The fashion and apparel industry will confront many interesting and important issues in 2007. The following is a list and brief description of some of the most significant issues facing the industry this year:
1. Design Piracy Prohibition Act – Fashion designs are not currently accorded traditional United States intellectual property protections. Articles of clothing are considered "useful articles" as opposed to works of art and are therefore not protected under the United States Copyright Act; clothing designs rarely meet the criteria required to be granted a patent; and trademarks protect brand names and logos, but not the clothing itself. However, the Design Piracy Prohibition Act, H.R. 5055, introduced by Representative Robert W. Goodlatte (R-Va.) in March 2006, is a bill pending in the United States House of Representatives that would extend copyright protection to fashion designs for a period of three years. The DPPA would amend the Copyright Act and extend protection to "the appearance as a whole of an article of apparel, including its ornamentation." "Apparel," as defined in the DPPA, shall include men’s, women’s or children’s clothing, including undergarments, outerwear, gloves, footwear, and headgear, handbags, purses, and tote bags, belts, and eyeglass frames.
2. Policing the Counterfeit Merchandise Trade – The International Chamber of Commerce estimates that the value of counterfeited and pirated goods exceeds $500 billion annually and is escalating rapidly. Popular knock-offs of luxury fashion brand accessories (including, among other things, purses, sunglasses and garments) from companies including Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Kate Spade, Christian Dior and Burberry make up just a fraction of the counterfeit trade industry, but are among the most visible and common offenses. In the US, local governments are cracking down on this problem by raiding local business that sell counterfeited goods and arresting individuals who throw so-called "purse parties" (parties or gatherings at which large quantities of counterfeit merchandise are sold). In China, one of the largest sources of counterfeit goods in the world, the government is finally shutting down some of its most famous counterfeit merchandise markets, including, Xiangyang Road market in Shanghai, perhaps the most well-known destination for fake designer products.
3. China – China continues to dominate manufacturing and export markets. However, China has been accused of violating labor standards and manipulating its currency to give it an unfair trade advantage. Several United States legislators have proposed imposing a significant tariff (as high as 27.5%) on Chinese goods if China does not revalue its currency, and some have suggested that China should be brought before the World Trade Organization to account for its labor practices.
4. Social and Ethical Trends in Sourcing – US fashion and apparel companies are increasingly sourcing goods from overseas. Companies, consumers and investors are beginning to pay close attention to the social, ethical and environmental issues that accompany such sourcing, including protecting employees from workplace hazards, conforming with local laws and international conventions regarding wages, occupational health and safety, human rights, and energy efficiency.
5. Model Weight Regulation Last year, two young female models died from anorexia. The European fashion world quickly reacted by banning female models under a certain body mass index from modeling at Madrid and Milan fashion shows. In January 2007, the Council of Fashion Designers of America issued a "Health Initiative" in which it called for self-governance within the fashion industry to support the well-being of models. Thus far, the CFDA has not advocated a body mass index cutoff like its European counterparts, however there is strong support in the New York state government to institute such a cutoff in connection with future New York fashion shows.