Captioned by VFiles on instagram, “Who wore it better? Oliver Rousteing for Balmain S/S 2015 vs Alexander McQueen for Givenchy Haute Couture S/S 1997.” The two images showed side by side displayed a suit from Balmain’s SS15 runway collection and another identical suit created by Alexander McQueen for Givenchy’s Spring 1997 collection.
Every season designers have to come up with a collection that’s not only both innovative and original but the truth of the matter is, just like trends, fashion inspiration gets recycled. The one exception under the U.S. Copyright Act is that a fashion design may be protectable “only if, and only to the extent that, such design incorporates pictorial, graphic, or sculptural features that can be identified separately from, and are capable of existing independently of, the utilitarian aspects of the article.”
Unlike designers in America, designers in London, Paris and Milan have intellectual property protection that prevents their designs from the ready hands of copyists. There’s a difference between a haute couture original and a knock-off but despite the similarities in the designs, the differences can be spotted. Oliver Rousteing’s suit for Balmain’s S/S 2015 collection lacks the four buttons that the suit from Alexander McQueen for Givenchy’s Spring 1997 collection has, in addition one has flap pockets while the other does not, the lapels are different in size and shape, and the bottom hem is sharply angled while the other is more round. The only similarities between Balamin’s suit and Givenchy’s is that, in one there is a cut out in the same area and the twist is in the same direction.
Fashion designers constantly borrow from one another, from Michael Kors vs Missoni, Christian Louboutin vs Yves Saint Laurent, etc. but sometimes the cases aren’t always in black and white and for those that fall into the grey area it comes down to a debate between inspiration and artistic theft.