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OSCAR TO THE MAX: Oscar de la Renta was most sincerely unflattered when a staff member passed by Lord & Taylor recently and saw some spring looks by Max Mara Studio, the Italian brand’s diffusion line, that bore a striking resemblance to de la Renta’s spring 2008 collection. “The prints and these styles are my clothes from two seasons ago,” de la Renta told WWD.
In addition to similarities in cut and silhouette, a pair of prints are very close, especially a tribal pattern. While de la Renta acknowledged it is often standard practice for mills shopping their own designs to offer a designer a one-year exclusive and then put the print back into circulation, that should not have been the case here. “This particular print is not a print that I bought,” he said. “I gave the Italian house the artwork….This is horrible because Max Mara, you know, they should be more responsible.”
When asked for a comment, a Max Mara Fashion Group spokesman said, “The designers of the Max Mara Studio line chose the printed fabrics in total good faith. [In the Max Mara Studio collection] the prints are applied on different materials and fashioned in styles that are very different from the models designed by Oscar de la Renta. We will, however, speak to the mill that supplied the fabric, because we’re very sorry for what happened.” He also added that Max Mara asks its mills for a one-year exclusive on the prints it selects.
Perhaps so, but de la Renta maintained that “their jacket looks just like mine.” While that specific piece was no longer on the floor at Lord & Taylor for WWD’s examination, a fuzzy cell phone photo taken in a fitting room by the designer’s employee indicates he has a point. In addition, a Max Mara Studio skirt seems similarly proportioned, and its asymmetric tribal pattern placed almost identically to the skirt of a de la Renta wrap dress.
As for the mill in question, Como-based Gentili Mosconi, owner and chairman Francesco Gentili maintains de la Renta doesn’t know his own contracts: “We have a commercial agreement with Oscar de la Renta for which he has the worldwide exclusive on our fabrics, whether designed by us or by him, for one year after which the designs are the property of Gentili Mosconi.”