Textile supplier World Tricot sued Chanel a few years back for allegedly copying one of its designs. Carmen Colle, the 61-year-old woman who runs the company, said she proposed a white crochet pattern to Chanel in 2004, and they rejected it. But a few months later she saw the same design on a Chanel piece in a boutique in Tokyo, and sued the house for about $3.7 million for alleged counterfeiting and breach of contract. The case finally went to court, and the judge has decided to throw it out.
However, Colle isn't upset with the decision. The judge awarded her €400,000, or $583,960, for breach of contract, because Chanel halted orders for crocheted and embroidered pieces from World Tricot after the suit arose. Chanel's orders accounted for about 89 percent of World Tricot's revenue, and when they pulled out Colle was forced to lay off most of her staff. (Making her story more sobworthy, she founded the company to employ refugees.)
The judge also awarded Chanel €200,000 for what the house labeled "a smear campaign." Colle hasn't decided if she will appeal the ruling or not, but actually sounds pretty happy with it. "It's a victory for us because the court has recognized that suppliers and artisans are not disposable," she tells The Wall Street Journal. Likewise, Chanel is "very satisfied" itself, since the decision, they say, distinguishes them as the designers from the suppliers, who are just the people who make things for them.
Colle has her own line, Angèle Batist, which opened a boutique in Paris earlier this year. A victory for Colle could have had serious implications for small tailors who work for big couture houses in France (you know, empowered them some). But alas, probably not.