NYC fashion world tries to keep one step ahead of copycats

Photo by Emily Johnson
The B.Gold NYC midtown showroom. Credit: Emily Johnson

They’re all over the place these days, those brimmed hats covered in gold pins: 28th Street, Canal Street, Flushing. Made in China with cheap plastic, you can buy them for a few bucks — and for the men behind the design, their ubiquity is both a compliment and a curse.

“A friend told me he’s seeing them around London now,” said Maximo Garcia, the marketing force behind B.Gold NYC, whose Sigil collection sparked a flurry of imitations once 50 Cent and other high-profile clients began wearing the distinctive hats.

Garcia spoke with a combination of pride and exasperation familiar to many in the fashion industry whose designs are consistently ripped off by savvy trend-watchers with capital to spare.

Photo by Maximo Garcia
Copycat hats for sale in New York. Credit: Maximo Garcia

The exposure helped create buzz for their new line, and for Garcia and his partner, designer and Brooklyn native Winston B. Holder, it was proof that they were onto something.

“If you’re getting ripped off, you’re doing something right,” Garcia said.

But the proliferation of bootlegs also diluted their brand and forced them to go commercial, selling Sigil online and out of their store in SoHo.

And with no legal recourse available to them as long as the bootlegs don’t attempt to pass themselves off as the real thing — “You can’t copyright putting a gold pin on a hat,” Garcia said — their only option is to try and stay one step ahead of the game.

On a recent day in May, Holder and Garcia stopped by their midtown showroom, companionably abuzz with activity as a small group of 20-somethings worked on hand-sewing the gold pieces to the hats. In keeping with B.Gold’s roots, every piece was hand-cast in Brooklyn.

But while they keep pace with demand for established collections, Holder and Garcia are always looking forward.

“The basic idea now is to make things that are hard to imitate,” Holder said, rifling through a clothing rack and pulling a few of their newer designs, a blend of urban and high-end fashion. Some pieces featured featured diagonal zippers and elaborate cowl necks; others, unusual combinations of fabrics, like denim jackets with leather sleeves.

Winston B. Holder, the creative force behind B.Gold NYC, adjusts one of hits hats worn by model Shauna Bennett.
Winston B. Holder, the creative force behind B.Gold NYC, adjusts one of his hats worn by model Shauna Bennett. Credit: Emily Johnson

The arms-race approach may be the only real option available to B.Gold and their fellow designers for the foreseeable future, as the Innovative Design Protection Act, introduced in 2012 by New York Sen. Chuck Schumer in an effort to protect one of the city’s hallmark industries, stalled out in Congress at the beginning of this year.

If passed, the legislation known as the “Fashion Bill” would have provided a measure of protection to original designs that could be shown to be thoroughly unique and distinguishable. But the clock ran out on the 112th Congress, and the bill died with it.

Schumer has long been a proponent of amending Chapter 13 of the Copyright Act to include fashion design as a protected art form, and he isn’t done yet. The 2012 version of the bill marked the sixth time he has introduced this kind of legislation, and he plans to put it back on the table.

In the meantime, B.Gold and the gang will just have to keep outsmarting the copycats. Perhaps their most imitation-proof design was in the hands of model and designer Sebastian Lund, who sat on the floor in the corner tinkering with a hat he had rigged up with a complicated web of wiring.

“Got it,” he said finally. To the delight of everyone in the room, red lasers flashed from the hat’s brim. Lund’s fellow model Shauna Bennet put down her own work to take a drag from a cigarette and blow smoke across the beams of light.

Photo by Emily Johnson
Red lasers flash from the brim of a newly designed B.Gold NYC hat. Credit: Emily Johnson

The hat, Holder explained, was specially designed for 50 Cent to wear on stage, and was still a work in progress.

“At first the lasers were supposed to point down,” he said with a laugh. “But we don’t want him to blind the audience.”

Follow Emily Johnson on Twitter @emilyjreports



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

MTA announces service changes for Sunday

The MTA has announced service changes ahead of Sunday's People's Climate March, which will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday. Riders using…

Local

NYPD launches Twitter account for L train

The NYPD recently launched a Twitter handle dedicated to the L train and its riders. According to @NYPDLtrain, officers went underground Thursday morning to hand…

Local

Bushwick community space offers activists a place to…

A new Bushwick community space offers community activists to meet, create, learn and throw back a few cold ones. MayDay, located 214 Starr Street in Bushwick,…

Local

Activists gearing up for Sunday's "historic" People's Climate…

If all goes according to plan, more than 100,000 people will gather near Central Park West on Sunday morning and march through midtown to raise…

Arts

EXCLUSIVE: Backstage with Adam Jacobs at 'Aladdin' on…

Metro shadowed Adam Jacobs backstage at "Aladdin" on Broadway.

Movies

Review: Terry Gilliam's 'The Zero Theorem' is better…

Terry Gilliam's latest, "The Zero Theorem," concerns a reclusive malcontent (Christoph Waltz) struggling with the search for the meaning of life.

Music

Esperanza Spalding and a being called Emily get…

Esperanza Spalding is about to spiral off in a brand new direction that may or may include an alter ego named Emily.

Movies

Review: Bickering family dramedy 'This is Where I…

A talented cast sits Shiva in the bickering family dramedy "This is Where I Leave You," although it's more sap than yuks.

NFL

J.J. Watt poses unique challenges to struggling Giants…

Watt, arguably the best defensive player in the league, is the leader of a surprising Texans (2-0) team that has already matched last season’s win total.

NFL

Eric Decker 'unlikely to play' against Bears: Source

Jets wide receiver Eric Decker's status for Monday night’s game against the Bears is in doubt after he missed practice again Wednesday.

NFL

Preston Parker, not Odell Beckham, will replace Jerrel…

Tom Coughlin noted the next man up will be unheralded veteran Preston Parker.

NFL

NFL Week 3 full schedule (kickoff time, TV)

NFL Week 3 full schedule (kickoff time, TV)

Parenting

A sneaky way to serve kids fruits and…

"My First Juices and Smoothies" gives smoothie recipes for kids.

Style

3 things we love from Day 1 of…

The highlights from Day 1 of Milan Fashion Week.

Sex

Why don't more couples use condoms?

  Call it the “condom moment.” That’s the name the authors of a new study have given to the pivotal conversation every couple should be…

Sex

Need an idea for a first date? Here's…

Picture your idea of a nice first date. Is it dinner and a movie? A visit to an interesting museum exhibit? Instead, an expert on…