Bjork, the Swan, and Fashion's Low-IP Regime
A few notes responding to Randy and James:
(1) Randy, we haven't been able to find evidence of fashion industry lobbying for design protection between the fall of FOG and HR 5055. We spoke with the head of the CFDA, which is the principal trade association for U.S. fashion designers, and he confirmed what we've seen in the public record -- i.e., that they hadn't done any substantial lobbying before.
(2) As for Randy's idea of a higher-IP regime allowing high-end firms to make credible promises about separation, two points. First, I agree with Kal that a higher-IP regime might also be workable, but as of yet it hasn't proved sufficiently more attractive that the industry has been motivated to move toward it.
Second, and perhaps more importantly, I'm not sure that promises about slowing the fashion cycle down, whether credible or otherwise, would be valued by many consumers. This isn't in our paper, and I don't have a definitive view yet, but I suspect that one of the pleasures of being a fashionista is watching the masses tag along behind you. You may not want to dress like them, but you're not displeased that they want to dress like you.
If that's right, it's not clear that the high-end consumer benefits from more temporal separation. It is therefore also not clear that the fashion originator would benefit from separation -- the originator can't charge more for something the consumer doesn't especially value. This may be another reason the industry isn't particularly motivated to move to a high-IP regime.
(3) On Randy's aversion to calling fashion change "innovation", I'm puzzled. Take a tour through Bissonnette on Costume, a great visual compendium of style changes around the world over the past three centuries. There has been a lot of innovation in fashion. Clothing has changed dramatically, especially in the West, and those changes quicken over time. Yes, it's difficult to compare rates of innovation in this particular field with other art forms, but whatever it is it's significant.
(4) James's idea of "shoppingnorms" is a good one, and I hope he (or someone) looks into this further. Our induced obsolescence and anchoring dynamics are both based in part on shoppingnorms. As one friend put it to me, the industry is able to hasten the fashion cycle via induced obsolescence because most of us are not Bjork -- pictured below dressed as a swan at the 2001 Oscars.
Most of us don't want to dress like a swan, at least until lots of other people are. Bjork doesn't care what other people are doing. If she wants to dress like a swan, she does it. But Bjork, and people like her, probably stop dressing like swans when I start -- or maybe long before that. In any event, it's the relationship between fashion leaders and followers, and the shoppingnorms of both groups, that drives the fashion cycle.