Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Design Piracy is Not New

Fashion designers have long looked to historical garments and to Paris couture for inspiration.  But when one designer copies the work of another line for line, that is known as design piracy.   CFDA President Diane von Furstenburg is currently leading the fight to have Congress adopt the Design Piracy Prohibition Act here in the US.  In 2009, von Furstenburg settled a suit out of court with Canadian label Mercy when it was found one of her design assistants copied a floral jacket from Mercy's Spring 2008 line.  Von Furstenburg was reportedly devastated by the embarrassing incident, especially considering that the designer is herself suing Target for copying her own designs.

Design piracy is not a recent phenomenon, though.  It just didn't get exposed as often without the instant news we now get on the internet.  Take the example of the dress shown above by Claire McCardell from Spring 1958. The bias cut pale gray Irish linen dress skims the body and is accented with white piping at the neckline and pockets. This dress was included in the line that was to be McCardell's last, and much of it was designed by Mildred Orrick and Arnold Scaasi due to McCardell's ill health.  In fact, by the time the above photo was published in June of 1958, McCardell had already passed from colon cancer. 

Three years later, in 1961, the same fashion magazine featured this shell gray bias cut Irish linen dress that skims the body and is accented with white piping at the neckline and pocket.  The only thing missing is the little bow at the front.  McCardell?  No.  This dress was by Abby Michael, a division of Bobbie Brooks.  Coincidence?  I think not.