In light of the release of some of Givenchy's S/S 2014 menswear, including a t-shirt bearing that rose print (pictured below) that the Paris-based design house has used it the past, I figured it would be an appropriate time to refresh your memories about that print. This article was originally published in June 2013, but it is as relevant now as ever ...
Nothing made it more obvious than pregnant Kim Kardashian on the Met Gala red carpet covered in Givenchy floral, that Givenchy's Fall 2013 rose print is not all that original. I am fully aware that rose prints aren't a novel phenomenon, but regardless, its a worthwhile discussion. We basically all know by now that Givenchy's creative director Riccardo Tisci is a big streetwear fan, and so, its hardly surprising that he is influenced by streetwear brands. However, he may have taken it a step too far for Fall. His apparent target: NYC-based cult skate shop, Supreme, which debuted its “power, corruption, lies" gear for Spring 2013, including t-shirts, sweatshirts, shorts, hats, and even sneakers (a collaboration with Vans). Tisci's rumored boyfriend, Frank Ocean, was even spotted in one of the tees in late February.
Having said this, I'm torn as to whether Supreme's print is "original" enough to warrant copyright protection. The legal enthusiasts among us know that the bar for originality is quite low. What I do know is that Supreme's project was inspired by the music group, New Order's 1983 album cover art work, which was created by graphic designer Peter Saville and featured a copy "a basket of roses," a painting by Ignace-Henri-Théodore Fantin-Latour. "A basket of roses" was created in 1890 and currently resides at The National Gallery in London. Fantin-Latour was a 19th Century painter, famous for his portraits and still-life works, who died in 1904. This date is significant for us as it indicates the duration of the copyright protection that governs the work. French copyright law, somewhat like the U.S., declares that proprietary rights of the author last for seventy years after his death. As such, this particular work has been in the public domain, free for anyone to use, since the 1970's.
This means that both Supreme and Givenchy are in the clear in regard to Fantin-Latour's work. Supreme could, of course, make the argument that it has transformed Fantin-Latour's work and as a result, created a new, copyrightable print, of which Givenchy has infringed the copyright, but chances are, that won't happen. And as for whether Supreme has a copyrightable work, and thus, a successful claim, that is a discussion best left for another day.
Fantin-Latour's Basket of Roses (left) & New Order's album cover (right)