During Amazon India Fashion Week (AIFW) in March 2018, an Instagram handle named ‘dietsabya’ popped up, and juxtaposed some of the ‘new’ ensembles launched by recognised names in the industry and where their ‘inspiration’ came from. Inspired would be an understatement; they were rip-offs.
One of its initial posts highlighted an outfit from Pawan Sachdeva’s autumn-winter 2018 collection for AIFW: “The music wasn’t the only thing that jolted us out of our fashion week stupor. There were these pretend-Gucci ‘Princetown’ loafers that were fooling no one”.
Within weeks, this handle caught attention of designers, stylists and fashion observers. Run by a “collective of fashion-obsessed geeks,” as they introduce themselves in an e-mail interview, dietsabya was started “for the LOLs.” No, they didn’t expect the huge traction.
Enormity of copies
I learnt about it through a designer friend and, after all these weeks of scouring dietsabya posts, I am flummoxed at the enormity of plagiarism. In an internet-led world, filmmakers/musicians/writers have nowhere to hide and any copied work is rightfully called out.
Reputed names in fashion have begun to copyright their work and plug in loopholes to prevent copycats get away lightly. It’s a long-prone battle though.
- Ganesh Nallari, designer, is all for the plagiarism expose. “It’s been an eye opener that even big brands and designers have been at it. I am all for the naming and shaming through a transparent platform like social media,” he says.
- Nallari cites instances where clients insist on replicating an outfit sported by a celebrity. “People don’t think before asking for copies; it’s an insult to artistic capabilities,” he says.
- However, there are several instances of retail brands copying designs/silhouettes and making a living out of it. In 2009, Nallari worked on a limited edition ikat collection with bold motifs. The collection was patronised by reputed classical dancers in Hyderabad. Soon, Nallari found similar yardage at a retail store in Banjara Hills.
- Nallari feels if a governing body steps in, it would be easier to control brands from copying since they will be mass producing and can’t get away lightly. “The bigger problem is when a designer plagiarises. One can change a neckline and pass off copied work as his/her own; here it boils down to individual ethics,” he says.
We are not talking only about the cheap rip-offs that percolate into the bazaars where a trader gleefully says ‘this is a Sabyasachi Mukherjee sari’ [he’s the most copied designer in India and hence the name dietsabya for this handle; in a way, it’s also modelled on the global tracker ‘dietprada’ that calls out copies in the global fashion arena].
Getting a rap on the knuckles through dietsabya are some known designers, stylists, fashion photographers who copy photoshoot ideas, and a bunch of retail brands whose ads inundate our social media feeds.
What irks the fashion-geek collective behind this Instagram handle is not just the copying, “but to sell it and make a living out of it”.
No one is spared. Celebrity stylists who’ve been sourcing rip-offs to dress their star clientèle are called out. From the copied outfits being hashtagged #gandi #copy, dietsabya stepped up the dialogue with #DeniedSourcingRequest that’s forcing many celebrity stylists tread carefully. #DietAssistant has triggered a windfall, with several young fashion graduates interning with design houses sharing sordid tales of being instructed to copy designs than spend time on original work.
Dietsabya has been dealing with varied reactions: “Some have lashed out. Some have apologised. Some are secretly mad at us. But all this so-called-hate can’t triumph all the love we get from our people.” Every now and then they get blocked by a few designers/stylists but then, their followers have also been tipping them off on more rip-offs.
The dietsabya team is happy being anonymous and have made people discuss the types of copying — blatant rip-offs to watered-down copies. On the types of copies, dietsabya says, “Oh, the list is endless. But we genuinely think that in design — especially in fashion — one needs to be technically sound to get away with a smart copy. The ones that get caught are often always the ones who have questionable design knowledge.”