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Inspiration or theft? Michael Kors vs. Tony Duquette

January 27, 2009 |  9:15 am

Michael_kors_lawsuit Hutton Wilkinson, keeper of the legacy of the late Los Angeles tastemaker and  interior, home furnishings and jewelry designer Tony Duquette, filed suit yesterday in U.S. District Court against Michael Kors. He's alleging that the New York designer and "Project Runway" judge used the Duquette name to market his resort collection of tie-dye caftans, tunics and sweaters in stores now.

The lawsuit claims Kors knowingly and willfully used the Duquette mark in conjunction with clothing without permission or license, and used photos, images and patterns from the Abrams book "Tony Duquette" in advertising and promoting the resort collection. Unspecified damages are sought.

Duquette, who died in 1999, was the first American to be honored with a one-man exhibition at the Louvre celebrating his work for clients such as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and Elizabeth Arden. He won a Tony award for costume design for the original Broadway production of "Camelot." His Dawnridge estate in Beverly Hills is a local treasure full of pagodas and lush gardens, and is often used in fashion spreads.

Longtime business partner Wilkinson has continued to design, market and license textiles, jewelry and home furnishings under the Duquette name. Known for his over-the-top, ethnic-inspired exoticism, Duquette is still an influential figure in design, having inspired Tom Ford, Kelly Wearstler and others.

Kors has often used sunny Southern California as a touchstone for his collections. Kors spokesperson Billy Daley said the company "does not comment on pending litigation."

-- Booth Moore

Photo: Michael Kors at at New York Fashion Week in September 2008. Kirk McKoy/ Los Angeles Times

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