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30 Mar

What’s the fuss about ‘copy-cats’?

In my 15-year career of working as a fashion journalist in Pakistan I have heard almost every designer complain of his work being plagiarized by another. The comparisons have been endless: Deepak Perwani and Munib Nawaz, Umar Sayeed and HSY/Mehdi, Ayesha Hashwani/Elan and Sana Safinaz, Nida Azwer and Sania Maskatiya. And then there have been comparisons with foreign designers: Body Focus and Dolce Gabbana, Maheen Karim and Philip Lim, Sana Safinaz and Cavalli, Umar Sayeed and Abu Jani Sandeep Khosla, Faiza Samee and Rohit Bal…etc etc. And yes, there have been similarities, which have been pointed out by the media every now and then. Cool.

So much was fine but then people with too much time on their hands – most of them bloggers – started talking about motifs and colours that were being ‘copied’. And an entire bandwagon of ‘expert outpourings’ began, with the new experts complaining that all hell was breaking loose because their favourite designers were being copied!

images Here’s the thing. If a designer feels he is being copied then he or she should go on record and complain or dare to take the other to court. Armani took Dolce Gabbana to court in 2009 for copying his quilted trousers. Christian Louboutin took brand YSL to court last year for copying his trademark red soles in a new collection. Both Armani and Louboutin lost the cases. Reason: they couldn’t claim possession of a quilted design or the colour red. Then who is to say that Pucci would claim rights to a blue motif or Zara of a black and white panel used by Sana Safinaz in a lawn print? The next thing we’ll hear is that anyone using zebra or tiger print is copying Cavalli. For heavens sake people, get a grasp on reality!

First of all, let the designers complain themselves. I also know (through my 15-year career) that they never will. Conveniently, they have discovered that bloggers will fight their battles, without any of them running the risk of being in a socially embarrassing situation. Secondly, try and understand the difference between counterfeit/chhaapa and high street inspirations.

1. Websites like Bargello and HinaB are blatantly posting pictures of top designers, offering to copy the designs for half the price. UNACCEPTABLE

2. Certain high end designers (yes, we know who you are) are walking a thin line between copying and being inspired by foreign high end designers and passing the creations off as their own innovations. UNACCEPTABLE because you’re taking credit for something you have not innovated and charging a premium for originality.

3. Certain textile mills are copying and reproducing renowned lawn collections days within they are released and selling the fakes for half the price. UNACCEPTABLE but UNAVOIDABLE. (Unacceptable also because they are cutting into the designer’s profits.)

4. Lawn designers/high street brands take motifs off international runways and use them in their own designs. ACCEPTABLE and NO BIG DEAL. (No big deal because Pucci or Zara don’t care if Sana Safinaz lawn or Zara, Mango etc are using motifs they developed for the runway. A large part of law is damages and there are no damages here.)

5. High street brands like Khaadi, Daaman, Sheep, Ego, Generation etc taking inspiration from high end labels. ACCEPTABLE. If high street were not looking for inspiration on those gorgeous runways then how would most of us be able to afford beautiful fashion?

Zara, Mango, Gap, Guess, Banana Republic, ALDO and all those fabulous stores we love are not claiming to be original; they’re just getting inspired by the right things (or brands). When Kate Moss started designing for Mango she said she would be taking inspiration from all the fabulous clothes she owned and wore.

So I can’t afford florescent Jimmy Choos or Nickolas Kirkwoods so thank you Nine West for making a collection of florescent shoes that I can afford! Most of us can’t afford an intrecciato woven bag by Bottega Veneta so thank you Charles and Keith for providing the option. Why is it okay for foreign high street to be inspired but not local high street?

You should know that you will be getting a Sana Safinaz version of the McQueen knuckle-buster at their upcoming high street stores. How do I know? I’ve seen the campaign and it is drop dead gorgeous. You’ll also be getting 1500 rupee versions of all the 600 pound sandals that Sana owns.

“We are following the Zara business model,” Sana spoke to me yesterday when we were discussing the upcoming Sana Safinaz stores, ” which is to bring the best of the season’s fashion to an affordable range in Pakistan. We will be looking at all catwalks in New York, Milan, Paris and London and bringing that fashion to women here in Pakistan.”

Now, our resident bloggers can start sharpening their tools but I know I’ll be very busy shopping. As long as my expensive, customized outfit isn’t a copy, I don’t give a damn and neither should you!

The Haute Team