Watch out for the new fashion police!

Diet Sabya is looking out for blatant plagiarism by Indian fashion designers.

WrittenBy:Harkirat Kaur
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Is surfing the internet before we take on any creative task, a norm now? For the times, we want a ‘unique’ birthday present for a friend; a poem to apologise to someone; inspiration for college projects; or perhaps ideas to woo our bosses are with – the internet provides us with enough places to get a tailor-made ‘inspiration’. Earlier there was Pinterest, and now Instagram has emerged as a source for us to imitate a few exclusive things.

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One can endlessly debate about the thin line that defines the difference between being inspired – like using quirks or elements from someone else’s intellectual property – to complete imitation. Yet, in India it takes a fashion designer to have one of his/her designs blatantly copied before they call out the other designer for plagiarism. Is it a thing specific to India, as actress Priyanka Chopra likes to point out? Maybe not.

Doing the job of mercilessly calling out counterfeiters in international fashion is Diet Prada. In India, Diet Sabya has followed suit.

These pages are a treat for the compulsive Instagram users, who have perhaps grown out of scrolling their otherwise bland Instagram feeds, with nothing as savoury. What catches one’s attention are the scandalous captions to posts calling out the #GandiCopy (as Diet Sabya calls it). In India, Diet Sabya has become quite a rage, with everyone from Sonam Kapoor and Alia Bhatt to Anaita Shroff Adajania and Shefali Vasudev following it.

With numerous fashion designers having been called out already for their unapologetic copies, this is a first in India to openly talk about copyright infringement. A good change from the norm of discussing the sentimental saree or if Deepika Padukone did not wear the right outfit.

It is almost ironical to see these designers blown apart on Instagram, a platform that has been contributing to their mood boards every season. Did the internet make it easy for the designers to be inspired all the time? What does it even mean to be inspired in this day and age when we have Instagram and Pinterest flooded with glossy images of work of creatives from around the world? Even more despairing is designers using the same medium to sell their copies. The question is, what is the intent of a practice like that where designers have to resort to ‘producing’ rather than ‘creating’.

“In a civilisation devoted to the strictly abstract and mathematical ideal of making the most money in the least time, the only sure method of success is to cheat the customer, to sell various kinds of nothingness in pretentious packages. Spray your watery tomatoes with wax to make them look real. But then, having made the money, there is nothing real to buy with it because everyone else is cheating in the same way,” philosopher Alan Watts wrote.

Diet India is run by an anonymous person (or team) who seems well-equipped with the fashion industry in India and wants the universe to know that copying is not cool and serial offenders, influential or upcoming, must be called out for their mediocrity. Whereas the ones who run Diet Prada have mentioned their touchstone when they look at designer collections.

“Is this done from a place of love? Is it an homage? Are they learning about (the designer) and gaining a new perspective, or are they reissuing a Yohji Yamamoto skirt for no reason, without [recognising] its roots?” they said in an interview on how they differentiate between “taking inspiration” and straight copying.

Recently, Elle India’s cover with Sonam Kapoor in a Dior Spring/Summer 2018 created waves on the internet. The print on the dress was a copy of the one created by Orijit Sen for People Tree, an Indian fair trade label that makes hand-made textile products. This suggests the extent to which serious labels are negligent about being fair with fellow designers and labels.

There are designers who have voiced their concerns when they felt their work being copied. Recently, Wendell Rodricks publicly called out his protégé, Payal Khandwala, for copying one of his signature techniques. Anita Dongre who has created a revolution in India with her brand, House of Anita Dongre, thinks that plagiarism and knock-offs are by-products of the fashion industry and true fashionistas will spot the original. “Fashion in the past was more inclusive and rested in the hands of a select few. These days it’s become highly competitive, hence the need to experiment and innovate in order to stand out from the rest,” she said in an interview.

Patriot spoke to Debarati Roy, a brand consultant for the likes of Ritu Kumar and Malini Ramani, who feels Diet Sabya is doing what was long overdue, creating a sense of fear in the fashion community of being featured on the platform. “How can plagiarism be dealt with? I think it should be dealt with from a more ground level approach of making young aspiring designers confident of their originality and creativity,” tells Roy. “A more personality driven creative industry is needed than a mere go with what has been working for others sentiment-driven industry,” she adds.

Jostein Hauge wrote in an article titled, ‘Made in India? Why manufacturing is the best route to development’ for the Guardian: “China’s story, like most economic success stories before it, is a testament to a simple yet highly relevant policy recommendation for today’s developing countries: if you want to prosper, you need to make stuff.” While the fashion community in India follows the ‘China-way’ and flaunts the ‘make in India’ movement, Diet Sabya becomes part of the process by pointing out fakes and pushing for originality.

This article was first published in the Patriot.

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