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Fashion makes statement at USC

'Ready to Share' takes center stage

Is Carrie Bradshaw’s obsession with Manolo Blahnik shoes product placement?

Does fashion drive the characters on “Desperate Housewives,” or is it the other way around?

These were some of the questions put to innovators of the fashion and entertainment worlds at Saturday’s “Ready to Share Event” at USC.

The event, presented by the USC Annenberg School of Communication, centered on the notion that while original ideas in fashion — from the bias cut to the trench coat — are openly reinvented and reappropriated, in film, television and music, taking someone else’s material is cause for a lawsuit.

Fashion itself — as a concept and even a character — in entertainment also was discussed at length in a panel that included Norman Lear, “Sex and the City” exec producer Michael Patrick King, “Desperate Housewives” costume designer Cate Adair and EMI Music exec Ted Cohen.

King told the story of being summoned by “Sex” costume designer Pat Field into a room dominated by a billowing Versace dress.

A cigarette-smoking Field sat next to it and said, “This dress wants to be in the show; do you have any room for it?”

Despite his initial impulse that the dress was “bigger than the scene,” in the end the dress won a part in the show’s final episode, filmed in Paris.

“There was one scene where Carrie was waiting for (Mikhail) Baryshnikov in that dress, and then we had him going under her layers.

“So, yes,” King joked, “fashion wrote the show.”

Adair said the attention “Desperate Housewives” is drawing for its fashion-forwardness is largely unintentional.

“Who knew that divorcees in their 40s would have an impact on fashion?” she said. “I don’t think of it that way.”

Instead, Adair said what the show’s performers wear is determined by their characters.

Felicity Huffman, who plays a mother, “is always saying (of her outfits), ‘There needs to be more baby food on it.'”

“Desperate Housewives” is emblematic of another trend facing stylish shows: the barrage of free samples from designers who want their clothing featured on the show.

Is this product placement? And is it unethical to accept this kind of free merchandise?

Adair said ABC has a strict policy that “unless it’s a pair of underwear that will never be seen, we pay for everything.”

Paying for rights to other materials also was considered.

Lear said his most memorable brush with copyright infringement was when Archie Bunker sang “God Bless America,” a title owned by Irving Berlin, in the 1970s TV series “All in the Family.”

Although the network had not cleared rights to the song and execs told Lear they feared a lawsuit, Lear went ahead and wrote it into the script.

In the end, Lear said, “Mr. Berlin loved it.”

The day also included a presentation of Kevan Hall’s spring 2005 collection; a discussion with Tom Ford on the unwritten open-borrowing policy in fashion; and a panel on the creative-rights issues facing the music industry with T Bone Burnett, Danger Mouse and other music insiders.