Cult Gaia vs. Steve Madden - both wrong?

cult gaia steve madden vintage purse

vintage inspired bamboo bag steve madden cult gaia

So here's the gist - Cult Gaia makes these reproduction Japanese bamboo bags. Women in the Rockabilly and Tiki scene have owned them for decades. You used to only be able to buy them vintage until Cult Gaia started reproducing them. Verbtim. Not inspired. But exact copies. More power to them. I sold one at Pickwick Vintage and Textiles about a year ago and had no problem selling it for much less than the $300 price tag for the mass produced one because I knew it was special and going to a good home.

So Steve Madden starts making them. And Cult Gaia is pissed! Steve Madden claims "that instead of actually creating an original bag, Larian’s “Cult Gaia Ark bag slavishly copies the traditional Japanese bamboo picnic bag design.” So the company shouldn't be able to sue Steve Madden for copyright infringement. And according to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, he may be right! "...the USPTO held that Larian’s bag design is not eligible for protection because it 'is merely an iteration or appropriation of a style of bag from the Japanese culture,'”

As a vintage dealer, I am well aware of the fact that designers often buy vintage not for design inspiration, but for exact copies. I wrote about this years ago when Anna Sui blatantly copied an antique purse.

So who's in the right? 

Frankly I think they both are. Stop copying stuff and calling it your own. Can't these brands add something new to an already classic? Really? You can't change the design slightly? Something to make it look as if you actually design instead of just manufacture? I'm getting tired of these brands that not only have zero talent in design, but culturally appropriate. What do you think?


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