I spotted this handbag in an antique mall recently, and I wasn’t fooled for a second. From the thick clunky double chain to the plasticy faux-leather everything just screamed “NEW!” But there was something about the details that made me take a second look. Someone was clearly inspired by the work of Bonnie Cashin for Coach, circa 1964.
Well now, that makes perfect sense. Isaac Mizrahi has long named Bonnie Cashin as one of his own design heroes, along with Claire McCardell and Geoffrey Beene.
One thing I like and admire about Mizrahi is that he does have a great sense of where fashion has been. He knows his fashion history and does not mind pulling from it. Early in his career, back in the 1980s, he was criticized for pulling a bit too much; that many designs were more Beene than Mizrahi. Using the Target handbag as an example though, you can immediately see the influence, but not for a moment would anyone who knows her work be deceived into thinking she was the designer.
There is a big difference between inspiration and copying. Copying is easy. You look at a design and reproduce it. But inspiration involves taking the best feature of a previous design, and infusing your own sense of aesthetic and creating something new.
I’ve been thinking about copying because I’m considering a huge sewing challenge – that of making a copy of a Chanel jacket. Encouragement is greatly appreciated!