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Shoegate: Sarah Riley, Trelise Cooper in payment dispute


May 22, 2008/5.32

It’s another case of ‘She said / She said’ in the fashion world, and Trelise Cooper’s name has come up again.
   This time, footwear designer Sarah Riley is accusing Trelise Cooper Ltd. of not paying in full for supplied stock.
   On Riley’s side, there might be some hope out there that people remember Trelise Cooper Ltd. for its lawsuit against Tamsin Cooper, and that the media are prepared to align the latest case with this. That time, there was arguably more “underdog” support for the smaller Tamsin Cooper label, with the exception of a TV One news item that went off-topic by questioning Tamsin Cooper’s materials.
   The case is, after all, still talked about in the media—not always in the most glowing terms for the larger design company.
   However, after Trelise Cooper Ltd. itself became a potential defendant facing similar accusations from a company marketing its products under the Treliske trade mark, some might believe that karma has followed its natural path and the slate has been wiped clean.
   So what are the arguments?
   Riley says that Cooper owes NZ$23,000. The release, from Mint Condition Ltd., says Riley ‘has fallen victim to the foibles of designer and retailer Trelise Cooper.’
   It has affected Riley so much that her winter 2008 and summer 2009 collections have had to be cancelled, says the release.
   This time around, Trelise Cooper Ltd. has employed a publicist, perhaps one lesson learned from the Tamsin Cooper case.
   The company, through its general manager Alex Brandon, dismisses Riley’s accusations, saying that the supplied goods were faulty.
   ‘TCL [Trelise Cooper Ltd.] received a delivery from Sarah Riley in September 2007. After only two days on the shop ?oor TCL were alerted by customers and staff to numerous quality issues.’
   Riley, in her defence, has had one retailer, Mei Mei in Ponsonby, Auckland, attest to the quality of her products. ‘Eight years in the business, I’ve had more problems with returns on Jimmy Choo heels!’ says Mei Mei’s Jo Pearson.
   Trelise Cooper Ltd. attempted to return the stock but it was not accepted by Riley—on this point the parties agree.
   Brandon says Trelise Cooper Ltd. paid Riley ‘on delivery of the shoes $23,838 [up front] of a total invoice of $47,677.’
   This is a more routine commercial case, so the “bullying” aspect that Tamsin Cooper supporters saw in 2005–7 isn’t as apparent. One company is bigger than the other, but in our view the sympathy heartstrings are harder to pull, especially as the ?rst stone has been cast in the media by the smaller one.
   There are useful precedents over the quality and sale of goods in the courts already, as well as many governing part-payment. These cases that tend to be less fascinating than those surrounding intellectual property—or brands.
   At the end of the day, both sides have a varying idea over the quality of the product, and this is what any case will rest on.
   Did Sarah Riley supply shoes of a merchantable quality to Trelise Cooper Ltd.? Were there clauses in the sale of goods’ contract governing quality and payment?
   The story has not yet broken in the mainstream media but we expect it will be more an arm’s-length commercial battle rather than David v. Goliath when it does.
   We at Lucire hope the parties can settle their differences without resorting to the courts.

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