Designer Parodies And The Law: That Funny Homiés Sweatshirt Might Not Be Legal

Valeria Nekhim

Homies sweatshirt

While an Hermès garment can set you back a few thousand dollars, a “Homiés” sweatshirt by Brian Lichtenberg rings in at a more affordable $98, and will earn you the same — if not more — fashion cred in certain in-the-know circles.

That’s right, it seems in recent months, all the cool kids are wearing threads featuring witty parodies of luxury labels. For instance,  there’s the Balmain-inspired “Nawman” T-Shirts by Reason Clothing, Lichtenberg’s Féline items in the Céline logo, and the popular football jerseys by LPD New York boasting designer names on the back like “Tisci” and “Philo” along with their date of birth.

Proponents of the trend argue it allows individuals, particularly younger generations who otherwise can’t afford luxury wares to emotionally engage with their favorite brands in a way that’s cheeky and cool. But naturally, not all fashion houses view it this way, and when legal issues concerning trademark protection come into play, matters start to get complicated.

According to Joseph Gioconda, an attorney specializing in intellectual property cases who spoke with WWD, the main legal issues concerning designer parodies is whether there’s a legitimate confusion between the two brands, and if the brand’s value is at risk of being diluted.

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Louis Vuitton is an example of a company that won’t allow the use of their name or logo regardless of the context, while Giocanda’s client Hermès, takes a more open-minded approach. Hermès issued a statement to WWD saying that despite a commitment to protecting its brand, they also respect the right to freedom of artistic expression.

In fact, the proliferation of  luxury logos in streetwear may provide a nice publicity boost to fashion houses. Indeed, designers  like Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy and Olivier Rousteing at Balmain are of the “if you can’t beat ’em join ’em” mindset. Tisci posted a picture of LPD’s “Tisci” jersey to his personal Instagram, while Rousteing donned a “Ballin” sweatshirt by Criminal Damage and put it on his Instagram feed.

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We think since the likelihood of someone mistaking an ““Homiés” sweatshirt for a garment designed by the actual fashion house is slim to none, there’s little risk of these items diluting the brand value of a given company. Though it remains to be seen how long the trend will persist, in the meantime it’s fun, accessible, and dare we say it — quite chic.