The field of art and creativity thrives on an artist’s genuine effort to leave no stone unturned when it comes to authenticity of his craft. Artists from all walks of lives invest a lot of time and keep an open mind to seek inspiration from everything around. But, how much inspiration is too much inspiration? There is always a thin line between seeking inspiration from your surrounding and learning from your contemporary’s work, and plagiarising someone’s craft in the name of inspiration. As we say there are two sides of the same coin, art and copy are sadly co-existing. The fashion world is no exception. We have often witnessed luxury brands and designers crying foul over design plagiarism by fast fashion brands. But, that does in no way clear the air from luxury brands and designers. There have been multiple instances in the past and sadly, in the present too, wherein luxury brands have faced the heat of blatantly creating knock offs.
It was not too long ago that iconic French luxury brand Dior was on fire for copying traditional designs from Romanian region of Bihor, in their Pre Fall 2017 collection. Coats and jackets from the collection had uncanny design resemblances to the traditional Bihor Coat. The big fashion house sold the clothes at a whopping 30,000 Euros with no proceeds to the Romanian weavers. It was impressive how the people of Romania took the matter in their own hands and decided to not let Dior get away with plagiarism so easily. A Romanian fashion magazine Beau Monde came forward to protest in a unique way and launched the, “Bihor Not Dior” campaign to sell authentic traditional Bihor clothing at a lower prices wherein, people could support the local talents by purchasing the same designs from the weavers.
Fresh out of this ruckus, Dior struck again infamously in 2018 when an Indian design studio based out of New Delhi, People Tree accused the brand of copying one of its block print designs. It came into the light when Bollywood actor Sonam Kapoor wore a red dress with “yoga print” from Dior for one of her magazine cover shoots. The graphic designer husband-wife duo and founder of People Tree, Orijit Sen and Gurpreet Sidhu reportedly said that the print on the dress are very similar to one of their old creations. Once again Dior’s act of plagiarism affected the unsung heroes of art, this time the local Rajasthani block printers. Orijit took to social media to bash the brand and even filed a law suit against the same. The brand reportedly had to pay settlement amount to the Indian designers.
French luxury fashion house, Balmain had to raise eyebrows with their SS’19 collection for copying the iconic designs of the French designer, Thierry Mugler. The staggering similarities shocked Thierry who took to Instagram to call out the brand for plagiarising his designs. He posted images of his original designs along with the images of the brand’s SS’19 collection and captioned it as “Probably a Tribute”. It created a furore amongst the fashion fraternity who further shared the images on Twitter and Instagram to bring Balmain’s atrocity to light.
In more recent news, Italian brand, Max Mara created quite some ripples when they allegedly copied traditional Laotian designs from Oma in April 2019. The Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre (TAEC) based out of Laos who works in support of local artisans, accused the brand of copying designs without any due credit to the tribe. TAEC posted an open letter on social media to the brand appealing to immediately take off the collection from the brand’s website and stores, and forward 100 per cent of the sales earned from the mentioned collection to the community of Laos’ craftsmen. The brand turned deaf ears to the situation and allegedly have not made a statement on the situation in the present day.
Well, there are instances when brands come forward to apologise and claim mere coincidental references to copied designs, while others offer money as a cover up for the committed blunder. But, ignorant inspirations or money seldom settles such scores of blatant art rip offs. At the end of the day, it boils down to creative expression, brand integrity and intention.