In a potentially unusual fashion plot twist, we may have come across a high fashion brand copying a fast fashion one copying another high fashion one. Turns out, on the heels of its red lips print and that familiar looking cherry print from its respective Spring/Summer 2014 and Spring/Summer 2015 collections, Saint Laurent is offering an interesting dress for Fall 2015. It is the Pussy-bow lipstick-print crepe mini dress, which is currently in stores and retailing for $3490. According to the Paris-based brand’s notes on Net-a-Porter, “Saint Laurent's black crepe dress is decorated with a graphic lipstick print - a major motif for the label this season.” The lipstick print is also being plastered onto a handful of garments and accessories for F/W 2015 (think: shirts, scarves, sneakers and purses).
Enter: Forever 21’s Lipstick Jersey Knit Dress (above, left), which the fast fashion brand began offering for $23 as part of its plus size collection in early 2013. Both dresses have a black base and feature an array of tubes of lipstick, pointing in various directions. Forever 21’s come in green tubes and are shades of pink and red. Saint Laurent’s come in black tubes and in a singular shade of red. The necklines are also a bit similar.
Yes, we have seen Hedi Slimane, Saint Laurent’s creative director, look to the past for inspiration (usually his inspiration comes from the YSL archives or Roxy Music imagery), but this time, he may have gone a bit too far. Blogger Nicolette Mason, who commented on the similarity this week, certainly seems to think this was more than a coincidence, tweeting: “In other fashion news, Hedi Slimane is LITERALLY trolling us with this $3,490 F21 knock off.”
As for whether Saint Laurent is violating any laws: the answer is almost certainly no. While copyright law does, in fact, protect original prints that appear on garments (à la the lipstick print on dresses), there is likely a problem here because copyright law prohibits the protection of a design if the idea underlying the design can be expressed only in one way or a drastically limited number of ways.
The depiction of a tube of lipstick may fall within the limitation, which is called the merger doctrine, because how many ways can you really represent an open tube of lipstick? Moreover, as indicated above, Forever 21's version was not all that original to begin with - Prada showed its own lipstick printed garments years prior for Spring/Summer 2001.