Jun 16, 2010 12:00AM

Fashion Crimes!

If you type: 'fashion crimes' into a search engine, you'll most likely be faced with a sordid array of outfit offences — think socks and sandals, g-strings glaring above rhinestone-studded denim, head to toe leopard print and lycra-clad, fake-faced middle-agers with camel toes.

While these sartorial disasters often leave us in want of an internationally recognized fashion police or a couture corps, it's far from likely. So where to get our fashion forward crime kicks? If the presence of the odd Burberry trench on Law & Order isn't enough to sate your appetite for high-fashion hijinks, decorated drama and nouveau naughtiness, then it's time to go back to the ... erm... past.

A brief look over the fashion industry's haute-y history reveals that there have been plenty of criminal craziness, from high profile murders to luxe label store smash and grabs. Whether they were trying to maintain their places within the higher echelons of the fashion scene, were fighting to be noticed in a diva-wears-Donna world or just wanted a little Louis to scratch their style itch, we've picked the best of a bad bunch to bring you ten of fashion's most infamous and in-vogue crimes.  


On the night of Friday February 15th, 2008, young UK menswear designer James Long was feeling good. Earlier that day, he had presented his debut A/W 2008-09 collection as part of Topman's MAN show at London Fashion Week, which had received rave reviews from press and buyers alike. Only hours later, in the early hours of Saturday morning, his East End studio was devastatingly stripped of the entire runway collection, including accessories and knitwear that his mother had made. Clearly savvy in the ways of style, the thieves took only the £500 000 collection, leaving the rest of the studio completely untouched.


One of the biggest crimes in fashion history, Gianni Versace, head of iconic Italian fashion house Versace, was shot dead on July 15 1997 at the age of 50. Versace was returning home from his morning walk on Ocean Drive, Miami, when he was shot and killed by Andrew Cunanan, a 27 year old celebrity-obsessed spree killer. Wanted for the murders of four other men, Cunanan shot himself just over a week later. Versace left a fashion empire behind, which was creatively entrusted to his sister Donatella, who was promptly appointed head of design. Her daughter, Allegra, inherited a 50% stake in the business upon turning eighteen in 2004, estimated to be worth around half a billion dollars at the time.


In Place Vendome in Paris on May 30 2009, a lone man armed with a handgun calmly walked into Chopard, pointed his gun at employees, and politely asked them to hand him what amounted to AUD11.7 in jewellery. The hold up lasted two minutes, after which the robber escaped on foot.


If you thought twelve million in two minutes was impressively reprehensible, the amount doesn't even come close to the US102 million that was stolen frin tge Parisian branch of luxe diamond label Harry Winston in December of 2008. After entering the store shortly before closing time, the four armed men (three of whom were dressed in drag) aggressively hustled the fifteen store occupants into a corner, hitting some over the head and addressing staff by their first names. It took thirteen minutes to almost clear the place out, thus completing the biggest robbery in French history.


Although Coco Chanel is known as the pioneer of modern style, having totally revolutionised the way that women dressed themselves, a closer look at the life and times of this fashion icon reveals that she may not have been as perfect as your standard 2.55 quilted clutch. During the second world war, Chanel was involved in what has been described as ‘questionable’ behaviour with certain members of the Third Reich. Aside from going to Berlin with Walter Schellenberg, Hitler’s chief of foreign intelligence, Chanel was accused of attempting to take advantage of anti-Jewish laws to wrest control of her perfume manufacturing business from the Jewish family that ran it. Allegations even go as far as to suggest that Chanel was involved in a Nazi plot, termed ‘Operation Modelhut,’ which fell apart after a friend of the designer denounced her Nazi affiliations. After fleeing the country following the invasion of France, she returned to occupancy of her room in the Paris Ritz, where she shacked up with a German officer thirteen years her junior. At the war’s end, she was arrested for war crimes and then mysteriously released, escaping to Switzerland for several years. A true master of re-invention, Chanel eventually staged her fashion comeback. And the rest, they say, is history.


While it's less than common, Sydney isn't exempt from designer store raids. As recently as November 2009, the CBD’s Prada store was stripped of its accessories and apparel. A textbook case of smash and grab, the thieves entered by breaking the glass front doors, clearing the ground floor and leaving others untouched. Prada’s burglary joins a string of assaults on Sydney stores, which includes three break-ins in Louis Vuitton stores in the past five years, as well as two at the Gucci store.


In December 2009, Victoria Beckham had £350 000 worth of dresses stolen in a knife-point hijack while the clothes were being transported to Heathrow Airport, destined for Neiman Marcus in New York. The driver of the lorry came back to find the truck’s padlocks broken; the two thieves burst out of the van, knocking him to the ground while they made a speedy getaway. The super-structured dresses were probably sold for a small fortune on the black market. 


Although Karl Lagerfeld has never been engaged in any criminal activity (that we know of), fashion's reigning king has gone bad-ass for Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. KL is a non-playable character in the game, providing a soundtrack to the various illicit activities of the game. Players can tune in to a selection of Lagerfeld’s favourite dance and electronica tracks, sprinkled with a good dose of his characteristically controversial commentary. In support of his cameo, the designer commented: "I prefer to be in a video than play with it… I would love to be a very nasty, politically incorrect character." Oh Karl, you know you don’t need to enter the virtual world to be politically incorrect.


Lindsay. Lohan. Her questionable runway collection aside, shady behaviour seems to follow this fallen starlet. In 2009, Lohan was questioned by Scotland Yard after £250 000 worth of Dior jewellery disappeared from the set of a photo shoot with UK Elle in June last year. A spokesperson for Elle remained tight-lipped about the incident, stating that "Elle has no reason to believe that Lindsay Lohan was in any way responsible and has no further comment to make." Despite the magazine’s loyalty to Lohan, her track record leaves a lot to be desired. The actress had previously been accused of stealing an $11 000 mink from a fellow party-goer, as well as a wardrobe of clothes from model Laura Hastings. She’s recently been linked to the disappearance of a $35 000 Rolex, and the list rolls on...


We all know Lady Gaga goes gaga for extravagant underwear, but recently, Gaga's predilection for one-off panties has jeopardised her reputation with loaners from exclusive lines. After failing to return four handmade underwear prototypes that belonged to British lingerie house Rigby & Peller, the label was quick to emphasise it’s concern to press: "Obviously we were delighted that Lady Gaga wanted to use our new pieces in her next video but we did stress we needed them back in plenty of time for our press show… the last we heard the underwear was still ‘AWOL’ and we are not sure when we will see them again. If we don’t get them back then it could hold up the whole production of our AW10 collection as they are the prototypes." We're sure Gaga has the poker face down pat by now...

Jacinta Mulders