A dispute that has ruffled the skirts of French haute couture for nearly six years has come to a head with one of the world's top fashion houses being fined for plagiarism.
The firm of Yves Saint Laurent was fined nearly $11,000 in a civil court in June for copying an outfit created by a rival firm.
The case was first brought to court in 1979 by the firm of Jacques Esterel, which claimed that a design called Toreador was the exact copy of one called Petit Marquis by Esterel's chief designer, Benoit Bartherotte.
Bartherotte sent a dozen policemen to Saint Laurent's salons, where a shocked aristocratic clientele watched the controversial design being impounded.
Saint Laurent's managing director, Pierre Berge, appeared before the criminal court, which heard that Bartherotte acquired a copyright for the page-like suit with knickerbockers and matching short jacket in January, 1979, before Saint Laurent showed it to the public.
After two years of deliberation, the judge dismissed the case and referred it to a civil court. Now, after long hearings and legal argument, the civil court has decided against Saint Laurent. And on top of the fine, it ruled that the company must pay a $1,100 fee to Esterel for every Toreador suit sold from now on.
Berge said Saint Laurent had created similar designs as early as 1974 and would appeal.