Fashion has always involved imitation, otherwise the world would be a good deal clearer on, say, the provenance of the little black dress (Singer Sargent’s Madame X? Wharton’s Ellen Olenska? Coco Chanel? Your Great-aunt Maud?). A quick glance at any glossy women’s magazine, however, and one thing is apparent: call it ‘splurge vs steal’, or dress it up as an ‘hommage’, but copying in fashion is rife.
Here, a plastic-looking ‘ tribute’ to Dior mules; there a sleek, Céline-style tote for £70 as opposed to several thousand. (In fact, among fashion- forward gals, the catwalk-cognisant chain Zara is known as ‘Zara Prada’, so swift is its ability to unveil a high-quality catwalk lookalike.) Away from the high street, a version of Kate Middleton’s wedding dress – the original of which took Mcqueen’s British artisans months to create by hand – was available in China within six hours. A week may be a long time in politics, but it’s the blink of an eye in high street copycatting.
As a consequence, where once only Louis Vuitton defended its honour with any zeal, now anybody who is anybody is strutting to court. Christian Louboutin and Yves Saint Laurent are slugging it out over the ownership – or otherwise – of scarlet soles. In the past, YSL took on Ralph Lauren for too closely reproducing a dress. Chloé brought actions against Kookai regarding a £35 handbag strikingly similar to its £1,000 Silverado, and against Topshop over a frock. Jimmy Choo was a have-a-go hero regarding its handbags, to which M&S strayed too near, and defended its shoe designs against New Look, Oasis and Jane Shilton. Monsoon and H& M have brought actions against Primark for copying their clothing.
Handbags, heels and hemlines at dawn is the