Plagiarism is hardly new to fashion — be it in India or on the global stage — but thanks to social media, copycat behaviour has become easier to catch. And, the same came in handy for designer Rohit Bal, who spotted a copy of his creation on Facebook.
Model Amit Dahiya’s profile picture, a shot from designer Seema Mehta’s collection, had him wearing a velvet mandarin-collared jacket with distinctive floral embroidery — a creation strikingly similar to Bal’s design that he showcased for his summer/resort 2016 collection in Mumbai. Incidentally, Bal’s design was also worn by Dahiya on the runway.
After noticing the similarity, Bal posted a strongly-worded status update on Facebook and Instagram: “The original by Rohit Bal on the ramp. The fake by some parasitical designer. Adding her name would be giving her unnecessary publicity. We are surrounded by wannabes and parasitical desperate designers who should really hide their heads in shame and not strip this creative art of all its dignity and respect. Shame on you SM. She has also used the same model. Just the height of blatant shamelessness and utter disrespect for this profession. Feeling disgusted and appalled.” (sic)
When contacted, Bal insisted on not naming the designer, but did add that the issue of plagiarism was larger, and that he intended to tackle it head on. “I don’t really wish to harm her. She just needs to get the message. However, there are much bigger fish in the ocean who need to be exposed. I am compiling a list of my originals and their copies of our designs. They even sell them as our designs blatantly. Will expose them soon!” he said.
When contacted, Mumbai-based designer Seema Mehta, who is in Switzerland currently, initially refused to comment. However, she later, on a message, denied that it was her design. Although the model (Dahiya) named Mehta as the designer of the creation on Facebook, she denied knowing him.
Other designers also came out in support of Bal, stressing on the need for strict action against fashion plagiarism. “We all know that this is rampant…I think what is needed is the creation of a social media/ press campaign on behalf of the FDCI and signed by the originals which takes the issue of plagiarism up on a larger platform . I face this issue every few days with my designs (as most of us do) and recently, what was most shocking, was when some clients of mine who had liked Anamika’s work on social media (but were unaware that it was hers) had another ‘popular’ designer duo offering to make it for them anyways. It was also sad to note that this duo were members of the FDCI and we all know that several of such types are around stealing from the originals and blatantly cheating clients as well. Change, if initiated, has to be through a serious campaign educating the client about the importance and respect of originality for the development of any country’s fashion identity. Suggest we make this a board agenda,” designer JJ Valaya wrote as a response to Bal’s post on Facebook.
Bal, didn’t stop there, as he continued to call out other labels that have also copied from him. “Here is another example of blatant plagiarism which has been carrying in for a while . A brand called Asiana Couture has been doing this for some time now . The worst part is that they just don’t care . I’ve tried my best to stop them but nothing has worked . These are the sort of establishments that need to be targeted . Am posting a few examples . They even gave the audacity to put their name on the images when they advertise them . It’s gut wrenching and infuriating and really cuts into my business . But they have been doing it blatantly and without any sense of shame. Despicable Parasites .”