“In most countries, there are legal requirements around labelling of clothing disclosing the fabric composition, how to care for the item and the whereabouts of manufacture. There can be further transparency for the consumer by telling the story of the design - is the item designed by or merely selected by the brand?” she explained.
Szentiványi was speaking in the wake of the controversy involving eminent New Zealand fashion designer Adrian Hailwood whose dresses and gowns have been worn by actresses, musicians, journalists and even New Zealand’s former prime minister Jacinda Ardern.
Hailwood has been the subject of talks lately. The reason: Duplicates of several Hailwood apparel had been found in fast fashion outlets and on Alibaba and Amazon, among others, being sold by Chinese manufacturers. These include the very dresses worn by the celebrities and some pieces included in Hailwood’s Summer 2023 collection. The clothes found in these platforms and fast fashion outlets carry much lower price tags.
One of these fast fashion labels, Urban Revivo, is investigating this matter of duplicate designs on the grounds of intellectual property breach.
According to an article in Stuff, Hailwood said he bought “pre-made designs” from manufacturers in China and then put his label on them. Initially, he had said his designs were original but had been “leaked.”
“When a known designer puts his name on clothing he has not designed, he is misleading their customers,” said Szentiványi.
“A brand might, for example, work with a company that provides a label sew in service in which the brand takes an item like a T-shirt and adds value to it by having their own design printed on the T-shirt. The consumer would not be confused by this as the design is done by the brand. This is very different from the scenario when you have a brand that is the name of an actual living person seemingly selecting items from a wholesale warehouse,” she added.
“When you have an eponymous brand such as Adrian Hailwood, the consumer will rightly think that Adrian has designed the item and overseen all aspects of the manufacture of it. The consumer will have bought into the ethos of the designer and have expectations around the sourcing of the fabrics, methods and location of manufacture,” noted Szentiványi.
The dress worn by Ardern for The Australian Women’s Weekly in particular was also being sold on Alibaba by the British brand Solace London. According to the article, photos of said dress were first uploaded in Solace London’s website in February 2021. Images of Hailwood’s dress came out in September 2022.
- Espie Angelica A. de Leon