“We can assure you that we did not want to disrespect any local designers,” Boutique Onze owner Annie Vanlian said in an email response to CBC Montreal’s Homerun.
“The dresses that we were inspired by in question are dresses that date over two years ago = 2012 collections. We really did not think anyone would even care. Guess we were wrong.”
Montreal designer Hayley Gibson says one of her colleagues was shopping at Boutique Onze and spotted a dress that looked a lot like one of her designs.
Gibson says it wasn’t just a single dress —she says the boutique copied styles from several other Montreal designers.
“They were all of our dresses, exactly the same almost, but with this label for this other line of clothing, and way lower price point and not made in Canada,” says Gibson, who runs her own fashion line, Birds of North America.
She says most stores in the city love to support local talent, and Boutique Onze used to be one of them.
But when she contacted the store owner, she says her complaint was shrugged off.
Fine line between inspiration and copying
Vanlian says the fashion industry is based on inspiration. She says the runways of New York City and Paris often inspire major retailers.
But Gibson says that while inspiration is a part of design, there’s a fine line.
“Sometimes you’ll take a detail from this or that and modify it and make it your own ... this is a really extreme case,” Gibson said.
“There’s no question these were copied.”
The controversial dresses have been pulled off of Boutique Onze shelves. Vanlian says she didn’t make any profit from them.
Meanwhile, Gibson is encouraging Montrealers to shop elsewhere. She says there’s nothing else she can do, since her designs aren't protected under intellectual copyright laws. She says she has no legal recourse.
“In town here, General 54, Belle et Rebelle, Courreur du Joupon, they're amazing, amazingly supportive and they would never do anything like this,” she said.