Pat Cleveland and another model wear flowing evening gowns from Halston's Winter Holiday 1979 collection.

It’s not uncommon for designers to be influenced by other designers. Coco Chanel’s little black dress goes down in history for inspiring Dior and Givenchy catwalks and later fashionistas such as Audrey Hepburn and Jackie O.

But the line between inspiration and plagiarism can be difficult to determine.

Halston Operating Co., a private firm, is alleging that Calvin Klein has violated copyright infringement and committed false advertisement by replicating its designs and deceiving the public into believing the creations are authentic Calvin Klein.

To the naked eye, the three garments in question — a black, knee-length dress with side slit and belt, a longer dress with white underlay and an A-symmetric cascading ruffle, and a floor-length gown with a V-neckline and cutout sleeves — look similar.

Halston/ Calvin Klein

Halston’s dress, on the left, compared with Calvin Klein’s dress, as seen in the legal complaint.  Courtesy

In the lawsuit, filed in a California federal court earlier this month, Halston alleged that Calvin Klein’s CK brand licensee G-III Apparel team copied the fashion house with “embodying design(s) that are substantially similar, if not identical” to Halston Heritage designs and tried to pass them off as its own, and is therefore guilty of “illegally copying or replicating” its products.

The complaint went on to say that Calvin Klein used its own labels in the dresses, “indicating that the garments were made by or for CK.”

Halston’s designs, the company that was founded by Roy Halston Frowick, an American fashion designer who rose to fame in the Seventies, are “works of art” that “qualify as a protectable pictorial, graphic or sculptural works,” and therefore violate copyright laws. The suit is asking for $150,000 per copyright infringement, as well as other damages to be determined by a jury trial.

A Halston dress, left, compared with a Calvin Klein dress.  Courtesy

In addition, Halston has accused Calvin Klein of false advertising by listing the garments on macys.com and dillards.com.

“Defendants, and each of them, have made material false and misleading statements in its commercial advertisements for its women’s apparel…deliberately, and maliciously, engaged in the described acts with an intent to injure Halston and to deceive the public,” the complaint reads.

The garments were sold in freestanding stores, consignment and third-party retail outlets and department stores, according to the complaint. Calvin Klein did not respond to a request for comment.

Calvin Klein is owned by parent company PVH, which also owns Tommy Hilfiger. In 2017, Calvin Klein’s global retail sales were about $9.1 billion. Meanwhile, PVH Corp. has a market cap of more than $9.2 billion.

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