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Vena Cava Accuses Alice + Olivia of Ripping Off Design

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Photo via @VenaCavaViva/Instagram
Photo via @VenaCavaViva/Instagram

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Last night, quirky-cool brand Vena Cava called out quirky-retro brand alice + oliva for copying a yellow floral print from their fall 2012 line:

"@alice_olivia Please stop being "inspired" by our prints from last season. Get a library card," the brand posted on their official Instagram account.

As one commenter pointed out, however, the Vena Cava print was itself "inspired by" a vintage dress in designer Lisa Mayock's personal wardrobe.

That's a look from Vena Cava fall 2012 collection on the left, and a look from alice + olivia's pre-spring 2013 collection on the right.

And here's Vena Cava designer Lisa Mayock wearing what she describes as a "vintage floral-print dress" in Elle magazine back in August of 2009. "I love the swingy hemline of this dress," she told Elle.

There is a lot of grey area in fashion copyright, mostly owing to the fact that, as functional items, most fashion designs are not protected under copyright law. "Copyright is really meant for things like forms of art, literature, poetry, music, film, etc.," Kal Raustiala, co-author of a The Knockoff Economy: How Imitation Sparks Innovation, "tells NPR.

"Now, of course, fashion has a big artistic component to it," he says, "It could be [protected by patent laws], and sometimes fashion items are. So, for example, handbags and shoes sometimes are covered by design patents. But, it's unusual to do that because, one, it's very expensive to get a patent, and, two, patents require a standard of novelty and originality that's often hard to reach in the fashion industry, where many things are reworkings of previous things."

So as far as things like prints and hemlines and even red soles go, there is not a lot of protection.

We've reached out to alice + olivia for comment, and will update when we hear back.

In the meantime, what do you think? Is borrowing from other designers for inspiration fair game? Speak your mind in the comments.

Update: 4:15 pm
alice + olivia designer Stacey Bendet e-mailed us the following statement: "In the past eleven years we have never been accused of imitating another designer's print. We take great pride in the artwork we create for our brand. This print was an interpretation of a vintage screen that has been in my office for years. We then used botanical iris print illustrations to create our own unique version." An image of the screen is below.

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