L2’s annual Innovation Forum will be held on November 6 & 7 this year at the Morgan Library. The two day, TED style forum will feature experts speaking to a variety of innovations in digital marketing, commerce, and social media. Below, we highlight one of our forum speakers, Johanna Blakley, who will give a talk on “Social Media and the End of Gender.”

As the Deputy Director of USC’s Norman Lear Center, Johanna Blakley leads research on a variety of media related topics including global entertainment, cultural diplomacy, celebrity culture, fashion, digital media and intellectual property.

A particularly interesting piece of research that Blakley has conducted is around the impact of intellectual property rights in the fashion industry. Unlike their counterparts in many other industries, fashion designers have never received copyright protection for their pieces. Blakely argues that while the purpose of intellectual protection is to protect innovation, in fashion, it is precisely the lack of this protection that actually drives designers to innovate. Furthermore, she argues, that removing this “free culture” will in fact, hurt the industry both artistically and economically.

Although her thesis may sound a bit counterintuitive at first, Blakley references a quote from Tom Ford —  “We found that the counterfeit customer was not our customer.” — to embody the crux of her argument. Allowing knockoffs to be sold to the mass market lets the industry target a very different demographic than the high fashion shopper. Furthermore, it gives the general public a much wider range of options when it comes to fashion. On the flip side, when a high fashion design has permeated into the mass market, it also becomes less attractive to fashionistas who are looking to stay ahead of the curve. Thus, it pushes fashion designers constantly to be creating new ideas that trendsetters will flock to — until the cycle repeats itself again. The non-stop innovation required by designers to stay ahead of the pack elevates overall artistry of the industry. Meanwhile, allowing more affordable copies of designs to be sold to the mass market raises the bottom line.

More of Blakley’s work can be found on her blog.

To register for the L2 Innovation Forum, click on the link below. Registration for brand and industry professionals is $5,000 and complimentary for L2 Members.

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