When Phoebe Philo sent a grey trapeze coat with knotted sleeves down Céline's fall 2013 runway, the fashion industry swooned. But, for some, the coat was worth paying attention to for all the wrong reasons.
New York zine Garmento noticed the striking similarities between the Céline coat and a coat designed by Geoffrey Beene in 2004. It posted a side-by-side comparison of the coats two weeks ago and it's true: The two garments are near identical as far as we can tell, from their structure (trapeze) to their unique construction (sleeves knotted in the front) to their color (a pale grey).
WWD caught wind of the alleged knock off and reached out to Céline as well as several other industry insiders for comment. While a Céline spokesperson declined to comment, the Geoffrey Beene Foundation weighed in--and they didn't exactly sound surprised.
The foundation commented that the late designer, who passed away in 2004, has "inspired designers over the past several years” and that the coat in question, "recreated by Céline in 2013, was a signature piece of Mr. Beene’s and a representation of how timeless his pieces were."
Jeremy Lewis, the editor of Garmento who first spotted the similarity, sees the whole thing as more of an homage than a knock off. When reached for comment, he gave us the following thoughtful response:
I loved that Céline appropriated the Beene garment and then seemingly developed around what they discovered from it. It was probably the strongest collection of the season and as someone who reveres Mr. Beene and his legacy, who loves American fashion, and who has only been in awe of Ms. Philo's talents, I saw the collection as a gorgeous tribute from one intelligent designer to another. I believe Alber Elbaz (who worked for Geoffrey Beene for about seven years) once said that design is a dialogue, not a monologue, and here is just another great example of it. That said, it's not the first time a distinctly American designer has had their ideas reworked by the house. For example; the leather trimmed canvas that was a major leitmotif of Philo's debut at Céline was actually a signature of designer Bonnie Cashin. My question is that if Phoebe Philo clearly has an interest and respect for American design history how come no one else does?
Food for thought.
And then Karl Lagerfeld, never one to keep his mouth shut, also commented. “I must say I was a little shocked,” Lagerfeld said. You and us both, Karl.