While it's no surprise that Madonna and daughter Lourdes most likely rely on a team of designers for their recently-launched Material Girl collection at Macy's, its quite disconcerting to see that their designers might rely on designs from someone else. In this particular case, we're referring to a blatant imitation of a plaid bedazzled tank top, originally produced by Ronny Kobo for Torn (as reported by Fashionista). It goes without saying that the resemblance, from the placement of the studding on the shoulders to the plaid print itself, is too striking to be a coincidence.
And although this is hardly the first time a garment's been copied in a very obvious way, this particular instance comes shortly after the announcement of new measures being taken to protect designer's creative rights, specifically the Innovative Desgn Protection and Piracy Act and also Fordham's newly-minted Fashion Law Institute. As a bit of a case study, we asked the Fashion Law Institute's director Professor Susan Scafidi for her take on the borrowed "material:"
This is a tough case to address legally, unless the tartan is a Torn original, in which case there would be copyright protection for the fabric design. Based on the pictures, though, my guess is that it was a pre-existing plaid. If the decoration were particularly distinctive, there might also be a second chance for copyright protection. Under the new bill in Congress, it would also be hard to protect this design. At the end of the day, it's a simple tank top, and nobody will be able to own such basic designs—they'll all stay in the public domain. In this particular situation, the editorial version of pointing a finger and calling the Material Girl a copycat may be the best option.
Given the stipulations surrounding copyright law, Torn would have more grounds for legal action if its print had been an original design rather than a standard tartan plaid, or if there had been something more unique about the silhouette of its tank top. It's frustrating when the replica is such a clear and blatant one--especially in the business of fashion when imitation is not always the sincerest form of flattery--but in this case, the high-profile offense is at least bound to attract more public shame than most copycats.