Misleading Labels – Mainbocher

Under certain circumstances, my reporting that I’d found a sweater with a Mainbocher label would be a cause for celebrating.  Main Rousseau Bocher was an American who stayed in Paris after WWI, changed his name to Mainbocher, and opened a couture house.  When WWII broke out he returned to the US and continued making clothes, including wonderfully decorated cashmere evening twin sets.

This sweater is not by THE Mainbocher, of course.  A quick search on the US Trademark site showed that this sweater is a product of Stein Mart, a “luxury discounter.”  They have had the Mainbocher name registered since 2005.

I’m not sure how this works, how a company can just take the name of a dead designer and slap it on random clothing.  I do understand revivals, where the label makes an attempt to channel the aesthetic of the designer into the new line (as in the Anne Fogarty revival) or Charles James, where the company actually has an agreement with his children.

I’m sure this happens all the time.  Feel free to share any misleading labels you’ve seen.  I know that about twenty years ago someone registered Claire McCardell’s name, but her family got that enterprise stopped through legal channels.  I noticed that her name has recently been registered as a trademark yet again.

I actually bought this sweater, because despite it being made in China, it is a nice, well-made garment.  It’s the type of thing I wear on a daily basis in colder months.  Somehow cashmere is just a bit more luxurious than sweatshirts.  I probably paid a dollar for it at the Goodwill outlet.

Nice full fashion knitting.  Most cheap sweaters are cut out from cashmere knit and then sewn.  In fully fashioned sweaters the pieces are knit to fit without cutting.

Not bad for a department store cashmere, but not quite couture!

16 Comments

Filed under Curiosities, Designers

16 responses to “Misleading Labels – Mainbocher

  1. made in China – Mainbocher probably sat straight up!…elegant-beautiful clothes-is there a retrospective book? i feel the same re: Mcardell and Fogerty..it should not ever be reproduced-with the new “designers'” personal twist-that always happens-it neverworks-most of these ID thieves really should be stopped-UNLESS the family approves with legal rights- how many “re-makes movies ” / designers( interior and fashion)must we suffer thru only to watch people who have no idea or comprehension of the real art/talent/style involved just to make a buck-and sadly the end user as a result doesn’t either-and could care less! like the dummy at the Met gala who was too stupid to remove the train from her ballgown!for dinner!

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  2. That’s pretty painful thinking that the label “Mainbocher” is owned Stein Mart! And it’s true that there are some bad 80s clothes with McCardell labels on them; a couple are on eBay right now.
    My lawyer husband once explained to me how trademark is tricky because it has to be used in business as well as registered (or something like that…my eyes glazed over and I went to refill my wine glass).
    I’ve found the “Label Resource” on the Vintage Fashion Guild’s website to be very helpful in verifying vintage labels from different eras, by the way.

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  3. Carrie

    How bizarre to think Stein Mart went sifting through all the dead (and therefore available) trademarks and scooped up one for Mainbocher. Can they really have been thinking people would buy the products due to name recognition? (I found a “Claire McCardell” contemporary label several years ago–same disconnect, as it wasn’t remotely McCardell-like, or even great quality for that matter!)

    But I agree, your “Mainbocher” will make a very luxe sweatshirt…:)

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  4. The best (or saddest) story I know of this type is the name Faberge. It has been sold so many times that it’s hard to keep track–and none of its new versions has anything to do with the Russian family that made such amazing jewelry.

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  5. I wonder if this is the same arragement that Stein Mart might have with the Peck & Peck label? My great aunt worked for them all her life, and when I saw that SteinMart had P&P clothes I was tres surprised! I wish I was more interested in vintage clothing when my Great Aunt was still alive, I knew she had neat stories about working at P&P at their shops in Florida and Lake Placid, as well as the ones in the Boston area.

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  6. Whoa! Crazy! And how horrible that this kind of thing is possible.

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  7. I did not know this. I would have been fooled by that label I fear!

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  8. vastlycurious.com

    I worked for Bonwit Teller and B. Altman, both for many years and would you believe I have never owned a single piece of cashmere? It is a lovely purchase and yes I forgot that great knit pieces are knit to fit : ) Nice post Liz.

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  9. Dusty Simi

    Just thought I had a score with a Mainbocher jacket, but saw Made in China label…………..thx for the info. Boo Hoo

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