This 1917 case determined that despite the fact the contract lacked explicit consideration of her promise, Wood was still the only one allowed to market products using her brand name. There are far, far more details than we have the time to go into here.
But the end result was that Lucy was thus unable to sell her own clothes for lower costs in a cheaper market using her brand name. At this time, she was forced to end her successful mail-order business with Sears, Roebuck & Co. While the finer points escape us, this case is still important regarding marketing or contract law.
Another Near Miss
Lucy's name was almost indelibly connected to ship accidents thanks to a close call a mere three years after the sinking of the Titanic. In May of 1915, she booked passage aboard the RMS Lusitania but ended up canceling the trip due to an illness.
History buffs will already know what we're about to write, but the May voyage of the Lusitania was the final voyage, as it was sunk by a German torpedo on May 7th. We wonder if this were another occasion when Lucy got a bad feeling about it and decided she would do well to listen to the feeling this time.
Being famous is not all that it is cracked up to be, even a hundred years ago before the advent of social media. As an international businesswoman and celebrated couturier, Lucy often found herself sued for breach of contract or non-payment. In 1917 (yes, during World War I), Lucy got involved in what would be her most famous court case, the New York Court of Appeals case of “Wood B. Lucy, Lady Duff-Gordon.”
Judge Benjamin N. Cardozo broke new ground in contract law by enforcing Lucy's contract that gave her advertising agent, Otis F. Wood, exclusive rights to market her professional name.
Finding Ways to Meet Demands
In an effort to keep up with demand, especially in America, Lucile Ltd hired a number of sketch artists to create additional designs inspired by her original ideas. These artists included future famous designers Norman Hartnell and Edward Molyneux, as well as Hollywood costume designer Howard Greer.
These designs were published under the name of Lucile Ltd instead of under the name of the sketch artists. We are sure that this can not result in a lawsuit that ultimately makes the business fold. There is just no way, right? The fashion industry is famously incredibly stable through thick and thin.
A Critical Error
Almost as soon as the Great War ended, Lucile Ltd started to struggle. The romantic styles that Lucy had been designing since she started just weren't as popular after the war, which was tilting toward the flappers, “Great Gatsby,” and the jazz age, which would last until the Great Depression.
Fashion historians have looked back and decided that Lucy's firing of Edward Molyneux, who had urged her to try to design bolder, more modern fashions, was her biggest mistake. This came back in 1919, and it was not long before things started to look dire for Lucy and her business.