GOING BANANAS: A seaside costume jewelry retailer near Cape Town has been slapped with a lawsuit by Italian luxury label Dolce & Gabbana for naming her store “Dolce and Banana.” The store’s owner, Mijou Beller, built her 12-year old business fashioning beads, shells and wood into neck pieces and bracelets, which became something of a local tourist attraction. Tourists would stop by her store in the sleepy fishing village and take photos of themselves posing against the backdrop of the store’s cheeky name.

Dolce & Gabbana, however, was not amused. In the 300-page affidavit filed in the Cape Town High Court by Cristiana Ruella, a board member of Gado, the holding company of Dolce & Gabbana, Beller is accused of “objectionable conduct” and of “diluting” the luxury brand’s name. “The name Dolce and Banana makes a mockery of the well-known trademark Dolce & Gabbana,” the affidavit alleged.

This story first appeared in the March 30, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Beller said that she didn’t have the means to fight the lawsuit, and responded by rebranding her store, which is now simply “Banana.” The name change has cost her 10,000 South African rands, or about $1,320, 10 percent of the 100,000 rands (about $13,195) Dolce & Gabbana is demanding she pay, representing just under half of the 220,000 rands in legal fees incurred in connection with the lawsuit.

Dolce & Gabbana is being represented by a local law firm, Spoor & Fisher, which said that Beller had ignored two previous warnings, the first one sent six years ago. Beller said that paying the amount demanded by the Italian label would be financially ruinous. She has tried to reach out to Stefano Gabbana through Twitter, sending out this message: “Dear Stefano, please let us be. And visit us in Cape Town. I have always admired your famous sense of humor so present in your brand and in your designs. And although I appreciate that Dolce & Gabbana is a very successful commercial enterprise, I fail to understand why Dolce and Banana is a threat.”