For its Fall 2016 Alta Moda collection, Dolce & Gabbana looked to a variety of Italian themes, from Catholicism to football, and now it is being sued. Argentinean football player-turned-manager Diego Maradona has filed suit against Dolce & Gabbana, alleging that the famous Italian design house has exploited his likeness by recreating his S.S.C. Napoli football club jersey, complete with his name and number, and including it in the couture collection.
Dolce & Gabbana’s inclusion of a Maradona-emblazoned jersey in its Alta Moda collection was certainly not lost on the fashion press. Vogue’s Steff Yokta specifically made mention of the design in her “9 Things to Know About Dolce & Gabbana's Alta Moda Show in Naples” roundup, writing: “Dolce & Gabbana put a spin on the jersey of famous retired S.S.C. Napoli player Diego Maradona, rendering number 10's kit in silk with crystal embellishments.”
In Vogue's disclosure-less review of the collection (more about that here), Sarah Mower pointed to “a girl in a satin soccer shirt with Sophia on the front and Maradona 10 on the back.” Still yet, Harper’s Bazaar called attention to the fact that “soccer-inspired jerseys made an unusual appearance on the runway."
Maradona initially called the design – which D&G showed on location in Naples in July 2016 – a "splendid gesture of love towards Naples.” He has since markedly changed his tune and decided to take legal action. “I asked my lawyers to sue fashion designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana for compensation because they used my name without permission during a fashion show in Naples,” Maradona said in a statement last week.
The suit – which was filed earlier this month in the Milan Court of First Instance – centers on Maradona’s claims that Dolce & Gabbana has taken unfair advantage of the reputation of his well-known name, which is protected by trademark law. Maradona has a number of European Union trademark registrations for his name, including for use on clothing.
Moreover, in accordance with Italian law, a well-known personal name can be registered as a trademark – and/or used in a commercial capacity – only by, or with the consent of, that person. According to Maradona, Dolce & Gabbana failed to obtain permission to use his name in the case at hand.
Maradona said in a statement following the filing, “It is with great esteem and consideration for their work, I think I have to defend my interests against any speculative marketing method. I am now quietly waiting for the Italian judges’ decision.”
Dolce & Gabbana’s founders, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, have also spoken out about Maradona’s suit. Mr. Gabbana stated, “We paid tribute to him and Naples. He was a great one and we just wanted to pay homage to his greatness. It was the same with Sophia Loren [whose name adorned the front of the jersey]. They are important symbols of Naples. They are everything here.”
In apologizing on Instagram, Gabbana stated that Dolce & Gabbana did not manufacture the Maradona jersey for sale, as they did “not want to make use of it to make money," a fact that almost certainly stands to lessen any of the monetary damages that Maradona is seeking from the brand.
And speaking of money, I am willing to bet Maradona and Dolce & Gabbana will be able to settle this one out of court. But stay tuned.