Fashion designer Thom Browne scores a major victory against Adidas
A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:
Fashion designer Thom Browne recently scored a major victory against Adidas. The sportswear giant sued Browne over his four-bar signature, arguing it was too similar to the three stripes Adidas is known for. Jurors sided with Browne, and we talked about what inspired his stripe design.
THOM BROWNE: I have always been inspired by sports. I grew up swimming, playing tennis, and come from a family of seven kids who - we all did sports. So the stripes really were inspired by varsity tennis sweaters and varsity pieces of clothing.
MARTÍNEZ: I don't know what it is about stripes, but - I don't know if it makes people feel faster or stronger, but I think that connection is there for whatever reason.
BROWNE: It was just something that became so important to the collection that represented the combination of what I wanted people to see in my collections with the hand tailoring and the more varsity sports reference.
MARTÍNEZ: So give us a little bit of context. What were the circumstances around your discussions with Adidas in and around 2006?
BROWNE: Well, initially there was a call that came in, and it was from an attorney for Adidas. At that point, I was using the three stripes on the left-hand sleeve of cashmere sweaters and some tailored jackets, and they demanded that I stopped using the three stripes. And so I was a small designer. I had just started my collection. So the last thing I wanted to get into was any type of legal problems with Adidas. So, you know, it was something that I went back to my design team, and we thought of a solution that was going to be amenable to both of us.
MARTÍNEZ: And that was adding the fourth stripe.
BROWNE: Yeah, I mean, I came up with the four bars on the left-hand sleeve and leg of pieces of clothing, and it was really just to continue on that varsity reference.
MARTÍNEZ: And was Adidas OK with this solution?
BROWNE: They had agreed to my being able to use the four bars for my collection, and I didn't hear anything for 15 years. And there was a reason for me to make my point and to not give up something that became so important to - you know, emotionally to my collection. There wasn't any confusion between my four bars and their three vertical stripes, and it was so clear to me to fight for myself, but also to fight for other independent designers and younger designers when they create something unique that they have the protection of knowing that there won't be some big company that will come and try to take it away from them.
MARTÍNEZ: Now you show up in court wearing your signature look, shrunken jacket and tie, knit cardigan, leather brogues, tailored suit shorts, stopping just above the knee. And that revealed your four-bar striped over-the-calf athletic socks. So tell us, what was it like to wear that defending yourself against a claim centered on those same parallel stripes?
BROWNE: Well, the thing was, I wanted to really represent who I am. My collection and what I do for a living is such a part of who I am. It's not a job. It's not something I do just for a living. It is so much a part of who I am that people inside, outside the courtroom needed to see me representing myself exactly the way that I want people to see. Walking into the courtroom, I was just being myself.
MARTÍNEZ: That's fashion designer Thom Browne. He's the founder and head of design for his fashion brand, which is also named Thom Browne. Tom, thanks.
BROWNE: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.