Extending Monopoly Power to Your Wardrobe

Eric Wilson reports on a firm that brings your today’s latest fashions at more reasonable prices:

Buyers from the nation’s leading department stores will sift through the work of hundreds of designers as another Fashion Week begins today in New York, seeking the looks that shoppers will want to wear next spring. Seema Anand will be looking for the ones they want right now. Ms. Anand, who will be following the catwalk shows through photographs posted instantly on the Web, is a designer few would recognize, even though she has dressed more people than most of the famous designers exhibiting a few blocks from her garment district studio, under the tents in Bryant Park. “If I see something on Style.com, all I have to do is e-mail the picture to my factory and say, ‘I want something similar, or a silhouette made just like this,’ ” Ms. Anand said. The factory, in Jaipur, India, can deliver stores a knockoff months before the designer version. Ms. Anand compared a gold sequined tunic she created with a nearly identical one by the designer Tory Burch. Bloomingdale’s had asked her to make several hundred of the dresses for its private label Aqua, she said. The Tory Burch dress sells for $750; Ms. Anand’s is $260. Ms. Anand’s company, Simonia Fashions, is one of hundreds that make less expensive clothes like this body shapewear inspired by other designers’ runway looks, for trendy stores like Forever 21 and retail behemoths like Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s.

It would seem some in the industry don’t like competition and what the Federal government to outlaw it:

A debate is raging in the American fashion industry over such designs. Copying, which has always existed in fashion, has become so pervasive in the Internet era it is now the No. 1 priority of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, which is lobbying Congress to extend copyright protection to clothing. Nine senators introduced a bill last month to support the designers. An expert working with the designers’ trade group estimates that knockoffs represent a minimum of 5 percent of the $181 billion American apparel market.

Dean Baker notes:

While designers would predictably be unhappy with this situation, the availability of low cost copies of designer fashions would lead to substantial economic gains, just as lowering tariffs leads to economic gains.