Could a bit of business acumen save your fashion career? One Aussie designer learned the value of a trademark through her legal tangle with pop superstar Katy Perry.
It was by pure chance that fashion designer Katie Perry – the “Australian Katie Perry”, as she calls herself – took a step that would later save her business.
The year was 2007, 12 months before the similarly named American superstar Katy Perry burst onto the international music scene with the controversial I Kissed a Girl.
“A friend was starting his own T-shirt label and getting a trademark. He said, ‘why don’t you get a trademark for extra protection’, because normally, if you use your name, you don’t need one. Fortunately, I listened,” says Perry, who designs comfortable Australian-made women’s clothes in natural fabrics such as silk and wool.
Not Like the Movies
In 2009, Perry was shocked to be served with legal documents from singer Katy Perry’s lawyers demanding she close down her business, stop advertising and cease running her website.
“It was a pretty crazy time, something I would not want my worst enemy to go through,” says the designer. While engaging lawyers to fight the legal action, Perry had to continue running her business - designing and manufacturing during the week and selling clothes at Sydney’s Paddington markets every Saturday. The irony that the American singer was actually born with a different name – Katheryn Hudson – certainly didn’t escape her.
Fortunately, the media picked up the story and both Perrys found themselves being discussed widely in the media. “I received emails from Vietnam, Iceland and London saying, ‘you can do this, keep fighting, don’t give up!’”
Walking on Air
After 10 stressful weeks the Supreme Court action simply ceased.
“Two hours before the court case, they withdrew their opposition and that was the end of it. I never heard from them ever again,” recalls Perry.
Although it’s not an experience the designer – who bears more than a passing resemblance to her famous namesake – wants to repeat, she did learn a thing or two.
“It taught me the power of Facebook and social media,” she says. “To begin with, I felt like I was fighting this big conglomerate all by myself. Then I started getting this groundswell movement and people were putting me in touch with other people. I felt like I had this army behind me and it made such a big difference.”
While she picked up an extra retailer from all the publicity, Perry says the amount spent on lawyers far outweighed any additional sales.
“If it happened now, I would probably do things a lot differently,” she says. “At the time, I was two years into my businesses, I was working incredibly long hours and running on empty all the time. Now I tell everyone to protect their brand name. Get a trademark.”
Part of Me: Katie Perry’s back story
Getting into fashion:
Perry worked multiple jobs in the fashion industry – from buyer to manager – for companies including JAG and David Jones, before launching her label at Sydney’s popular Paddington Markets with a small collection of seven pieces.
Starting her own brand:
The Katie Perry brand isn’t about innovation, she says – it’s about “helping women become more confident, more comfortable, more stylish, with pieces you can wear from day to night” and all made in Australia.
Selling Katie Perry:
While she has opened (and closed) several bricks-and-mortar shops, more recently she’s opted for pop-up events and online selling to lower overheads. “I have a few wholesale customers, but that’s not my objective,” she says.
Selling online works for Perry, not least because a lot of her pieces are made from jersey fabrics. “We have a really low return rate due to sizing because it fits the majority of shapes. Sometimes people might want to feel the fabric and then I can send a fabric swatch.”
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