From Fashion Brand to Artwork: Divergent Thinking, Copyright Law, and Branding
- Branding vs. Cultural Heritage (Hakala et al. 2011; Amer 2018; Nobre and Sousa 2022): A brand is more than just a logo or a name. It represents a company’s values, culture, and history. Companies often use cultural heritage as part of their brand identity, drawing on the unique characteristics of cultural origins to create a distinct brand image. For example, a company that is based in a particular region may use local cultural symbols, language, or traditions to create a distinct and memorable brand.1
- Cultural Heritage vs. Copyright (Corbett and Boddington 2011): Cultural heritage is often subject to intellectual property law. Copyright protects original works of authorship, including literary, musical, and artistic works that did not fall into the public domain (author’s life plus 70 years). This means that cultural artefacts, such as traditional songs, dances, or crafts, cannot be copyrighted by their creators or owners. Ownership rights help to protect the cultural heritage (Corbett 2012) of a community or objects belonging to individuals, preventing unauthorised use or exploitation of cultural works.
- Branding and Copyright (Matenaer 2023; Kiser 2016; Bomsel 2013): Branding often involves the creation and use of copyrighted works, such as logos, slogans, or marketing materials. Companies must ensure that their branding activities do not infringe on the copyrights or trademarks of others. This means that they may need to obtain permission or licenses to use copyrighted works or create their own original works that are not subject to copyright protection. Trademark law stays outside of the scope of this paper; however, it should be noted that copyright law offers protection for unregistered trademarks as well.
2. “I Am Not Commercial… I Am an Artist” (New York Times 1913): Fashion Brand Identity
3. ‘Artification’ of Fashion
4. Divergent Thinking in Copyright Law
5. Iconoclasm en vogue. The Louis Vuitton and Christian Louboutin Paradox
6. Dante’s Nine Circles of Hell: A Few Words about Art Appropriation
- “Campbell’s Soup Cans” by Andy Warhol (Sotheby’s 2018)—This artwork consists of a series of paintings featuring images of Campbell’s Soup cans. Warhol’s use of the Campbell’s Soup label was considered an act of appropriation, as he used a pre-existing commercial image as the basis for his artwork. The Campbell Soup Company did not initially approve of Warhol’s use of their trademark and threatened legal action, but ultimately did not pursue a lawsuit.
- “The Last Supper” by Rene Magritte (The Menil Collection 2023)—In this artwork, Magritte appropriates Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting “The Last Supper” by replacing the figures with blank white sheets. This act of appropriation raised questions about the limits of copyright protection for public domain artworks.
- “Untitled (Cowboy)” by Richard Prince (MET 2023a)—This artwork consists of a photograph of a cowboy taken from a Marlboro cigarette advertisement, which Prince rephotographed and enlarged. The photographer who took the original Marlboro photo sued Prince for copyright infringement, but the case was settled out of court.
- “After Walker Evans” by Sherrie Levine (MET 2023b)—In this artwork, Levine reproduces photographs taken by the American photographer Walker Evans and presents them as her own work. Levine’s appropriation of Evans’ photographs raised questions about originality and authorship in contemporary art.
- Upcycling (Aus et al. 2021): upcycling involves taking existing materials, garments, or other objects and transforming them into new, higher-value products. This can involve repurposing vintage or secondhand clothing, using leftover materials from manufacturing processes, or creatively reimagining outdated or otherwise discarded items.
- Logomania (Cochrane 2018): logomania refers to the trend of prominently featuring logos or brand names on clothing and accessories, often to the point of excess. This trend has been appropriated and subverted by artists and designers who use logos and branding in unexpected or ironic ways, or who create their own logos to comment on consumer culture.
- Collage (Vaughan 2005): collage is a common technique in appropriation art and can be used in fashion to combine disparate elements into a new and unexpected whole. This can involve cutting and pasting images, fabrics, and other materials together, or using digital tools to create collages that blur the boundaries between traditional media.
- Deconstruction (Kanters 2018): deconstruction involves taking apart and reassembling existing garments or materials in unconventional ways. This can result in designs that challenge traditional ideas about fit, form, and function, and that create unexpected silhouettes and shapes.
- Subversive embroidery (Parker 2010): embroidery has been used in fashion for centuries, but some contemporary designers have used it in subversive ways, incorporating political messages, irreverent humour, or unexpected imagery into their designs.
- Subversive branding (Kuanr et al. 2022): subversive branding involves taking elements of traditional branding and using them in unexpected or subversive ways. This can involve creating new logos or slogans that challenge consumer culture, or using familiar branding elements in new and unexpected ways.
- Remixing (Lascity 2019): remixing involves taking existing designs or motifs and reinterpreting them in new and different ways. This can involve combining different styles or eras, incorporating unexpected materials or techniques, or subverting traditional notions of gender, race, or class.
- Remixing cultural references (Knobel and Lankshea 2008): fashion designers often draw inspiration from different cultures and historical periods, but some designers take this a step further by combining cultural references in unexpected ways, creating designs that challenge traditional notions of authenticity and cultural appropriation.
- Sampling (Sloboda et al. 2001): sampling involves taking elements from different sources and remixing them to create something new. In fashion, this can involve taking fabrics, prints, or motifs from different cultures or time periods and combining them in new and unexpected ways.
- Photocollage (Diakopoulos and Essa 2005): photocollage is a technique that involves combining photographs or photographic elements into a single image. In fashion, this can involve taking images of different garments, fabrics, or accessories and combining them in new and unexpected ways to create a new design.
- Print mixing (Golobic et al. 2019): print mixing is the practice of combining different patterns and prints in a single garment or outfit. This can involve mixing prints from different cultures, time periods, or design traditions, and can result in designs that challenge traditional ideas about colour, shape, and texture.
- Found object fashion (Zborowska 2017): found object fashion involves using nontraditional materials, such as recycled or repurposed objects, in fashion design. This can involve using materials such as plastic bottles, old clothing, or even trash to create new and innovative designs that challenge traditional notions of luxury and materiality.
7. Botticelli’s Venus, a Bone of Contention between Jean Paul Gautier and Uffizi Gallery
8. Legal Discussion
“it should be emphasized upfront that this is of key importance for the present discussion, as it also includes the right to dispose of the appearance of monuments, which is closely related to their photographic recording. Incidentally, it should also be emphasized that this refers only to the appearance of things that are directly and visually perceptible, which should by no means be equated with the concept of “image.” This concept under Polish Law equates to “personal image” and as such belongs to the category of moral rights and is reserved exclusively for natural persons”.
- Leiber v. Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. (2008)17—fashion designer Judith Leiber sued Warner Bros. for copyright infringement after the company used images of her handbags in the movie “The Devil Wears Prada.” Warner Bros. argued that its use of the images was fair use, but the court found that the use was not transformative and therefore did not qualify as fair use.
- Rentmeester v. Nike, Inc. (2015)18—photographer Jacobus Rentmeester sued Nike for copyright infringement after the company used one of his photographs of Michael Jordan in a Jumpman logo. Nike argued that its use of the photograph was transformative and, therefore, a fair use, but the court found that the use was not sufficiently transformative and therefore did not qualify as fair use.
- Louis Vuitton Malletier, S.A. v. Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. (2012)19—luxury fashion brand Louis Vuitton sued Warner Bros. for trademark infringement after the company used a knockoff version of a Louis Vuitton handbag in the movie “The Hangover Part II.” Warner Bros. argued that its use of the bag was fair use, but the court found that the use was not sufficiently transformative and therefore did not qualify as fair use.
- Morris v. Young (2010)20—artist Dan Eldon’s family sued retailer Anthropologie and artist Samantha Margaret Young for copyright infringement after they used images from Eldon’s journals on clothing and other merchandise. Young argued that her use of the images was transformative and, therefore, a fair use, but the court found that the use was not transformative enough and therefore did not qualify as fair use.
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
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As noted “it has been referred that a branding assists to upgrade the quality of the heritage destination; to form socially a linkage between the destination stakeholders; and to create the additional distribution channels. Thus, a branding adds a new symbolic added-value associating the commercial purpose with the real function of a cultural heritage”.
Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, 9 September 1886, as revised at Paris on 24 July 1971 and amended in 1979; (Díaz 2010).
The EU copyright law consists of 13 directives and 2 regulations, harmonising the essential rights of authors, performers, producers and broadcasters; (European Commission 2023).
(en. embroiderer; a person who embroiders); embroidery is the skilled technique of embellishing and decorating a garment by hand, using stitches in silks and yarns and sometimes including sequins, beads, feathers and pearls. Professional embroiderers are masters of detail, applying a range of traditional stitching techniques to produce intricate designs on clothing, accessories, and home décor items; see more: (Mauriès 2020; Pale 2018; Albertini 2021).
Judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union (Third Chamber) of 1 December 2011, in case C–145/10, Eva-Maria Painer, ECLI:EU:C:2013:138.
Iconoclasm literally means “image breaking” and refers to a recurring historical impulse to break or destroy images for religious or political reasons. For example, in ancient Egypt, the carved visages of some pharaohs were obliterated by their successors; during the French Revolution, images of kings were defaced. In the context of the Joan Mitchell vs. Louis Vuitton case, it may be considered iconoclastic to use images commercially without the consent of the copyright owner; see more: (Gamboni 2007; Paic 2021; Françon 1968).
TGI Paris, 9 mars 2017, n° 15/01086.
Cass. civ. 1ère, 5 mai 2015, «Klasen», n° 13-27391.
Le code de la propriété intellectuelle est un document du droit français, créé par la loi no92-597 du 1er juillet 1992 relative au code de la propriété intellectuelle, publié au Journal officiel du 3 juillet 1992.
Judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union of 3 September 2014, in case C-201/13 Deckmyn, ECLI:EU:C:2014:2132.
Article 29 of PCL; Law on Copyright and Related Rights of 4 February 1994 (consolidated text J.L. of 2017, item 880, as amended), hereinafter: PCL.
Fair Use Doctrine, 17 U.S.C.S. § 107 (1977).
Blanch v. Koons, 467 F.3d 244, 246 (2d Cir. 2006).
Cariou v. Prince, 714 F.3d 694 (2d Cir. 2013).
Graham v. Prince—265 F. Supp. 3d 366 (S.D.N.Y. 2017).
Warner Bros. Entm’t Inc. v. RDR Books—575 F. Supp. 2d 513 (S.D.N.Y. 2008).
Rentmeester v. Nike, Inc. —883 F.3d 1111 (9th Cir. 2018).
Louis Vuitton Malletier, S.A. v. Warner Bros. Ent., 1-11-CV-09436-ALC-HBP (S.D.N.Y.).
Morris v. Young—925 F. Supp. 2d 1078 (C.D. Cal. 2013).
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Jankowska, M.; Sorokowska, B. From Fashion Brand to Artwork: Divergent Thinking, Copyright Law, and Branding. Laws 2023, 12, 46. https://doi.org/10.3390/laws12030046
Jankowska M, Sorokowska B. From Fashion Brand to Artwork: Divergent Thinking, Copyright Law, and Branding. Laws. 2023; 12(3):46. https://doi.org/10.3390/laws12030046Chicago/Turabian Style
Jankowska, Marlena, and Berenika Sorokowska. 2023. "From Fashion Brand to Artwork: Divergent Thinking, Copyright Law, and Branding" Laws 12, no. 3: 46. https://doi.org/10.3390/laws12030046