So… this is awkward.
It’s Friday, September 8, day three of New York Fashion Week Spring-Summer 2018. The festivities are in full swing: “Influencers” are posting sponsored pictures on Instagram, critics are complaining, Kanye West is being inconsiderate. All is as it should be, it appears, until a model parades down luxury brand Monse’s runway with a familiar looking monogram poking out from beneath a well-tailored blazer. As I looked through photos of the rest of the collection, admiring athleisurely touches and Americana references, I couldn’t shake that bold letter M from my mind. It looked, to me, a bit too familiar.
Maybe creative directors Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim are unaware of the resemblance between their garment and the University of Michigan’s logo. Maybe I’m overthinking this, and M is just the thirteenth letter of the alphabet (please fact-check that; I counted on my fingers). But Monse is a New York-based brand, and U of M is a ubiquitous national powerhouse. There is no way Monse didn’t take a cue from the unmistakable and, we should mention, trademarked Block-M.
The “Block-M” is a federally registered trademark. This means that the logo may technically be used freely, though it is recommended that mass-produced clothing featuring the M include a circle R, or “R-ball” symbol. In doing so, the company using the trademarked material will eliminate the possibility of customer confusion, a telltale sign of infringement. Use of the circle R is a commonplace rule in the clothing industry, one that Monse has overlooked, or simply flat-out ignored.
This isn’t Monse’s first brush with the coincidentally chunky M (check out the tees they released in August), nor will it be their last. Will the University intervene? Probably not. Monse’s version of the popular symbol is just different enough to place them on the right side of the law — think minutely taller and narrower. Not to mention, the University has bigger fish to fry, like combatting campus racism. And so the high fashion show will go on, unscathed, with naive customers shelling out hundreds for shirts that they could have just bought at the M Den.