Family drama, and an iconic dress goes back into hiding

Sabrina wardrobe testWe’ll start with the slightly nicer news first, which is that the thought-to-be-long-lost black and white ballgown from Sabrina, after being found hidden in a trunk amongst Debbie Reynold’s things and nearly donated to a local thrift shop, was sold at auction last month and went for a whopping $204,000! No word on who bought the dress, or what its future holds, since we never do see these again, do we?

There was also some debate behind the scenes (among us Audrey nerds that love digging into everything) about who actually made that dress. After much drilling into old, out of print books and archives, it looks as though Givenchy [and/or his house] never actually made the black and white dress. He designed it, and at most gave Audrey a croquis (fashion design sketch with an elongated body), which she then took to Paramount Studios for Paramount’s costuming department to make up. Hence, the tag in the dress that just sold. This would explain the terrible, low quality copy displayed in the Timeless Audrey Exhibit that Givenchy had made at some point, and why there wasn’t a better version to be had at the time: Givenchy never had a copy of the dress. After this realization, I flipped through some Givenchy books and realized that when this dress is featured, it’s only with Sabrina publicity photos. I’ve never seen this dress modeled by his house models or anyone other than Audrey, during Sabrina. So there’s that.

Audrey with sonsBut now on to some sadder news. I always hate hearing this type of news, and hate spreading it even more, but this is in legal documents now, so it’s not just idle gossip. After Audrey’s sons, Sean Ferrer and Luca Dotti, reached an agreement on how to divide their mother’s items that hadn’t been specifically outlined in her will and ended up selling them at the Christie’s Audrey Hepburn Personal Collection last year, it looked like the court battles and litigation between half-brothers was finally at an end. Unfortunately, that now looks to be the battle before the all-out war. Sean Ferrer is suing the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund for “infringing trademarks” and using Audrey’s image and likeness without permission. This is incredibly puzzling, because many many years ago I visited the Children’s Fund’s headquarters in Santa Monica, and he had an office there (they are now located in Pasadena). He used to be the chairman, with Luca being on the board. I know they worked together to design merchandise for the Children’s Fund (specifically, the Audreybag line), but at some point within the last few years, Sean stepped down and Luca began to head the Children’s Fund.

Luca Dotti and Sean FerrerThis article from the Daily Mail – I know, not the best source in the world – actually has the most information I’ve been able to find on what led to this ugly lawsuit, and reveals Audrey’s will. In it, it’s alleged that Sean became “disillusioned” with the Children’s Fund and stepped down to work with UNICEF directly, and only grudgingly allowed the Children’s Fund to continue to use Audrey’s image and other trademarked items, but neither he nor Luca really liked it. I find that odd, as Luca is still listed as chairman of the Children’s Fund on their website, and Audrey’s dear partner Robert Wolders is still on the Board of Directors. Furthermore, while Sean himself filed the lawsuit, he claims he’s speaking on behalf of both himself and Luca, and says he is authorized to do this on Luca’s behalf. I haven’t been able to find much new information or any updates since this article was published mid-December, but interestingly enough, an earlier article from Vanity Fair dated February 10, 2017, claims that the Children’s Fund filed suit against Sean. So based on a timeline that the Hollywood Reporter laid out, the Children’s Fund sued Sean first, and then in October of 2017, he filed a nearly identical suit (or countersuit?) against the Chilren’s Fund. If you really want to read up on the dry, legal facts, there is a copy of Sean’s lawsuit filing available to read here.

As of now, here are the concrete facts:

  • Sean Ferrer stepped down as chairman of the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund some time in 2012. He then took a position with UNICEF to be the honorary chair of the Audrey Hepburn Society, a somewhat exclusive club open to donors who give $10,000 USD or more per year to UNICEF. The Society is also tiered, meaning that the more you give above the $10,000 minimum, the more exclusive opportunities you receive. (If you would really like to know what is available at each tier and how much it costs to get there, then click here. I haven’t the heart to write out that many zeroes.)
  • Luca Dotti has been chairman of the Children’s Fund since his half-brother stepped down. I don’t hear much about him, so I haven’t much to say.
  • The Children’s Fund has recently changed its social media links – and opened a new Twitter account in November. While audreyhepburn.com is still active, they’re now pushing traffic towards audreyhepburn.org, which is hosted on Tumblr.
  • At some point, the Children’s Fund start reusing the original name of the charity Sean and Luca set up after their mother’s death, Hollywood For Children. This is the name used in Sean’s lawsuit against the Children’s Fund, which further confuses things.
  • In Sean’s lawsuit, he not only names Hollywood For Children (aka the Children’s Fund) as defendants, but twenty John and Jane Does, whose real names he is not yet aware of, but are “legally responsible in some manner for the occurrences hereinafter alleged and the injuries sustained by Ferrer, and that each defendant acted individually for himself, herself, itself, and as the agent for each of the other defendants and, at all material times hereto, was acting within the course and scope of said agency.” The paperwork later says that both Hollywood For Children and each of the twenty Doe defendants owe him at least $50,000 USD (page 18 of the filing, if you care to read it yourself). There’s more demands, but interestingly enough, despite claiming to speak and act legally for both himself and his half-brother, most everything being demanded in the filing is listed as being fulfilled to only Sean. At most, there’s a line that says “Awarding Sean Hepburn Ferrer such statutory damages as are authorized by law, with which Ferrer will account to Dotti.” If you read the Daily Mail article, you may have noticed a long bit in the middle that says that while Sean no longer has legal power of attorney for Luca, he still does so for his brother because he hasn’t received explicit written documentation (written in a very specific manner) ending these legal powers.

And now I’m going to go find some nice pictures of Audrey to soothe myself, because all this legal bickering is so disheartening to see.

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