and reporting counterfeiters who are illegally marketing brand names online.”
We couldn’t be more thrilled about this new component to the Wedding Genius app. No bride hopes to order a dress online based on the image of a real designer dress only to receive a low quality look-alike and no designer wants a bride to receive one of these low quality look-alikes and assume that the designer had any hand in it. What’s even more promising, though, is the thought that this technology will spread to more than just the wedding dress arena. Perhaps at some point in the future, many websites will offer an option to verify that a retailer is authorized to sell a particular brand, thus creating a more informed consumer while also enabling investigators to locate unauthorized retailers just by scanning some portion of a website.
Jennifer Williams is a recent law student grad, who writes about fashion, the legal avenues available for protecting it, and the ways in which the laws are falling short. For more from Jennifer, visit her blog, StartFashionPause, or follow her on Twitter.