Susan Scafidi seems genuinely shocked — no, I mean, genuinely! — over this comment by Ralph Lauren:
When the New York Times‘ Eric Wilson listened to Oprah Winfrey and Ralph Lauren chat for charity, one exchange stood out:
“How do you keep reinventing?”
“You copy,” he said. “Forty-five years of copying, that’s why I’m here.”
Of course, everyone knows that the signature looks of the Ralph Lauren family of brands are inspired by classic Americana — with an occasional detour around the globe — but coming from the guy who was on the losing end of the best-known design piracy case of the late 20th century, the admission strikes a chord.
Honestly, honesty? Now, when the U.S. may be on the brink of finally passing a law that, while it wouldn’t come anywhere near the level of the French protection that wrangled Ralph, would have a similar effect in some cases?
Oh, that law!
Well, a litigation dust-up here and there notwithstanding, Ralph can afford to be honest, honestly. I think, indeed, Mr. Lifshitz is referring not to copying other proprietary designs, but to that talent that turned him into a gazillionaire: Mastering the art of assimilating and replicating the look and feel not, with all due respect, of “classic Americana” but a very focused upper-crust Northeastern WASP sub culture and making it his own.
I when I was in college, I observed plenty of Jewish kids from backgrounds like mine, but a generation or two deeper entrenched in assimilation, do this on a personal level. Some pulled the copying it off, some didn’t. (I mainly went in the other direction.) Ralph went beyond accessorizing social
climbing mobility and ethnic metamorphosis to selling them. And he did it brilliantly, tastefully and very, very profitably.
He’s a real gem. Why should he lie about “stealing”?
The better question is a question on the one Susan asks at the end of her article: “Now, when the U.S. may be on the brink of finally passing a law that, while it wouldn’t come anywhere near the level of the French protection that wrangled Ralph, would have a similar effect in some cases?
Of course it would. Absolutely. But the real question is not what would effect would the substantive provisions of the IDPPPA have had, in the abstract. It’s what effect would the cost of the IDPPPA have had on the young House of Lauren. Read More…