Monday, September 21, 2009

Julien Macdonald's YSL 'homage'

Browsing through as I usually do during the shows, I noticed something very familiar about Julien Macdonald's use of sequins in a fish scale pattern:

(Above images from

They reminded me of a 1983 dress by Yves Saint Laurent, sometimes referred to as the sardine dress, in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. A dress that looks like this:
(Page 94 from 'Haute Couture' by Richard Martin and Harold Koda, published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.)

My educated guess would be that the sequin work would have been done by Lesage, and their archives probably are open to designers - does anyone know more about how that works? I am somewhat torn on this; on one hand, I think any designer championing the haute couture crafts of France deserves a pat on the back, and on the other, as a designer I would never use a source so literally. Not knowingly, anyway. I do recall one instance of pretty much copying the cut of a Miyake jacket in my final year; I realised what I'd done two days before the work was due and wanted to bin it. In the end I didn't after having chatted to my tutor, who probably thought all the tears were a bit of an over-reaction.

This reminds me of another instance of a contemporary designer using a constructed textile design pretty much as is, even if the dress was different. The lace in this dress by Madeleine Vionnet (1938) was constructed from horsehair braid:

(Image from 'Vionnet' by Betty Kirke, 1991, Chronicle Books, San Francisco)

When I saw the following ad for Chanel haute couture in 1997, I did feel a slight sense of déjà vu. But then again, that's not uncommon when it comes to Lagerfeld's work. I know one lecturer who has built an entire lecture on literal use of inspiration around Lagerfeld's work for Chanel in the 80s.

Maybe it's pointless to make any value judgments on this; designer ethics are a very personal thing. I nevertheless feel compelled to point out the similarities, so there you go.

1 comment:

Holly McQuillan said...

It is interesting that even though there is so little intellectual property protection within the fashion world that it remains reasonably well self regulating. The shame attached to copying other peoples work tends to keep it in check, while allowing innovative interpretations. I'm in two minds about it though - I want people to use my work, otherwise there isn't much point. On the other hand I would say that the rapid rate of change in the fashion industry (and the associated waste) can be attributed in part to the lack of copyright protection - designers need to keep updating their looks as the copycats inundate the market with versions of their work...