In Defense of Phoebe Philo and Céline’s New Coat

By
Photo: Imaxtree

Now "circulating among fashion folk in Paris," writes WWD, are a pair of photos: one, an outfit from Phoebe Philo's fall 2013 Céline runway; the other, a trapeze-style, wool jersey Geoffrey Beene coat, photographed in 2004 by Jack Deutsch. The article, strangely bylined "WWD Staff," seems to hint at more than a resemblance between the pieces and cites Fashion Industry Spokesperson Karl Lagerfeld, who remarked, "I must say I was a little shocked," upon seeing the side-by-side images.

Jeremy Lewis, editor of Garmento zine and a self-described "ardent Geoffrey Beene fan," was perhaps the first to post both pictures on his website earlier this month. He told the Cut that he believes the Céline design team was influenced by Beene, but he wouldn't brand the coat a rip-off. "They're actually two very different garments," he continued. "And if you look at the whole collection, what you'll see is they referenced a few technical details from the coat and expanded on it. I think of it more as a discussion between one designer and another, and I think what [Céline] did was fantastic."

Geoffrey Beene's coat.

Deutsch, too, noted the garments' differences, assuring the Cut there were no additional armholes in the original rendition. For the photograph, "Mr. Beene tied [the sleeves]. He was very hands on." So maybe Philo pulled the shape from the image (pinned to her mood board), spinning it into a tromp l'oeil jacket-meets-cape. "All creatives are guilty of that to a greater or lesser extent," Deutsch added. "True originality is a rare and cherished thing."

As Lewis put it, referencing past designers' work is alternately defined as drawing inspiration or flat-out copying, and "no one's going to come to an agreement on it any time soon."