Monica Botkier on Challenging Sears Over Similar-Looking Handbag

Handbag designer Monica Botkier has sent a cease & desist letter to Sears disputing their sale of a handbag in the retailer's new Kardashian Kollection that is nearly identical to her "Clyde" style, WWD recently reported. We caught up with the designer to see what spurred her decision, and how she

"Social media has become so rampant, that with blogs picking up the story, and fans tweeting about how similar the bags look -- it's almost more effective than any letter," said Botkier. Indeed, it was through her community of fans that she first became aware of the copycat style, when fans started sharing a Daily Mail story, featuring the Kardashian Kollection and Botkier bags side-by-side.

The style in question, the Clyde, is one of Botkier's original designs -- likely why fans recognized the similarity between the bag and the Kardashian design so quickly.

"Botkier bags are instantly recognizable," said the designer. "But we need tougher laws, and that's why what the CFDA is doing is so important. The CFDA is going to Washington to change things. The current laws are too technical: a zipper may be so many inches from a seam, but aesthetic can't be measured. To say that if those numbers don't line up the design hasn't been copied simply is not true."

So, what's next? The cease and desist is standard protocol, Botkier explains, and she's been through this before with varying results. Sometimes a style is removed from a line, sometimes nothing happens -- she diplomatically couldn't recall exact instances when we pressed. Interestingly, Sears has removed the Kardashain Kollection bag from the website.

That the highly-visible Kardashian sisters are involved in this particular case brings the dilemma to a new level: "They have such widespread popularity, people are really noticing what's going on," said Botkier. "This could be a real lesson for the Kardashians -- to be more thorough in their research of what they're putting their name on. The could use this to help protect small businesses -- I don't want to say a PSA, necessarily, but they could use their fame to really show how this sort of thing really hurts small companies, and how original ideas are what it's really all about." 

Though it seems as if they've stopped selling hte bag online for the time being, Sears has yet to respond formally to Botkier's letter, and similar cases like Proenza Schouler's issues with Target have indicated that such suits often face a rocky path. Clearly, more than a few designers are watching the events unflolding with the CFDA's efforts in Washington with rapt attention.

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