Carmen Colle, a 61-year-old seamstress in a small town in Eastern France, is suing Chanel for $3.7 million over a crochet pattern they allegedly copied from her. She runs World Tricot, an ethical clothing company that handmakes haute couture for some of the industry's top designers, and which Colle founded to give employment opportunities to refugees. Colle has made pieces for Chanel before, but alleges they never bought the disputed design. She first saw a Chanel cardigan with the pattern in question in a shop in Tokyo in 2004. After four and a half years, her case is finally in court. Armed and ready for a fight, Chanel says they came up with the design all their own.
Because of the lawsuit, banks have refused to help her, former clients have disappeared and she has had to lay off all but a dozen employees, she added. "You cannot imagine what it is like," she said, claiming she had been subjected to a strategy of "pressures and manipulation". "You are faced with an enormous machine. You become the guilty party."
"It is not just World Tricot at stake. It is the recognition of small businesses and their creations," she said. "[Big names] treat us as things they can take up and then throw away. It's a shame for them. The greatness of a country, and the greatness of a brand, is the respect it shows for its petites mains."
Chanel has asked the Parisian court to rule on World Tricot's "blatant denigration" of the Chanel name. The outcome of the suit could empower the tailors who work for big fashion houses in France. In the meantime, Colle is working on her own line, Angèle Batist, which staged its first fashion show and opened a boutique in Paris earlier this year.
Seamstress takes on might of Chanel over crochet pattern [Guardian UK]