I saw this full page ad on the back cover of Women’s Wear Daily last week, which apparently was not so much an ad, but “a note of information and entreaty to fashion editors, advertisers, copywriters, and other well-intentioned mis-users” of the Chanel name.
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Basically, what Chanel is saying is that they don’t want people to use their name unless they’re speaking directly about Chanel or it’s products, and ending this “entreaty” to the very people who contribute to the growth of their business with a thinly veiled legal threat.
This might be an argument that makes sense for some brands, but Chanel is one of the most iconic fashion brands in the world. Their interlocking C logo and their signature pieces that they repeat over and over- quilted bags, jackets with logo buttons – scream to the world that they want you to associate them with certain things. And when you’ve achieved such iconic status, you’ve got to expect that people are going to talk about you. They’ll compare other things to you and notice when others are influenced by you. Have we learned nothing from Gossip Girl?
Obviously, Chanel thinks being mentioned in this way is diluting their brand, but in fact, when fashion editors say a cardigan is “Chanel-esque”, they’re building the Chanel brand, not the copycat’s. They’re building aspiration and desire. And let’s face it — the people who are in a position to actually buy a Chanel cardigan will likely do just that, eschewing tributes and homages for actual Chanel, while people who can’t afford Chanel will be slightly mollified with their knockoff, but still wish for the real thing.
To own certain looks and items of clothing in such a way that these things will always be compared to the Chanel version, no matter who makes them, is certainly a feat. I think a lot of brands would love to be in this position. Look at the literary and film worlds – having an entire adjective dedicated to your style (Proustian, Kafkaesque, Hitchcockian) is a clear indicator of fame and reverence.
I guess I just can’t figure out why, if Chanel is so flattered by tributes to their name, they would want to reprimand and potentially punish the people paying them tribute?