France has always been keen on their fashion industry, The Fédération Française De La Couture, du Prêt-à-Porter des Couturiers et des Créateurs (beginning in 1868 for couture and later expanding into ready-to-wear and menswear in the 70’s) has kept their hands active in government to protect and serve what is one of the country’s most cherished industries. Among their many services they give mentoring to young designers, tax breaks to companies that source from French mills, and most importantly, provide legal protection for intellectual property and designs. In a culture that has developed such an affinity for clothes, its creativity and its craft, copying is not tolerated.
Michelle Obama has drawn attention to American fashion, her wardrobe garnering an audience beyond the magazine editors and fashionistas. She’s given presence to an industry, that although is one of largest in the country, not always enjoys the same consideration as others more publicly discussed (and currently problematic). The CFDA has seized on this and along with Jason Wu, Maria Cornejo, Narciso Rodriguez, and Thakoon Panichgul has lobbied for American designers, testifying before lawmakers.
The issue is regarding copyrights and the lack of them to protect the designs and ideas of designers. It’s a pressing issue for smaller labels like the ones Michelle Obama wears, they are the victims of larger mass oriented companies that steal their designs and benefit from their creativity. If the bill that is in works goes through it would mean a monumental change for designers here in the U.S. and shake up an ecology where knock-offs and repetition has become the rule rather than the exception. And Michelle Obama’s influence on American fashion may result in something far greater than just a trend for color and prints.
You can read more on this news bite in today’s WWD.