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Brands as status symbols

Looking at brands as status symbols.

Manufacturers want to reduce production costs in order to increase profit margins. This often means less investment in design teams and creative talent.

Knocking off styles shown by fashion leaders enhances the bottom line by reducing design and development costs and compressing the amount of time needed to bring items to the marketplace.

Brands as status symbols

Consumers often see a brand as a status symbol. Branded merchandise, evident by distinctive trademark features (such as the Nike “swoosh” or the word “PRADA” on a handbag), is typically viewed as more desirable and more fashionable than unbranded merchandise.

Furthermore, branded merchandise is more expensive because:

  1. the law of supply and demand allows the market to bear higher prices associated with more desirable merchandise
  2. the costs associated with advertising brands and protecting copyrights are significant.

Because logos are easy to recognize and potentially lucrative for anyone to sell, they are tempting to copy. Issues of ethics arise when those who do not own the trademarks are motivated to modify or copy popular logos, trademarks, or service marks and therefore benefit through the sale of fake merchandise.


Because logos and signature patterns, prints, and colors are highly visible and recognizable, they are easy to modify into new, similar styles and copy outright. Modern technology (e.g., Internet access to high-resolution logo images) and high-performance embroidery machines that can produce thousands of copied logos per hour further motivate counterfeit production. Intellectual property ownership and copyrighting become important issues when a design or style is recognizable, associated with a certain status, and popular enough to be demanded by consumers.

This quick turnaround time between design and product delivery has given rise to fast fashion—which is widely recognized as an impediment to ethically-minded design principles—both for its role in environmental pollution and its boundary-pushing when it comes to intellectual property.

The environmental aspects of manufacturing are presented later in this course when we explore the designer perspectives on intellectual property.

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Manufacture and Design Ethics in the Fashion Industry

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