Abstract: Fashion Copying as Virtue or Vice: An Examination of Andre Studios as a Case Study

Karen Cannell

Abstract

This paper and presentation tells the story of Andre Studios and puts the company in the larger context of fashion copying, considered as either virtue or vice (or both) depending on which side of the transaction one happens to be on. It also introduces a remarkable primary source collection of sketches (and their digital surrogates) that is representative of a most critical step in successful fashion copying. Andre Studios was a sketch subscription service for garment industry professionals. The sketches created for subscription distribution are important artifacts for technical analysis regarding a design's creation. The company was founded by designer Pearl Levy and her business partner, salesman Leonard Schwartzbach, in 1930. While it is impossible to say exactly how Levy and Schwartzbach conducted their daily business, the historical record indicates that Andre Studios was one of the many design services that relied heavily on copying and adapting existing clothing models to supply a sufficient up-to-date product for customer satisfaction. The industry has from time to time attempted to self-regulate outright fashion piracy; nevertheless, it is one of the industry's open secrets that for generations the appropriation of designs has been de rigueur for any fashion company that wishes to flourish and survive. The commodification of copying as a singular industry did not occur until the rise of the haute couture in Paris and the concurrent growth of the garment industry in New York City. The Andre Studios sketches offer a tangible window into the workings, both virtuous and otherwise, of a great American industry at its twentieth-century zenith.