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Fashionably fraud! The Copy Cat debate heats up

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This was the design that led Rohit Bal (pictured inset) to publicly shame the designer who had allegedly copied it

Plagiarism is a bane of the creative world of fashion designers and yet there are some who consider if flattering. The ongoing debate heats up when we have fingers being pointed and some dirty secrets spilt, writes Shubarna Mukerji Shu

Not so long ago, Rohit Bal was going ballistic about Seema Mehta, a designer who apparently copied Bal’s runway creation. He called her everything he could think of without using colloquial abuses, so for Bal, Mehta was ‘a parasitical designer who is desperate and should hide her head in shame’ and more… he was most aghast that Mehta had actually used the same model Bal had to showcase the same outfit. Touché!

While Bal was contemplating about his chances to sue Mehta and more, there are designers like Sabyasashi who do not bat an eyelid when his designs are ripped off by other aspiring designers. Surprised? Well Sabyasachi feels that it is most flattering to have his designs copied…


Not so fair

Before we could look deep into Sabya’s quotes, a little birdie informs me that Sabyasachi’s initial works were, shall we say, heavily inspired by Anamika Khanna’s works! Now, obviously Sabya is no kettle who will go calling a pot black, right? However, his staid reaction as opposed to that of Bal who thinks FDCI should stand strong against plagiarism and the laws should be far harsher, rather than be completely non-existent has a lot of support in the likes of Masaba Gupta.

But there are some like Anita Dongre who feel that justice will mete out eventually, “Plagiarism and knock-offs are a by-product of the fashion industry. A good designer would never feel the need to replicate designs as the audience is extremely aware in this digital world. There is no shortcut to innovation and success, and this has stayed constant through the years. While plagiarism is greatly diluting fashion, true connoisseurs of fashion will know how to differentiate.”

“A blatant copy is unacceptable but what happens is that there are only so many ways to hide the ‘essentials’ somewhere, somehow there can be an overlap, so I don’t think it is possible for the law to kick in, there can be a possibility that two people have a similar idea. However, same idea is highly doubtful,” quips stylist, Rick Roy who has worked with many Bollywood actors over the years and is known for his keen fashion eye.

Sabyasashi Mukherjee (pictured here with Gauri Shinde and Sridevi) feels flattered to have his designs copied

Who’s the copy cat

Roy’s view point might be the reason why the uproar regarding Gauri Nainika’s collection being heavily inspired by Marchesa’s previous season collection went down without a lawsuit. Even Manish Malhotra is said to have been inspired by Abu Jani, Balmain designs have inspired many designers closer home. If designers of such grand calibre allow themselves to be inspired, and churn out exacting similarities between their work and that of bigger names in the West, the smaller aspirants shouldn’t be ridiculed, what say Masaba? “We are generally obsessed with the West, anything they do, gets translated into our works one way or another, the media should really call there bluff,” she says.

But it hurts!

Anita Dongre with Kareena Kapoor Khan at the Lakme Fashion Week 2017

Gaurang Shah who is the undisputed king of Wedding Wear, known to have introduced the world to Patan Patola saris too shares his views, “A coin always has two sides. It is nice that someone cannot resist your work and copies it but at the same time it is also very bad. After having taken so much effort in making the perfect piece of art, before my thing comes out properly in the market, my copies have come out which is really painful. I do only handwoven works, it takes ages for me to complete a work, if I am thinking of a concept today, it takes about a year almost for the finished, perfected product to be able to be put out on display. When I do a show or I do a photoshoot, immediately it is being copied like anything but it is hard to feel flattered when you know there are some people who will say yeh bahar saste mein milta hai.

Wendell Rodricks with Anushka Sharma during a fashion show

There are very few who will understand that this is a quality product which will last for ages, it is something that I can hand over to my other generations, who understand the process and effort that goes into this… the white Patan Patola sari that was worn by my show stopper took one-and-a-half years to make. Surat people have copied that design and printing it for Rs 700. I have done a handwoven double Ikkat Patan Patola which takes eight months to make one sari and these people have copied it and are computer printing the same and selling it cheap. Will you feel flattered, then? I guess not, there is only one thing that you can do and that is to be ahead… Think of new things every day… and be ahead of them all.”

Hard-earned fame

“Plagiarism is an international problem; it is not just an Indian problem. I don’t subscribe to the saying plagiarism is a form of flattery. I am against it. It took me seven years to patent my name Wendell Rodricks as a brand. One should look to solve this problem the earliest,” exclaims Wendell Rodricks.

“Let’s not forget there is also the pressure of having to deliver something that some of your star clients have loved and want you to replicate, so we hope that we make them happy by giving them something they have liked. When similarities are found rather than owning up to it, they often push the blame on the designers and you keep quiet because, you don’t want to lose them, so it is more vicious than plagiarism, trust me,” states a designer who didn’t want to be named.

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