As Coco Chanel once said: "The more copied you are, the more famous – the time to cry is when they stop."
But her maxim has not deterred the extremely famous Giorgio Armani from accusing his younger rivals Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana of stealing one of his designs.
He has presented Italian fashion journalists with photographs of a pair of quilted trousers shown in an Emporio Armani collection last year, and a pair sent down the catwalk by Dolce & Gabbana at the start of men's fashion week in Milan last Saturday.
"Now they copy me, tomorrow they will learn," Armani remarked.
"Not just one pair," tutted his assistant, Leo Dell'Orco. "They sent 16 pairs down the catwalk!"
The similarity of the garments was certainly striking and there was no doubt which came first, though it is arguable whether Armani gained from the comparison. The sheen on his version made the trousers look dripping wet, while the matt, padded look of D&G's, perhaps inspired by Chinese peasant workwear, looked more comfortable and more stylish.
Yesterday, Dolce and Gabbana returned fire. "We surely have plenty to learn, but certainly not from him," they huffed. "The Armani style was never a source of inspiration for us, and it is years since we have bothered to watch his collections."
The spat commanded giant headlines in Italian newspapers yesterday, relegating reviews of the new Milan menswear collections to the basement. Fashion plagiarism has become far more common in the internet age but opinion is divided about whether it is a problem or not. Some argue that the widespread and lightning-fast copying of catwalk designs by high-street stores keeps interest in couture high among those who cannot afford to buy from big-name designers. Others, however, say that it destroys originality.
One London-based fashionista agreed yesterday that plagiarism was endemic in her industry. "It used to be more regulated but now everyone is knocking off everyone else all the time," she said. "They've lost control and, on the whole, people have stopped moaning about it."
Even Armani has had to fork out for plagiarism, paying undisclosed damages to the London designers Antoni & Alison in 1993 when a logo on one of his T-shirts was deemed by a judge to be too similar to one of theirs. However, Armani's office said he would not be suing D&G. "It was a casual observation which the press blew into something more substantial," said a spokesman.