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Ready to Wear: Taylor Swift’s Shrewd Strategy for Fighting Counterfeiters

At the same time a major fashion industry trade group is already grappling with a glut of counterfeit goods on Chinese websites, the pop superstar and her team have figured out their own way to take on the same issue.

At the same time a major fashion industry trade group is grappling with a glut of counterfeit goods on Chinese websites, the pop superstar and her team have figured out their own way to take on knockoffs.

It appears that Taylor Swift is on the same page as associations in more ways than one.

The “Shake It Off” singer, one of the world’s biggest pop stars, helped the music industry solve a major headache last month when she sent an open letter to Apple, criticizing the company’s plan not to pay royalties on music offered through its new Apple Music service during an initial trial period. The plan had already been widely criticized by numerous industry groups, but it was Swift’s message that got Apple’s Eddy Cue to change things up.

Now, Swift is taking up another issue that’s near and dear to another industry group. For years, the American Apparel & Footwear Association has been drawing attention to the rise of counterfeit goods on Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant. It’s been a long-standing fight for the fashion industry, which commonly sees knockoff versions of its goods sold online.

As recently as last week, in fact, AAFA had called out the company, asking CEO Jack Ma to take concrete steps to help companies remove counterfeit goods from the website.

“We are asking for Alibaba to begin addressing counterfeits in a manner that is transparent, comprehensible, and fast,” Juanita Duggan, the association’s president and CEO, wrote in an open letter to Ma. “We are asking for Alibaba to create a process whereby Alibaba removes counterfeits quickly at the request of certified brands.”

It’s in this environment that Swift has decided to launch her own clothing line for the first time—in China, with the primary goal of taking the counterfeiters out of the equation on Alibaba and another popular online store, JD.com.

“The line was designed exclusively for the Chinese market with local consumers in mind, and will only be available for sale in China and on JD.com,” the latter store noted in a news release.

Swift, who helped design the clothing herself, is working with the Nashville-based fashion firm Heritage66Company on the project—as well as on efforts to remove Swift-branded counterfeit goods from the websites.

“It’s time for Chinese companies to say, ‘We don’t want to be known for piracy anymore,'” Heritage66 Chief Operating Officer Kate Liegey told the Wall Street Journal (subscription).

The move could prove a shrewd one for Swift, as partnerships will likely be a better long-term strategy than launching a legal fight. In China, legal precedent favors the first to file for a trademark, no matter if a person’s likeness is involved. The result is that if another company has filed for Swift’s likeness in the country, she may not be able to rely on the court system to protect her property rights—something that has proved to be a big issue for another highly marketable celebrity, Michael Jordan.

If Swift decides this music thing isn’t a good fit anymore, there’s always room for her to try her hand at being an association executive.

(Mike Coppola/Getty Images)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a senior editor for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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