The legal dispute between JLM Couture and the designer behind the Hayley Paige bridal label is playing out in court and on Instagram.
The designer, whose legal name is Hayley Paige Gutman, has parted ways with JLM Couture, despite being under contract through August 2022. U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain granted mostly in favor of JLM Couture last week. At stake were Gutman’s use of the Hayley Paige name professionally and access to her Instagram account and a good part of her social media presence.
On Monday, Gutman struck back on Instagram via @allthatglittersonthegram, the podcast account that she and her fiancé started. Acknowledging how JLM was granted a preliminary injunction, she posted a video explaining how she is unable to use her name professionally and noted among other things, “I refuse to feel continually violated by this company. Just because you can use the law to take someone’s social media, someone’s name, someone’s ability to make a living, it doesn’t mean you should.”
On Tuesday, the New York-based JLM posted that “intellectual property is the cornerstone of every modern business especially in the fashion industry,” and alleged among other things that Gutman is “trying to mislead the public about the facts of this case and her own motivations.”
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The designer’s five-minute video had been viewed 337,262 times as of Tuesday afternoon. Gutman said she has stopped following all of JLM’s social media channels and noted that comments are currently not allowed on her social media channels. Refusing to be “nameless and jobless,” the designer said she is changing her name officially and professionally. Gutman asked her followers for a name that is “positive, full of light and feisty.”
In an interview Tuesday, Joseph Murphy, president and chief executive officer of JLM, reiterated some of what the post highlighted — claiming Gutman licensed the Hayley Paige name to her fiancé to license to third parties. JLM also linked to the court’s 57-page decision and strongly encouraged anyone interested in the case to read it. “One of our arguments was it was contractually a work-for-hire account set up to sell luxury wedding gowns. That was what we were doing for a long time. Then the claim was made that it was her personal account and she didn’t have to post anything having to do with the Hayley Paige brand, her namesake wedding gown collection, and that she could basically monetize it to sell third-party endorsements without our knowledge or approval,” he said. “She was using the trademark in commerce, which she doesn’t have the right to do.”
In addition to having stopped posting bridal content on the brand’s social media channels, she changed the passwords and locked out JLM Couture employees from accessing them, he claimed. “She was given autonomy to direct it, but she also had support help from our staff and social media staff. She just changed the nature of it so it was promoting the personal businesses that she had found doing third-party endorsements that she had contracted.”
JLM’s Instagram post from Tuesday notes that Gutman sent analytics to get an influencer deal with Chosen Foods and used the @MissHayleyPaige account “to promote Optimum Whey and salad dressing products for her own benefit.”
Reached at her parents’ home in California on Tuesday, Gutman criticized JLM Couture for taking control of the social media accounts (associated with the brand) without informing followers that they are now speaking with a corporation and not her. (The company had the legal authority to do so.) She also questioned the company’s decision to shut off all comments, which she described as “disrespectful.” She claimed to have started her Instagram in 2012 on her own accord, sharing details of “her journey, family and love.” The designer, who previously appeared on the reality show “Say Yes to the Dress,” said she was “so disappointed by the court’s temporary ruling.”
Despite the ongoing legal fight, Murphy said he was open to discussions with Gutman and her attorneys. Committed to the Hayley Paige brand, JLM Couture will move forward with it. “We stakeholders, employees, stores, brides, vendors, and I have to be responsible for them and do what’s necessary to make sure the collection and the brand stays vibrant. How that involves the two parties is largely up to the other side.”
Moving forward with her life and creative passion, Gutman said she is not going to “curl up and say, ‘Why me?’” Although she does not have a “formal agreement at the moment” to start a new company, Gutman said, “However, I have an entire landscape before me and there have been such incredible business mentors in my life that 100 percent support my decision to move forward.”
Prior to resigning midway through last December, Gutman claimed that all of her social media posts were her own. “It was never a question to me that it was my personal account. I’ve tried to create a platform that is based on truth and integrity that is really authentic to my following. People deserve the truth and I couldn’t work for a company that has dragged me through nonstop negotiations. I felt extremely harassed.”
Asked about her contract that is said to run through August 2022, Gutman’s spokesman said, “That is a litigation issue. I don’t believe that’s settled as to how do we interpret the agreement.”
Having been accustomed to DMing many of her social media followers, Gutman said not being able to do so to explain her accounts had switched hands was “very heart-wrenching.” Asked about JLM’s intellectual property rights and the judge’s decision that she had sold the rights to her name, the designer said, “I just feel these people want to squelch everyone who doesn’t agree with their mischaracterization. I’m not interested in this idea of tactical interpretation,” she said.
Reminded that it was a judge’s ruling, not a tactical interpretation, her spokesman interjected that it was a temporary ruling “with many more things to come,” including an additional filing that is expected at the end of March.
Asked if he had reached out to Gutman’s team about settling out of court, Murphy declined to comment. “But I’m always open to conversation and discussion,” he said.
As for whether Gutman is open to settling with JLM Couture, her spokesman claimed that her legal team had made “dozens of attempts” to try to find a way to settle, before the litigation was filed and after the emergency injunction. Asked that Gutman respond to the question, she said, “One of the hardest things about the situation that I am in is that there has been a discrepancy between their actions and their actual behavior…it would be nice for them to follow through with their actions if that’s something they want. It would be nice of them to call my lawyers and to make that possible.”
Repeating that JLM Couture has taken over her social media accounts and is preventing her from posting, Gutman was reminded that the company had the legal right to do so. “Yes, this is a litigation issue, but I just feel what’s wrong is wrong. Just because you can go to a court and do those sorts of things, I don’t think that is right. It sets a terrible precedent for young creatives, unfortunately.”
Murphy said he likes Gutman and does not have any animosity toward her, but he is puzzled by why she went off in this direction. “I always tried to reconcile with her. When she says what happened is wrong, it’s not wrong. It’s based on contract law, trademark law. She sold the rights to her name. She got money…she twice agreed to contracts,” he said, adding that the company has trademark rights on the name in perpetuity.
Discovering predominantly young and unknown designers to give them an opportunity, funding, connections, the knowhow, the infrastructure and production to establish themselves is what JLM does, according to Murphy. The business model will continue in that vain with other designers as it had with Gutman, the executive said. “I always recognized her talent and I always supported her. So I’m reachable. People know where to find me to talk,” he said. “But it’s an ongoing lawsuit and I really can’t predict the outcome.”
Asked about Gutman crowdsourcing a new name, he said, “She’s crowdsourcing a legal change of her name. So I really have no comment.”
Restating how intellectual property is the cornerstone of every modern business especially in the fashion industry, Murphy said, “If that wasn’t the case, you wouldn’t be able to raise capital, go into partnerships with retailers, have vendors that give you credit.”
As for Gutman’s wedding plans, those have been delayed. She noted how she and her fiancé Conrad Clevlen have experienced “a lot of residual stress and harassment from this. It was taking a lot of the beauty and love out of something that we are looking forward to in the future. We hope to get married some day. But right now we’re buried in legal bills, and a lot of stress, so we’re taking it one day at a time.”
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