Yves Saint Laurent and Colette have made nice after a roughly three-year long rift. According to WWD, “The Paris concept store on Monday unveiled two window displays devoted to the French fashion house, signaling a reconciliation” between the two, after they cut all ties over “parody” tees. The window displays are the result of a collaborative effort between Colette and YSL, which us under the creative director of Anthony Vaccarello.
You may recall that back in October 2013, YSL’s then-creative director Hedi Slimane lashed out at Colette after the celebrated Paris brick-and-mortar store began stocking garments bearing the phrase “Ain’t Laurent Without Yves” on the heels of Slimane’s in October 2012. Apparently unamused by the offerings, Slimane and Yves Saint Laurent severed the house’s 15-year business relationship with Colette after learning that the “it” boutique sold roughly 300 of the “parody” t-shirts.
Sarah Andelman, Colette’s creative director spoke out at the time, saying Slimane and YSL retaliated by cancelling the store’s spring 2014 orders for the Saint Laurent collections totaling roughly $300,000 at wholesale. Andelman also said at the time that she was disinvited from the house’s October 2013 Saint Laurent fashion show and was also forbidden from selling copies of the indie magazine Document, which featured a cover of artist Joe Goode photographed by Slimane.
Andelman told WWD this week, “We have worked with Anthony since his first [eponymous label] collection. It was obvious that we would be able to work together again. As soon as Anthony’s nomination [as creative director of YSL] was announced, we met and we started planning the beautiful windows we have right now.”
As for the “parody” wares – which were manufactured and sold by Los Angeles-based label, What About Yves – they went on to be the center of a legal battle initiated by YSL. Roughly two years after cutting ties with Colette, YSL filed suit against What About Yves and its founder, Jeanine Heller, accusing them of “intentionally attempting to pass infringing products off as [YSL’s] products in a manner calculated to deceive [YSL’s] customers and members of the general public in that [Heller] has applied a nearly identical mark to [YSL’s] marks to goods of the kind that [YSL] regularly markets and sells.”
According to YSL’s complaint, it sent a number of cease and desist letters to Heller before filing suit. After the letters went unanswered, Heller finally reached out to the design house’s counsel, denying any wrongdoing, and offering to sell her “Ain’t Laurent Without Yves” trademark to them. (Heller filed to federally register the mark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office but it was ultimately rejected due to its similarity to a number of existing trademarks belonging to YSL). All the while, Heller continued to sell the allegedly infringing t-shirts to retailers including Colette.
The parties ultimately settled the case out of court in early 2016, as did Heller and Chanel, which filed a nearly identical suit against Heller and What About Yves over a “parody” tee bearing its famed double-“C” logo.
[NOTE: Parody is put in quotations throughout because of the presumptuous nature of using that term, a legal term of art (that carries with it a four factor test must be satisfied), in connection with any design, absent an official finding – by a court. The vast majority of designers, retailers, journalists, bloggers, etc. are fond of grouping together all garments and accessories that make use of another brand’s trademark, and labeling them as parodies. The automatic characterization of these designs as parodies stands to misconstrue the law. Instead of labeling these creations as potentially amounting to trademark infringement or trademark dilution – which is what they very well may be – the designs are being labeled “parodies,” and thus, we assume they are protected under the doctrine of Fair Use, albeit without properly analyzing them].