Forever 21, the fast-fashion retailer known for trendy inexpensive clothing, and a record-holder for the number of lawsuits filed against them (some 50 in the last 3 years alone), is settling in for a show-down with Trovata. This time, the copyright infringement issues may have more far-reaching consequences. Currently, there are no exact laws for brands to take “inspiration” from designers (and designers from the streets, creative people, etc.), however you cannot duplicate exact graphics or prints on clothing. Trovata is going after Forever 21 this time based on stitching, fabric patterns, buttons, and other similar shapes and details.

Trovata’s lawsuit could push through what many designers have been trying to do for ages, which is to get the CDFA to pass the Design Policy and Prohibition Act which would protect basic designs of clothing and re-define what exactly “original” means. While on the one hand, designers are eagerly anticipating such a move, especially previous companies that have sued Forever 21 in the past such as Bebe, Anthropoligie, Diane Von Furstenburg, Harajuku Lovers, and others, for the consumers who love inexpensive, stylish, fast-changing inventory, this could be a serious blow to their wallets. It could also bring on a slew of other lawsuits against other fast-fashion retailers or retailers who tend to carry merchandise that traces similar roots to designers, ranging from H&M to Uniqlo to Target.

While obviously no one wants their designs ripped-off, especially if they can’t produce their products for stores until some 6 months later (which is why many runway shows and fashion weeks are slowly becoming obsolete when it comes to youth culture fashion), who’s to say where exactly even a designers’ inspiration comes from these days. Many times, especially today, trends are coming from the bottom-up, from the streets, and people are no longer taking cues from the top-down, or designers and fashion houses. The mash-up of styles in youth culture come from a mix of inspiration and always have because this generation expects far more consumer control than any previous. Thrift store finds combined with blogs from Sweden, street snap sites from Japan, favorite musicians, influential sports, lifestyle traits, and affordability all contribute to what the youth market finds fashionable and trendy.

In our new North American Youth Culture Study 2009, released on Monday, May 18, 2009, in the Fashion section it’s clear which brands and stores are moving forward and which are not and why. And the results are not always as the fashion industry may think, which makes knowing the important lifestyle traits of the market and the in-depth preferences -not just the top 10 brands or stores, but knowing who else is down the list, ranked 25th or 40th and then tracking what gender and age group connects with this brand or store and why.

For Forever 21, what plays out with Trovata will impact many trends in fashion in general especially if basic “inspirational” designs of clothing are re-defined. But who’s to say where designers get their inspiration and what’s borrowed or original in terms of shapes and stitching? Often many designers have the same “original” idea because of similar circumstances and timing. And who’s to say that consumers aren’t original themselves, and thus seek a combination of their own ideas of fashion and style at affordable prices? The outcome will also affect subscriber fashion sites that provide pictures and design replica patterns straight to manufacturers. Everyone wants a fair playing field, from the designers to the consumers, but it does bring up the question of why some brands and retailers can be so successful during a recession (and previously), while others stuck in more traditional fashion cycles and manufacturing procedures are suffering.

For more information about Label Networks’ North American Youth Culture Study 2009 and our Premium Subscription, email; (323) 630-4000.