Payout for McQueen over plagiarism libel

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The Independent Online
ALEXANDER McQUEEN and Givenchy, the fashion house where he is chief designer, accepted substantial libel damages yesterday over claims of plagiarism from the London listings magazine Time Out.

The magazine had carried false allegations by fashion students that McQueen had copied their designs. One of the dresses in question was a white, one-shouldered toga dress first shown at McQueen's debut haute couture show for Givenchy in January 1997.

A spokesperson for McQueen said that Trevor Merrell, 36, a former student of the London College of Fashion, first made contact about 18 months ago, claiming that the dress was a copy of one of his own designs. Six months later, Time Out got hold of another student's story, alleging that one of her fabric designs had been plagiarised by McQueen.

"This sort of allegation is not uncommon," said the McQueen spokesperson. "It took an awful lot of time and energy to deal with these particular claims, which initially we saw as nothing more than annoying. Having taken advice from our lawyers at Givenchy, however, we decided that if we took a stand on this particular occasion it would stop other people from trying it on in the future."

The action by Givenchy follows a series of allegations of plagiarism in fashion. Breach of copyright in fashion depends on whether the substance of a garment has been copied rather than just the idea behind it.

In 1993, the London-based design duo Antoni & Alison received an out- of-court settlement for undisclosed damages from Giorgio Armani who, they alleged, had produced a T-shirt bearing a logo too close to one of their own designs. In 1994, Ralph Lauren paid pounds 250,000 damages to Yves Saint Laurent for copyright infringement of a black tuxedo evening sheath. Equally high-profile was Liza Bruce's attempt to sue Marks & Spencer over a swimwear design. The designer's legal costs put her out of business.

McQueen, whose spring/ summer haute couture collection is to be shown this weekend, said: "I was determined to prove that accusations of this nature will not be tolerated."