Biting Balmain

As dedicated followers of fashion know, the most recent storied label to rise from the dead -- or at least a persistent vegetative state -- is Balmain.  French Vogue editor Carine Roitfeld can't seem to wear enough of it, no feature on the revival of '80s-style shoulders is complete without it, and knockoffs are springing up like dandelions on a suburban lawn.

Coutorture spotted this forthcoming Alice + Olivia version (right) of the jewel of the Spring 2009 Balmain collection (left):
Sure, the general military jacket concept may call to mind memories of Sargeant Pepper, Michael Jackson, or your high school band uniform, depending on your musical point of reference, but there's no doubt that the A+O jacket is meant to evoke the Balmain original.  Some commenters on New York Magazine's fashion blog have speculated about the possibility of an imminent lawsuit, but Counterfeit Chic is doubtful.  The A+O copy has a less distinctive shoulder, a simpler and unembellished neckline, a boxier cut, generic buttons, less elaborate embroidery, and fewer stripes.  Of course, most of these changes are just cost-cutting measures - not for nothing does the original retail for a stratospheric USD $11,410.  But even if fewer corners had been cut in creating a copy, U.S. law would be unlikely to provide a remedy, apart from a possible trade dress claim stemming from the Balmain original's ubiquity and ease of recognition.

Balmain's tolerance for copyists may be tested in Europe, however, where the law provides greater protection - and fast-fashion chain Zara is already advertising looks that call to mind the Fall 2009 Balmain collection, which will not be in stores for several months.  Jezebel's TatianaTheAnonymousModel took a look at Zara's new catalog and identified several designer "inspirations," including this Balmain original (left) and a suspiciously similar LBD:


Kudos to designer Christophe Decarnin for bringing Balmain back to life in such a dramatic fashion.  Perhaps its not surprising that so many other labels are taking the zombie approach to creativity and simply trying to pick his brains.