Thursday-Friday-Fest-Together-Bag

Not long ago, I said that my feelings toward Thursday Friday’s line of bag-on-bag printed totes had “softened.” At that point, Balenciaga was the latest designer to have a photo of their work plastered on a canvas tote bag and sold for up to $90 apiece, and like Hermes and Chanel before it, Balenciaga is a huge brand with a huge corporate structure behind it to protect its work product. They can stand up for themselves, and although the Thursday Friday bags are certainly not my personal cup of tea, the combination of the chosen subject matter and the totes’ ubiquity had made me a little less opinionated about the whole thing.

Well. Guess what. This time, Thursday Friday has chosen to go after Proenza Schouler, a small New York brand that’s still in its relative infancy and that has yet to so much as open a brick-and-mortar store for itself. Compared to the Chanels of the world, Proenza Schouler is utterly tiny and a labor of love by the brand’s founders, Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez. The success of the PS1 and the brand’s other accessories allow it to do some of the most beautiful and innovative textile work in modern fashion; clothes like that don’t often turn a profit because of the enormous expense associated with producing such technically complicated work in small quantities, so for Proenza Schouler and brands like it, handbags are a crucial part of the business model. But hey, who cares about all that? Let’s take someone else’s hard work, slap it on a tote bag and make some cash!

Picking on the big guys is one thing. Taking something iconic and asininely expensive and re-appropriating it to poke fun at the fashion establishment is a longstanding tradition in the industry, and not something I generally have a problem with it. In fact, I love seeing a few well-placed stones lobbed at the old guard; it’s good for our health, as a collective. The problem, though, is that Proenza Schouler isn’t the fashion establishment or the old guard; it’s a spunky upstart that makes a bag that’s been popular for a few years. With that in mind, Thursday Friday splashing Proenza’s work on a bag to fatten their own bank accounts seems crass and opportunistic. Picking on the little guy isn’t clever, and it’s certainly not something I’d ever advise anyone to spend money on.

If you’d like to buy a real Proenza Schouler bag, you can do so via the brand’s website. If you’d like to buy one of the Thursday Friday bags, I suggest you start Googling, because I’m not going to be providing any links to their “work.” If you can even call it that.

(If there were a way for me to drop the mic and stomp off stage on the Internet, this is where I’d do it.)

  • Gloriabien

    Really?  Someone thinks that Proenza Schouler is an original design?  You don’t think it benefits from being a re-interpretaion of a bag design that has existed for eons?  

    Maybe the appropriation and transformation of an existing design into a fashionista must have is worth mocking as well.  

    • http://www.purseblog.com/ Amanda Mull

      I don’t think the two are really comparable, though. The PS1 is a continuation of a long tradition of bags in this style from lots of different companies, but its design elements are unique and recognizable, particularly the hardware. That’s true for almost anything in fashion produced today. Taking a picture of someone else’s work product, no matter what it is, and screening it on to a plain beige canvas tote is in no way the same level of design work that it takes to design the sort of customized hardware that the PS1 has, let alone the rest of the bag. It may not be a standout piece for you, but that’s not the same as having it being non-unique in a literal sense.

  • Guest

    I almost have to ask if it’s possible that Thursday Friday is securing approval from these brands before doing this – otherwise it seems like an awfully big risk. I can’t imagine any lender or investor who would support a company whose business model is based on taking easily recognizable images from other brands without permission. Seems like an easy target for a lawsuit. After all, is it so unbelievable that Proenza or Bal might be willing to have their bags recreated on a tote? It’s kind of like free advertising. The reality is that people who would buy this tote probably aren’t the target of the $1500+ original. What this tote does is make the design more iconic and recognizable, which seems like a good thing for the original brand in the long run. 

    • http://www.purseblog.com/ Amanda Mull

      Hermes did sue Thursday Friday, which is why the Birkin totes are no longer sold. I believe it was because the image of the Birkin used still had the Hermes logo heatstamp on it. Beyond that, though, I don’t think copyright laws give brands much recourse when it’s an image of a bag without a logo. Brands can’t trademark specific bags or designs, just branded elements. So if nothing specifically branded or logo’d is used, at least as far as I understand it, there’s not much that can be done.

  • CTA

    I actually like these totes. They are a fun take off the real ones and should not be taken so seriously. I think of it as a flattering compliment that they would choose a certain bag as it reflects that that particular bag is the “it” bag of the season. Its not like they are knocking off the bags in a cheaper form… its just an image on a canvas tote. I have real Chanel, Balenciaga, and Proenza bags and I own a Chanel print Thursday Friday tote which I use as a great beach bag or travel tote! I carry both the tote and my real bag at the same time when traveling and I think its a fun mix!

  • winkie

    What is different from using a photo of someone else’s work to sell a handbag and using someone else’s photo in your publication or online (without their permission)?

    Seems like both are copyright infringement, no?

    • http://www.purseblog.com/ Amanda Mull

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_use

      In addition to Fair Use, companies send around photos like the one in this post for press use. That’s one of the main reasons they’re taken. They hope that the accompanying criticism or coverage will be positive, of course, but that’s not always how things shake out. Printing this press photo on a tote bag and attempting to sell it with no acknowledgement to the original work, however, would be just as crass as this is. It would also be incredibly Baudrillardian.

      Also, as far as I can tell, what Thursday Friday is doing actually isn’t copyright infringement or at all illegal. In the US at least, as long as they own the rights to the photo they used and the photo doesn’t display any trademarked material, there’s no recourse for the companies whose work is depicted. Personally, I find it incredibly unethical and tacky, but that’s quite different from it being illegal or copyright infringement.

  • http://twitter.com/anumbercruncher Jana

    As the “upstart” that you consider it to be, the company itself would be a fool to not count its blessings that it’s such a coveted brand as to make it onto such a tote.  Is this article for real?

  • http://twitter.com/anumbercruncher Jana

    I mean, with 50 million in revenue last year, the pity party seems a bit much, no?

  • AJH

    I think your characterization of Proenza Schouler as the little guy is a little inaccurate. The company that owns Theory bought 45% of Proenza last June.  That makes Proenza Schouler a partial subsidiary of Fast Retailing (Uniqlo).  I agree that brand is tiny compared to Chanel/Hermes/Balenciaga, but it’s not lacking some major fashion backing.

    Moreover, I don’t think Proenza Schouler is really damaged in anyway by this bag.  The two bag aren’t substitutes. It’s not like someone who desperately wants a PS1 will settle for the Thursday Friday bag. I find it unlikely that anyone is not going to buy a Proenza bag because of this tote. It may actually have a positive affect on sales. Inclusion in the product line sends the message that this bag is as timeless and iconic as the other three featured, which could theoretically lead to higher demand.

    • http://www.purseblog.com/ Amanda Mull

      You’re right, Proenza has experienced a recent influx of cash, but it’s still so tiny and new when compared to Hermes and the like. I also agree that the bag is unlikely to hurt Proenza. My irritation is comes from more of an ethical place – I didn’t like any of the Thursday Friday bags for similar reasons, but the smaller scale of Proenza compared to the previous targets makes this even more annoying to me.

      I knew that I’d be in the (perhaps extreme) minority when I wrote this, but sometimes you have to take the unpopular opinion. 

  • Isabel

    Amanda, I totally get your point, as a small business owner who has been working a lot to make your company and products well known, investing in marketing and desing; for me it is not ok that someone else just come and make money out of your hard work, without even asking for permision. Maybe the marketing will work but i think they should ask the company who owes the desing if they approve it or not. 
    English isnt my first lenguage so I hope I expresed my point clear

  • FashionableLena

    I think that this canvas tote bag is being taken too seriously.  But, I have no interest in buying an Hermes, PS1, or Balenciaga.  Although I can’t afford one, I wouldn’t use this as a substitute.  I just consider this a fun tote to have. 
    And, I do have an Hermes one that I use to tote stuff back and forth to my kids’ football practices.  In all honesty, unless things have changed, the quality is mediocre.  I’m surprised that they’re still in business.

  • Tiff

    No big deal to me..so what if someone buys one of these canvas bags with a certain designer bag on it. It’s not a replica! I think it’s a cute idea and a way for some other people to get in on these high dollar luxury pieces. I don’t think I would carry one, I prefer the real to the look alike..

  • Yerani

    On one hand I completely agree with you, it’s quite ridiculous that this company can morally sell a canvas tote (their cost $1.25-$2.00) for $90. And I have a little insider knowledge on silk screen and the like, so I know that’s not what the high cost is for either. It’s like a consumer buying a look head to toe on a mannequin and then calling themselves a fashionista or worse, a stylist! VOMIT. However, on the other hand, they are smart for capitalizing on such an easy and astute idea, take the likeness of something iconic, and mass produce it for the masses without any copyright infringement because the name or logo is nowhere to be seen. And this is America after all, where capitalism came to flourish! So to me it’s a moral issue more than anything, because the Chanels and Hermes and even Proenzas of this industry can take care of themselves, as they always have.

  • Shirly B

    Amazing! Love it! and the color. 
     I would carry one.
    It’s not a replica! Great idea on how to get in on these high dollar luxury pieces.

  • http://twitter.com/19yearslater Sarah Moe

    PS1 has been an It bag for years now, they are outlandishly expensive (not that I’m hating on those who have them, and no they aren’t as expensive as Hermes but still) and like others have said this hard work is design, inspired by a classic bag. Yes it was a stroke of genius, but they are being repaid for it by the many people who buy their bags for huge sums of money. I still don’t have a problem with these totes. In fact, a hundred dollar tongue in cheek tote seems a lot more ethical than high end companies charging hundreds for basic totes.

  • Sdasf

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  • Christina

    Just a quick comment: it is terribly illogical to make a distinction between a ‘small’ brand like Proenza Schouler and a big brand like Chanel/Hermes etc. Really. From legal point of view, it makes no difference. Regardless of the brand, either you see this as illegal/copyright infringement or not. You cannot say “oh, they are a  big brand anyway, they should not care”. It does not work like that.