When Does Inspiration Become a Rip-Off? The Case of the Celine and Geoffrey Beene Coats

(Garmento; ImaxTree) Left, the Geoffrey Beene 2004 coat; Right, the Celine fall 2013 coat

In 2004, the Geoffrey Beene company released this collarless wool jersey coat, above left, which featured slanted flap pockets, a boxy trapeze cut, distinctive seams and edging, and a specific, almost origami-cal collarbone panel detail. At her latest Paris Fashion Week show, Celine's Artistic Director Phoebe Philo showed a near-identical coat—save for the color and the option for the wearer to stick her arms through the armpit holes instead.

Rewind six months—remember this?

The back story here is that Bryan Boy found this vintage J. Crew sweater in a consignment store in Paris—and the next season, J.W. Anderson sent an identical sweater down his London Fashion Week runway.

Is there anything new in fashion anymore? Or is everything arriving in stores season after season simply a rehash of old ideas—and at what point does taking inspirational elements from a previous generation cross the line into out-and-out copycatting?

“I must say I was a little shocked,” Chanel Artistic Director Karl Lagerfeld told WWD when he saw the Geoffrey Beene and Celine resemblance. According to reports, the photos have been circulating among the biggest names in Paris since the fall 2013 fashion week season wrapped earlier this month. For their part, the Geoffrey Beene Foundation acknowledges that the designer's work has inspiread a vast number of younger designers over the years and that this piece "was a signature piece of Mr. Beene’s and a representation of how timeless his pieces were."
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