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PAGEANTRY INTERVIEW stevelang Taking a Global Stand Fed up with foreign companies flooding the market with counterfeit gowns and dresses, some of the formalwear industry’s biggest names are taking their fight to federal court ounterfeiting in the global marketplace is nothing new. Our history books trace the act as an affront to the American economy as far back as 1889, when English companies exported cotton goods bearing U.S. company logos and trademarks to other coun- tries and continents, because there was a standard to be upheld. However, the illegal act hurt companies then and it’s certainly hurting companies now. Industries from coast-to-coast are seeing revenue and subsequent job losses at alarming rates, with foreign companies inundating the bridal, prom and formalwear markets with poorly made phony gowns. Now, though, a growing group of industry leaders and icons is taking this fight to federal court, as the companies responsible for these counterfeit items are being dragged into the light and ex- posed as criminals. Steve Lang, President and CEO of Mon Cheri, is one of those leaders taking charge and fighting for his industry’s rightful success. So far, it’s looking like the American Bridal and Prom Industry Association is a true force to be reck- oned with. C Pageantry magazine: What is the American Bridal and Prom Industry Association all about? Steve Lang: The association is a combination of manufacturers, retailers, apparel marts, magazines—basically, it’s anybody in the supply chain that represents the women’s and men’s formal wear industry. We started this association to better the industry, to make it better not just for the manufacturers but for the retailers and ul- timately the consumers. It has been in existence for about a year and we’re picking up more and more members every single day of the week, and we’re thrilled about it. PM: What is the premise behind this association? SL: The premise has multiple platforms. One of the major plat- 82 PAGEANTRY forms that we’re working on right now is educating the industry and the consumers about the rampant counterfeiting that’s going on, mainly in China. There are factories over there that are weakly copying dresses that are made by manufacturers, such as Tony Bowls, one of my major brands, and they are basically cheating the American consumer. They’re making very poor copies, and they’re not paying taxes or duties when the goods come into the country. They’re basically not only copying our goods, which is illegal, but they’re also violating American Customs and tax laws. Any- body who buys one of these dresses is subject to having to pay the penalties and the fines if U.S. Customs finds out that they know- ingly bought counterfeit items. It’s illegal. If you knowingly buy counterfeit, you have a problem. PM: You touched on this before, but what kind of companies are involved in the ABPIA? SL: It’s all of the major manufacturers, boutiques, and sales asso- ciates involved in the industry, and it’s also right down to anyone who is in the supply chain. We’re going beyond just fighting this counterfeiting issue overseas. We are also working to bring nation- al health insurance to the industry, and the better scheduling of markets for the retailers who come to market to see the products that they sell to the consumer. It’s about better education for the retailers and how they can better educate their customers on the product and the choices out there. It’s a full “a la carte” assortment of activities that we’re working on, and the industry really needed an association, some central point for the major powers-that-be so they can come together and do a better job for the retailers. PM: And of course the major crux is the counterfeiting in the industry. Is counterfeiting that pervasive? Is it something that we should all be concerned with? SL: It’s terrible. In our industry, 500,000 units came into the Unit-