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Taking Liberties with Libertine

Maybe Allen B. Schwartz just wants an award of his own.

The notorious knockoff artist appears to have a penchant for award-related apparel, most notably the gowns worn by Oscar-nominated starlets.  Now a lawsuit filed last week in federal court alleges that he has also copied the work of designers Cindy Greene and Johnson Hartig, known collectively as Libertine.  The company launched in 2001 and received widespread recognition in 2004 as one of ten finalists for the first CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award, which supports emerging designers.  Their label and a version from Allen B. Schwartz are below -- look familiar?

Of course, Libertine's creative approach to design has been mimicked before.  Their signature reworked garments, with distressed seams and sometimes macabre screen-printed graphics, seem irresistible to both consumers and copyists -- a problem when many of the items are intended to be one-of-a-kind.  Back in November 2004, Cindy and Johnson told Vogue that their low point in fashion was "being knocked-off by someone we thought was a friend."  Schwartz, by contrast, doesn't bother with such social niceties.  Here are more examples from the Libertine lawsuit, alongside their A.B.S. counterparts:

If life in the fashion lane were a Lifetime movie, we'd ultimately learn that Allen Schwartz was a frustrated, lonely child who never quite won the big spelling bee, was teased when he tried out for track, and had to wear a too-short tux to the prom (alone, of course).  Thus psychologically scarred, his character would've turned to a life of copying -- and legally mocking -- the winners.  Cue some actual creative expression, celebrated by all, and redemption would ensue.

In reality, he's probably just a guy who figured out that he could make a lot of money copying other people's designs on the cheap -- at least unless and until Libertine or the law finally catches up with him. 

P.S.  Note to Libertine:  Love the one-of-a-kind concept, really love it.  But it can lead to some strange consumer behavior as well.  Someone actually reached into my dressing room at Barneys while I was changing to try and grab a certain dark blue velvet blazer with frayed edges and a white cityscape printed around the hem.  Have you considered a diffusion line?


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Ooh la love. The little peoples fight back. Good bye, ABS, good bye Keira Knightley-inspired "satin" gowns for prom.

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