Brooklyn designer suing Yoko Ono, but sexy concept dates to Barbra Streisand

March 26, 2013 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Share this:

‘It came from burlesque’

A Brooklyn fashion designer is suing Yoko Ono for $10 million, claiming she ripped off her sexy clothing line featuring flimsy fabrics, cutouts and “hands” positioned over strategic body parts – a look made famous in 1970 by Barbra Streisand in the smash film “The Owl and the Pussycat.”

Haleh Nematzadeh, owner of Smashing Starlets LLC is suing Ono, John Lennon’s widow, and Ono’s design partner Opening Ceremony. “This case is about…Yoko Ono and multimillion-dollar fashion company who together stole the designs of an up and coming designer and pawned them off as their own,” the suit states, according to Courthouse News.

Nematzadeh claims that after she showed the sketches and pictures of her collection to Ono’s design team, “they canceled the photo shoot,” and recycled her ideas as a collection for men.

Subscribe to our newsletters

Ms. Ono, however, has said her collection is based on a series of drawings titled “Fashions for Men” that she sketched as a gift for Lennon for their wedding in 1969, according to Women’s Wear Daily.

News of the lawsuit amused Academy-award winning costume designer Ann Roth, who originally designed the famous “hands” lingerie worn by Streisand in her role as Doris the prostitute in “The Owl and the Pussycat.”

Proving that a good idea never dies, Ms. Roth told the Brooklyn Eagle on Tuesday that she’s resurrected the sexy hands motif for the burlesque-themed play “The Nance,” starring Nathan Lane as Chauncey Miles, currently in previews at the Lyceum Theater and opening on April 15.

“I did the same nightgown, with very similar design, for the three girls backstage,” she said. “Someone said to me, ‘Oh, you’ve stolen that from The Owl and the Pussycat.’ I told them, ‘No, Owl and the Pussycat stole it from burlesque, from 1938.’ It’s a very complex story.”

Roth explained how she originally came up with the costume idea back in 1970. “To be honest,” Roth said, “I’m a huge researcher.” Part of that research involved looking at “Screw” magazine, published at that time by Al Goldstein. “I was looking for dirty, erotic, skuzzy underwear, and somehow or another I made it up,” she said. “It’s appearing in the Lyceum as we speak.”

As for the Brooklyn lawsuit? “This girl is going to have to start suing everyone,” Roth said. “It might be from some burlesque queen from the 1920s. Who knows?”

More information about “The Nance” can be found at

(To check out the latest incarnation of Ms. Roth’s costume, visit the New York Daily News’ review of the show.

Leave a Comment

Leave a Comment