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Tributes vs Copyrights

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In our industry, it is widely acknowledged that heritage brands, like Levi’s and Lee, have inspired countless labels’ basic core items. The current trend around the gold mining era of the early twentieth century and the replica of authentic details has turned everyone’s attention to the archives of original brands. Denim cult labels are issuing special editions as a tribute to the oldest jeans styles that represent gold mining heritage and raise the question – can copycats justify their pieces with the intention of paying tribute to original items? The problem resides in the fact that a tribute is often done once the person or product no longer exists, but when it comes to denim, brands such as Levi’s and Lee have recently released their own collections that replicate the iconic items of their own archives.

Evisu’s “Private Stock” collection has plans to replicate some of the American denim brand’s most famous pairs of jeans. The Japanese brand, now headed by creative director Scott Morrison (the man behind Earnest Sewn and the original Paper Denim & Cloth product) said the limited edition run, which was to be released next fall, would pay homage to Levi’s pieces. These include the 1944 501 jean, the 1890 “Nevada” jean (the oldest existing pair of jeans, named after it’s discovery at the bottom of a Nevada mine shaft in the 1990’s) and the 1917 “Campbell” jean.

Even if the idea was only to use “reference” as a starting point, the same way the Evisu label was initially created, Levi’s opinion on the line between a “reference” and a “violation of copyrights” seems to be way too thin. We will find out soon if the best of intentions is enough to get the right to honor our collective denim heritage when the current Levi Strauss & Co. lawsuit against Evisu is over…

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