Fighting fakes

Shantanu Goenka, a Kolkata-based designer, recently stirred up a controversy when he accused a couple of boutiques in the city of plagiarising his creations. He says concrete steps need to be taken against the “flourishing market of replicas.” Shantanu got to know about plagiarised designs when he stumbled upon the social media pages of the stores. He got photographic proof of the copied designs, which the stores claimed to be their original creations.

“Some boutiques in Kolkata are pioneers in shamelessly copying designer wear. Since we take no concrete steps against plagiarism, the boutiques tend to flourish. Workers, who worked at these boutiques previously, detested the idea of copying other designer’s works, have come forward to support the statement with photographs as proof.”

“These stores include Inaya Store and Simaaya. I will be sending a legal notice to them. Meanwhile, I hope this issue is addressed in the media and within the fraternity, because it is not just my clothes which are being copied, but the entire business is running through copies of famous designers, which at times they even quote as originals,” he alleges.

Rebutting his allegation, Rachit Agarwal of Simaaya, says, “This is not in my knowledge but if he is doing it then it is to malign our brand. If I am a retailer then I would have work of 10 different designers. It is nothing but baseless fabricated accusation. Shantanu is accusing us because we have not exhibited his work. If he has written to the media why is he not sending us the proof? We would take legal recourse.”

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All calls to Inaaya Store proved futile as employees jotted down this correspondent’s number promising that the owner would call us back but added, “We don’t give name of the owner”.

Shantanu’s case is the latest but the problem of plagiarism has been major concern for Indian designers for a long time now. And insiders suggest that the thief is not always an outsider.

Seasoned designer Rohit Bal says a parallel market is eating into his business. “Unfortunately, patenting is a complicated process. When we register our work big brands copy them. Asiana Couture in Chandni Chowk is blatantly copying. So are other brands and even in Chandni Chowk there are sellers offering my collections. Clients get disheartened,” he alleges.

Apart from workers selling designs, Rohit says, “Mafia-type people are entering factories. At times, they send women who capture our work in their mobiles. It is an organised racket. We are first issuing warning to then and if they don’t reply we would send legal notices to them. Unfortunately, the judicial process is so long that by the time decision is made by the court the season would be finished.”

Leading couturier Tarun Tahiliani has faced similar problem in the past. “Well, I once tried to sue a designer with an identical copy of an outfit with her name in a store abroad and the case dragged on and on. Unfortunately, with our judiciary system going to court is not really an option most of the time and the case continued until recently, long after the printer who had copied the prints was dead. So, I have learnt to be more stoic about it, I think one can embarrass people as we did with the two sisters in Chandigarh who made copies of our clothes and we did a wonderful story showing the original and the tacky copies. I mean these are people who we had promoted in Ensemble and even trained ourselves, so, you know, you just ignore and get on with it you make your work more complex.”

Admitting that there is a huge problem with Intellectual Property Rights, Tarun alleges FDCI has not addressed this issue at all by continuing to allow plagiarism in the Fashion Week. “One needs to promote secrecy. The only good news is that people who wear copies are in my belief, people who do not trust they are good enough for the real thing.”

Concurring with his views, Manish Gupta says India does not have strict laws to stop people running boutiques from plagiarising. “With so much hardship we create a design, spend money on research and development and then get to know that someone has copied it. But they cannot match the quality. The way out is that copyrights rules need to be put in place. When we do a show at the Fashion Week all our outfits are online within seconds. It is easy to download the pictures and produce in bulk.”

Problem compounded for Manish when one of his designs was blatantly copied by a studio, who even had the audacity to feature that work at the recently concluded Amazon India Fashion Week.

“Then one store used to buy from me. A company with an all-India presence used my outfit on a model and splashed posters in Noida. When I confronted them they started fighting and had brought goons. Instead of admitting their wrongdoing they blamed the stylist. All this is happening in places like Shahpur Jat. It is necessary to get rid of this piracy.”

Echoing similar sentiments, Sabyasachi Mukherjee, leading couturier from Kolkata, says, “Plagiarism is a worldwide phenomenon. But people who buy such imitated stuff are not bothered about the quality . To tackle it we have to register the Intellectual Property Rights and take plagiarists to the court. The IP laws have to be strengthened. Legal recourse is the only way out. As the central body, FDCI’s main job is to take care of trade. I have taken legal recourse in my capacity in the past.”

Pointing out that there are different layers to copying, Muzaffar Ali says since the past 15 years some people are plagiarising his work. “We want to protect the basic prints of designs.”

Ali says plagiarism is being rampantly done in our own Chandni Chowk and Karol Bagh markets. “Even bags which are imported from China sometimes look original as they are made with care, detailing and it becomes difficult to make out whether they are original or fake.

Revealing that designers face plagiarism virtually on a day-to-day basis, Rajesh Pratap Singh says, “Honestly, we do not waste our time over it. Although various legal agencies have advised us to take action, so far we have not done anything about it.”

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