St Andrews could take legal action against cheaper red gown retailer
The replica gowns are £60 cheaper
The University of St Andrews could be launching a legal suit against a company producing cheaper replicas of their iconic red gowns.
Selling under the name Churchill Gowns, Student Gowns Ltd sells graduation gowns made to universities' standards across the United Kingdom.
Their replica gowns are £60 cheaper than the originals, and the company claims they are 'indistinguishable' from the St Andrews's own gowns.
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As the academic year kicked off in September 2018, Churchill Gowns sold versions of the red undergraduate gown online and through a stall during Freshers' Week. The gowns were made of a similar red colour with a velvet colour and inner pocket.
However, the University demanded they cease their actions, accusing them of 'infringing' the St Andrews' trademark by marketing and selling the replicas and using the university's name in order to do so.
Prince William and Kate Middleton's alma mater claims the suppliers created 'confusion' amongst the students, passing of the replica gowns as originals.
They further condemn Churchill Gowns for deceiving students with gowns of 'inferior quality' which were made of lightweight, cheaper fleece rather than the traditional wool.
While the University's gowns are manufactured in the UK, Churchill Gowns outsources their production to China. The University purports that this has caused damage to the reputation of the university's own gowns.
In addition to this, Churchill Gowns sold their versions of the distinctive red gown for £89 compared to the official gowns sold by the University at £159.
This has had financial repercussions for the university, with their sales dropping by 200 from the previous year. Churchill Gowns claims they only sold 89 red undergraduate gowns to St Andrews students, demonstrating their impact on official gown sales.
The University maintains that aside from the financial damage incurred, their main issue with Churchill Gowns is their claim to be 'official agents,' endorsed or affiliated with the University. This therefore deliberately mislead students into thinking they were getting the original gowns.
The University is therefore asking for greater honesty and clarity about the identities of the vendors. This is also an important way of maintain a 600-year-old tradition that is integral to the history and heritage of the town.
The gown company responded and said on their website "we provide services that are more flexible and affordable than those of traditional suppliers, while maintaining focus on our core beliefs: ethical manufacturing, environmental sustainability and social responsibility."
They also added that their versions are more sustainable, writing "all of our graduation gowns are made entirely from recycled plastic waste and we donate 10% of our profits to environmental and educational charities, so when you choose to graduate with Churchill you can be confident that you are making the most cost effective and ethical choice."