The XX Factor

Gunn Rights

Politico reports that Tim Gunn made an appearance on Capitol Hill this morning. He and Leanne Marshall, winner of Project Runway’ s fifth season, met with Republican Congressman Lamar Smith about what Politico is calling “designer rights.” Gunn dished out some free advice to before getting down to business:

Smith lined up his staff and had Gunn provide notes of wisdom, wardrobe-wise.

The staff fared pretty well. “Small tweaks” were made-a shorter skirt was one-and the congressman replied, “two inches?!” in shock. Gunn replied, “no just one.” Another lucky female staffer was complimented on her grey skirt and sweater paired with a light brown belt. Gunn said, “this outfit is all about the belt and it works.”

Given that the average congressional staffer’s wardrobe ranges all the way from Ann Taylor to Ann Taylor Loft, this is quite the coup. But much as I respect Gunn’s taste in textiles, I’m not sure the idea he has come to promote will do a thing to help the fashion industry. Senators like Chuck Schumer have long wanted to extend copyright protection to fashion designers, but they’ve never made a strong case for the idea that the American fashion industry suffers for a lack of innovation. (Shows like Project Runway do not help.) As UCLA law professor Kal Raustiala has argued , it’s possible that cheap knock-offs-the very thing copyright protection would criminalize-actually help fashion designers by accelerating the fashion cycle and spurring demand for newer, high-end designs. Add to all this the sure-to-be-ugly costs of enforcing fashion-related IP, and the whole plan starts to look like the legislative equivalent of that strappy neon ruched thing Blayne came up with last season.