My recent obsession with everything Ceil Chapman means that my eye goes straight to her designs when I peruse Pinterest. I am usually lazy about clicking through to original sources, but something made me follow through with this picture, and boy am I glad I did - because it led to a treasure trove of gorgeous designs.
Mme. Grès is often referred to as the queen of draping, but I believe Ceil Chapman gives her a run for her money. So I was thrilled to find these patented examples of her designs; how wonderful to find original source material, complete with dates, and even a few clues as to construction if you look closely.
It also brought to mind the idea of fashion copyright - a hot button topic in recent years.
Certainly there are a limited number of ways to cover the human form, and I suspect that at this point, they have all been done before. Can anything really be considered new or fresh? Comme des Garçons “Lumps and Bumps” Collection from 1997 comes to mind – but other than wearable art, would it not be possible to find “copies” of any garment if you look hard enough?
And what about an a-line dress – can someone claim ownership over a design that is incredibly basic? How complex does it have to get before a design is truly distinguishable from another? I can see the designer of a massively intricate haute couture creation getting credit in perpetuity for their genius, but then again, how likely is it that someone would or even could copy it.
Does anyone really think that the disposable copies that are mass produced and hocked by fast fashion companies are anything like the designer originals? I doubt that someone willing to spend $500 for a designer dress with an expectation of quality goods is going to be happy with the cheap knock-off version. The average consumer would never be able to afford that expensive design. So is the designer, in fact, losing a customer? Probably not. And is this terribly different than the department stores that were purchasing quality goods from fashion houses fifty and sixty years ago and having a talented individual create a house brand version?
Since consumers (or the majority of them) no longer seem interested in buying quality instead of quantity, and demand that the very latest must-have item arrive at their door tomorrow morning, getting rid of the H&Ms and Forever 21s of the world seems rather hopeless. After all, quality and old world craftsmanship is never going to happen quick enough for people in this instant gratification age.
How about using part of the design such as the bodice, and pairing it with a different skirt? Would that be considered a breach? Here are certainly instances where Ms. Chapman has borrowed her very own ideas. A petal bust here, a surplice bodice there, simply swapped with a skirt from a previous design.
And what would you think about someone re-producing one of these designs - the patent, after all, is long expired. Personally I would find it extremely tacky to make a profit off of a line for line copy (but I don't imagine huge corporations really care about anything other than money).
But putting aside the question of whether or not there is anything proprietary about fashion design, these looks are fabulous. And I will admit that I am not above borrowing or being inspired by those who I consider the masters. Isn't imitation considered the highest form of flattery? Legality aside, I sure do love looking at and being inspired by beautiful things.
Now if only I could find an original version of the pattern I am currently working on or the original patented line drawings - wouldn't that be something!?
[Click on image for source]