'I created it': Former Fashion Santa Paul Mason fights for brand's ownership
The former Fashion Santa, Paul Mason, is speaking out after Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre revealed this week that a younger 31-year-old model
named Adam Martin would replace the 53-year-old as the new stylish Santa this holiday season.
The announcement incited an online backlash with Mason’s loyal fans demanding that the mall bring him back for this year’s holiday marketing campaign. There was also speculation by social media users that Mason and the shopping centre were feuding over the Fashion Santa brand’s ownership rights.
Mason told CTV’s Your Morning on Thursday that he was speaking publicly about the controversy in order to “clear the air.”
“I am the rightful owner of Fashion Santa. I created it,” Mason declared. “It’s my pitch and I’m here to defend it.”
The handsome model with the iconic white beard claimed he had invented the idea of a sleek, modern and chic Santa Claus and pitched it to various retailers during the summer of 2014. Mason also argued that he came up with the proposal to raise money for the SickKids Foundation using the Fashion Santa persona.
In December 2015, Yorkdale Shopping Centre filed for copyright protection for the Fashion Santa brand and Mason followed suit by filing his own claim two weeks later.
“I filed for copyright protection because it’s mine,” Mason argued. “I wanted to put a stop to it.”
Mason said he originated the Fashion Santa concept after his mother died three years ago. He said he grew out his beard while he was grieving and that’s how he came up with the modern Kris Kringle look.
For the past two holiday seasons, Mason posed in photo campaigns, videos and in person at the mall during the highly successful marketing campaign. He even took countless selfies photos with fans, including pop star Justin Bieber, to raise money for the SickKids Foundation. Every time a shopper took a photo with Mason and shared the image online with the campaign’s hashtag, the mall donated a $1 to the charity. Last year, Yorkdale Shopping Centre gave $10,000 to SickKids Foundation, according to a spokesperson for the mall.
Richard Powers, a lawyer who specializes in trademark cases, who has nothing to do with this matter, told CTVNews.ca that, if Mason owned the copyright to the “Fashion Santa” brand, he and the mall would have needed a formal agreement to that effect before the marketing campaign began.
“In the absence of an agreement the law is pretty clear. The employer owns the intellectual property that’s developed,” Powers said in a telephone interview on Thursday.
Powers said he doesn’t believe that Mason had an agreement with the shopping centre because if he did, he would have revealed it by now. Powers also said he’s not aware of any evidence to suggest that Mason came up with the idea in the first place.
Powers thinks that the former Fashion Santa may be trying to secure a financial settlement.
“I see it really as a money grab on his part and for publicity,” Powers said. “He’s looking for public sympathy.”
In a statement emailed to CTVNews.ca on Wednesday, Adrienne Simic, a spokesperson for the mall, wrote that Mason had been replaced this year because he hadn’t responded to their attempts to contact him.
“They held off very late in the season before moving forward with this current campaign in the hopes that Paul would continue to collaborate with them,” Simic wrote. “The Yorkdale team enjoyed working with Paul and remains open to working with him.”
Mason disagreed with Simic’s version of events and hinted there was more to the story.
“That’s what they said. That’s their take on it,” he said simply. “You can spin it any way you want.”
When he was pressed to elaborate further on what had transpired, Mason just said he was sticking to his version of events and that representatives for Yorkdale Shopping Centre were sticking to their story.
He also pointed to his successful 30-year career in the modelling industry as evidence of his professionalism.
“I have a great reputation,” Mason stated. “You don’t get to those places by not returning phone calls.”
Simic responded to CTV's inquiry about Mason's interview in an email in which she reiterated the shopping centre’s stance that they tried to reach Mason on multiple occasions since the beginning of June and he didn’t respond.
In his interview with CTV’s Your Morning, the former Fashion Santa also thanked his fans for their continued support.
“There’s a lot of love on social media,” Mason said. “It’s overwhelming actually.”