Target Bargains Busted?

By Cynthia Amis

Reviewed by Michael Murphy and Anthony Arther Esq.

For fashionistas on a budget, it can be difficult to match high-end taste to a lower-end price point.  In response to this, Target Corporation has been teaming up with up-and-coming quality designers for short-term collaborations.  The designer offers certain pieces of clothing and accessories for sale in Target exclusively on a limited basis only. 

This set-up has been successful and has, on the surface, been the answer to a dream for all involved.  Designers get more exposure, Target gains a certain cache’ by offering product not generally associated with discount stores, and customers get to stay on trend while keeping their budgets in check.  However, this collaborative reality has recently taken a nightmarish turn for some involved, raising some serious concerns for high-end brands like Proenza Schouler.

The brand had collaborated in the past with Target Corporation with success, but that partnership has since ended.  However, that hasn’t stopped Target’s own Mossimo brand from releasing a $34.99 messenger bag that strikes a startling resemblance to one of  Proenza Schouler’s  most recognizable and prized pieces, the PS1 bag which retails at around $1,600.  There are some minute variations, such as the Mossimo version being made of faux leather, while Schouler’s is 100% genuine leather. The front also has small differences in the design and function of the front clasp, but the general consensus in the fashion world is that these small details are far outweighed by the parallels in the overall look and feel of the bag. As of yet, the high end label has not indicated that they will bring action against the Target Corporation, but the designing duo behind the label have been more than vocal amongst the fashion press that they wish Target would stop selling their  “knockoff” bag.

This scenario raises some very interesting legal issues.  The Mossimo bag on its own is enough to raise some intellectual property concerns, and one could certainly raise the argument that the prior collaboration between the two brands would lead to a heightened factor of consumer confusion. It is an interesting question, but according to Target spokesman Joshua Thomas, the megastore does not seem concerned, stating “Target is committed to offering our guests everyday essentials alongside highly differentiated merchandise, all at a great value. It always has been and continues to be the policy of Target to respect the intellectual property rights of others.”

While this issue remains unsolved, it will be interesting to see how it plays out in the end, with Proenza Schouler specifically, and future designers in general.  Will other designers be reluctant to collaborate with Target in the future in fear of the same outcome? Has Target metaphorically shot itself in the foot by taking advantage of their collaborators? All that remains to be seen, but for those fashion forward on a budget who have long coveted the PS1 messenger, Target is calling for you.

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