Born in Texas in 1935, Victor Costa grew up enthralled by the glamour of Hollywood and intent on working in fashion. He sold sketches to Oleg Cassini and Ciel Chapman before joining the Suzy Perette label in 1965, where his photographic memory was dispatched to the Paris runways.Â It was during his eight years at Suzy that he became known as â€œThe Copy-Cat Kingâ€ for his meticulous line for line copies of European couture.Â This was back when copy-ing was actually considered a good thingâ€”couture was skillfully replicated for the masses, but in a respectful, high-quality way.Â Not just made to look similarly, couture copies were made to endure, and Seventh Ave designers, such as Hattie Carnegie and Norman Norell, were celebrated for their quality imitations.
Costa went on to form his own label, taking the design secrets he learned and interpreting them into fabulous, wearable pieces that are highly collectible today.Â According to Costa, “A woman has to walk into a store, and [a dress] has to speak to her. It has to say ‘buy me’ or ‘try me on.’ It has to have color, it has to have shape, it has to have design secrets built into it that make her body look [outstanding]. You have to do lines that are flattering.”Â And they didâ€”the colors!Â The fabrics!Â The elegance!Â The cut!Â The pieces are at once distinctive, yet classic.
The â€œdress has to say â€˜buy meâ€™â€ philosophy may be shared by todayâ€™s reigning â€œCopy Kingâ€, Allen Schwartz of ABS, whose rapid, literal imitations infuriate modern designers.Â In fact, â€œcopy-ingâ€ designer fashions is a broiling controversy;Â no sooner are the runway shows or red carpet over, stores such as H&M and Zara are rolling out the cheaply-made knock-offs at a fraction of the cost.Â Designers such as Diane von Furstenberg and Jason Wu (whose Michelle Obama Inaugural Gown was promptly replicated for prom-wear) have lobbied Congress for copyright protection.Â Currently, clothing design, no matter how artistic, is not protected by intellectual property law, as are books, music, etc.Â Trademarks are obviously protected (eg the Lacoste croc), but not the designs themselves.Â While it may be maddeningâ€”and costlyâ€”for modern designers to see their works poorly constructed in bad fabric on the Forever 21 rack, there will always be demand.
Victor Costa closed his company in 1995, but still designs bridal and evening wear today.Â Fortunately, his prolific works of the 1960s-80s have longevity similar to their couture inspiration.Â They are expertly constructed and flattering, as promised.Â Look for the vintage Victor Costa label(s)â€”they are Pre-disposable fashion.