When the Harris Tweed Authority settled a dispute with TK Maxx last month after the large discount retailer used the Harris Tweed name without authorisation, TK Maxx was no doubt left with a hefty bill.
The Harris Tweed Authority is the body responsible for protecting the Harris Tweed brand. In November 2012, the Authority became concerned that TK Maxx was using the Harris Tweed name on the labelling and promotion of two jackets without prior authorisation. Under the Harris Tweed Act of 1993, Harris Tweed is defined as
“Handwoven by the islanders at their homes in the Outer Hebrides, finished in the Outer Hebrides, and made from pure virgin wool dyed and spun in the Outer Hebrides.”
TK Maxx was not the first company to fall foul of the Harris Tweed Authority. In March 2012 ITX Fashion, Zara’s online trading arm, was warned to stop describing a blazer as a “Harris Tweed”, as it was not labelled as such on the actual garment and didn’t actually use the official Harris Tweed.
While large corporations like Zara and TK Maxx can absorb legal costs and fines, this isn’t the case for small independant designers. Wigsandgowns urge you to think before describing a product. It’s easy to get carried away with snappy, catchy descriptions that will appeal to customers but if you get it wrong it could be a very costly mistake. In 2012 the Navajo tribe filed suit against Urban Outfitters for violation of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act when they found more than 20 products under the names “Navajo” or “Navaho” for sale. We’re willing to bet most people haven’t even heard of the Harris Tweed Act or the Indian Arts and Crafts Act. Generally speaking, such Acts are only mentioned in the media when a legal battle has ensued. By that stage, it could be too late. The importance of research in every area of your fashion business is imperative to success. What may seem inconsequential today could turn into a costly legal issue further down the line. If you have any fashion law or business concerns, don’t forget Wigsandgowns are here to help!