Distress Over This Dress

Jul 14, 2008 by

No, this is not another post about the legendary Magazine Street Transvestite Crime Ring ™, that is covered elsewhere (at the moment). Instead this is to comment on what appears to be the theft of a dress design. Listen my children and you shall hear the story of a wholesale client that wanted more.

Trashy Diva is a great little clothing store on Magazine St., down near the big Rue De La Course coffee house. It has been around for years and is respected in the local community, I know that because I live nearby. Recently they discovered that a dress of their design had been duplicated by one of their wholesalers with no credit (or percentage) posted.

From the Trashy Diva MySpace:

Yesterday, a customer brought in a photo of a dress (printed out from one of our regular wholesale customers UNIQUE-VINTAGE.COM.-Now, if you haven’t heard of them, then no suprise. They are a generic non-offensive site, but not a site exploding with any original personality ). Anyway, this photo is of one of my dresses-but in a different color. The customer was wondering if we got some new colors instock in the popular “Trixie” dress. After a bit of investigation we find out that this website has actually taken one of our dresses to a factory and had the dress copied and is selling the dress as their design under their label on their website. WHAT!!?!

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I have been continually manufacturing this ORIGINAL design since at least 2002! I have countless hours and dollars investing in the continual perfection of this dress pattern. The dress backstory should anyone question the origin: This dress was first made in approx 2002 in a silk ‘ballerina print’ in black and white. This first version was modeled after a vintage Alfred Shaheen style dress. It featured a removable strap skinny neck strap, a longer circle skirt, a bullet bra inner bust, a much drapier outerbust and all over different specs for the garment pieces. The dress was lovely, but has been reinvented from this vintage original dress and repatterened many times to get our now PERT short and sweet -modern busted-wide neck tie -shorter skirt version that has been adapted to fit a variety of heights through a rounded underbust/waist cut and even fuller circle skirt. I have hand drafted and adjusted this pattern with love up every season from 2002 until the summer of 2007 when our cotton dresses first appeared on the market. It is but a shaddow of our 2002 version (and of the vintage version) and has been uniquely our own for many years. This 2007 version is what I find shown and copied on this website. Not a Shaheen dress, not a Hawaiian style dress, not a new original that looked similar, not a misc. copy of a vintage style, but MY DRESS that I know backwards and forwards! Why did this greedy company copy my dress?

A wholesaler, located in Burbank, CA, who seems to be ripping off a business in New Orleans? Charming. Of course I could not just start this post on the hearsay of the Internet, that way lies confusion and mountains of excrement. So I surfed on by the wholesaler’s website, took down the number and gave them a call. I told the sales girl that I would like to be piped upstairs to speak with someone for an article I am doing. Moments later I had Katie on the line. Since her info appears as the contact on the site I can only assume she is the owner.

“I’m calling to ask a few questions for an article I am doing. In particular I have some questions about Item #8002. There are a number of articles turning up on the web that state this design is not yours, but actually that of a small New Orleans based business called Trashy Diva. I would like your comments.”

The next sentence was delivered in a voice that had chilled quite a few degrees from the perky PR voice that she answered with. Obviously angry she simply said, ” I do not wish to speak with you,” and hung up. Thank you Katie, your silence speaks volumes.

“Its just a dress design, whats all the hoo-ha about?” The hoo-ha is because creators being able to make a living off of their works is an important issue to me. As someone who after two decades of work am only just recently able to make ends meet exclusively through my chosen craft, I am massively sympathetic to those others who have also become able to do so. Candace Gwinn is such a creator.

When I phoned Trashy Diva, they did want to talk to me. General Manager and COO Angela Raney called me back within the hour as a matter of fact. When asked about her initial phone call to Unique-Vintage Angela told me that “at first she was furious at me for daring to tell her what to sell, but she did not deny the source of the design.”

Ms. Raney told me that the original dress was patterned after an Alfred Shaheen original, but had undergone several iterations of change since then, including darts at the top and a curve in the waistband that was not there before.

Veronica Russell, a noted designer and actress as well as part of the New Orleans Bingo Show and the BERG offers her perspective as someone who worked directly on the development of the dress for Trashy Diva:

Our history of this dress: Several years ago, we had a vintage 1950’s hawaiian strapless dress. might have been an Alfred Shaheen design, but I don’t recall. We adapted that dress to a more contemporary and dressier fit with the following alterations: We re-designed the entire bodice, as the original had a built-in 1950’s bullet bra, and we wanted it to have a less extreme shape that would work with contemporary strapless bras, we also lengthened the bodice somewhat, as it was shorter waisted than modern dresses. We shortened the hem, as we preferred something less overwhelming for petite girls than a mid-calf circle skirt, and most tellingly, we added the wide sash halter ties to the neckline. The original had a narrow button-off optional neckstrap. I can speak authoritatively on these changes, because this was early on in the evolution of the Trashy Diva clothing line, when I was still doing the lion’s share of the sewing and patterning. To put it succinctly: I did all the original alterations from the vintage dress to the contemporary dress that Trashy Diva sells today as the “Trixie Dress,” and every single one of those alterations appears in the knockoff, so for this wholesale client to respond, as she did to Angie, that she had her own Alfred Shaheen dress copied and yet it somehow ended up with all the exact changes that ours has is patently absurd.

Now, there are those that might argue that fashion is nothing but a series of folks copying other folks’ styles, and yes, even we used another vintage dress that already existed as our jumping-off point. My response would be: Yes, there are lots of knockoffs in the fashion world, and I guess it was only a matter of time, but A) we chose a style that was NO LONGER IN PRODUCTION, therefore we were not impacting anyone’s current fashion line or sales, and B) Don’t bite the hand that feeds you! This client used to buy tons of stuff from us, and we know we have a pretty well-established and loyal fan base. Now she is no longer welcome to carry any of our clothing, and we are making this information public not only to all our customers, but to other small independent designers as well, lest they be likewise victimized by this unscrupulous businesswoman.

Angela Raney said that over time Unique-Vintage has purchased about a thousand Trixie dresses from Trashy Diva. Earlier the company had approached Trashy Diva about an exclusive on the dress, an exclusive that was denied. It was after this that the first instance of copies was noted.

I would like to close by noting that Trashy Diva’s reply to the situation is that they have pulled the Trixie Dress from their wholesale offerings and are selling it directly to the public at the wholesale price.
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Go to Trashy Diva’s website to order.

HumidCity has no business or sponsorship relations with Trashy Diva. We just hate to see creators experience things like this.

There, that should amuse everybody. Loki doing a fashion post…

-Loki, HumidCity Founder

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