‘Art is either plagiarism or revolution’
Digital revolution has been the biggest boon and the bane of 21st century society. Our brain is over-exposed to a high decibel of information from various platforms throughout the day – be it print, digital, radio or electronic medium. We have the luxury of reading about the Cannes Festival or IIFA awards in real time while leisurely browsing through the next vacation destinations at the click of a button. Images are freely available on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and official websites for people to like, comment and share. Some download them for design reference; some modify them whereas most copy them.
So what exactly is happening in the Fashion industry in 21st Century digital age?
When does inspiration become plagiarism?
I can vouch for it that most of the talented designers, stylists, writers and photographers (read – creative field) go through an angry upheaval once in a while.
Who stole my design?
Who copied my style aesthetics?
Who magically created same ‘blush’ colour palette?
Who is ripping off my style of writing?
Who is stealing my photo compositions?
For starters, let’s get the basics straight.
Any non technical field, the biggest threat is no entry barrier. Any person can become a designer, a photographer, a writer or a stylist (I will stick to Fashion domain here) despite the lack of technical education. Education improves the thought process and lays down the foundation for strong design thinking. However, it isn’t mandatory…
The absence of any technical ground rules leads to over-supply. In a country that thrives on Darwin’s theory of ‘Survival of the fittest’, demand & supply dynamics are perennially skewed. It definitely takes time, energy, resources and money to create original design / product. But for the rest, it’s only copying, thus saving on cost and passing it to the end consumer.
The ultimate winner is the cheapest provider.
High street fashion is on a steady up-rise . What was last season for high fashion labels is so in for the high street fashion. It is easy and cheaper to take inspiration from high fashion designers who have spent months on research and trials. Design thinkers lead the way to create unique designs whereas the rest follow them. Some openly admire and take inspiration from it while most copy it without giving any credits to the original creator. Everyone’s favourite Zara has been the biggest culprit in ripping off designs straight off the run-away and in some instances graphics and illustrations off instagram. Yes you heard me!
In India, fashion is a growing industry where designers, merchandisers, curators, stylists, bloggers & reviewers are mushrooming, quite literally.
By the virtue of two domains that I work in, I have been fortunate enough to encounter hundreds of designers, stylist, curators, bloggers and reviewers by now. What perplexes me the most is that most of the ideas, designs, details and thoughts are borrowed, copied or infringed…
However, each claims to be original.
I sit back and smirk.
One look at the digital platforms can give away the truth – Instagram timelines don’t lie.
Colour palettes, cuts, silhouettes and even motifs are copied to death.
No wonder one sees a rush of anti fit silhouettes in ivory tones. Add in a little bit of grey stripes or fuse in some checkered blush pink tones. Grey, ivory and dull red tones are the darling daughters of the slow fashion promoters. At a recent exhibition, I saw many sustainable fashion apparels from different designers. Most of them fell in the same bracket of designing; the irony was while all claimed they were different and exclusive, each was just a repeat copy paste.
I guarantee that no one can differentiate between these brand aesthetics if you remove their labels. They all fall in the same design philosophy.
As far as fabric is concerned, the sustainable brigade procures it from select craft and textile clusters in the country. The sources are same, buyers are different. To reduce the product development cycle, best practices and tested designs are used with minor tweak in colour palette. End result thus is the similar fabric tweaked a bit, almost duplicate design but a brand new label claiming to be different than others…
Leave alone apparels, even the photography style, frames and fonts are ditto same. Photographers have been copying the same compositions from the leaders in the field whereas bloggers have been ripping off blog formats, style and writing pattern based on the popularity of the others.
Adding to this jamboree are the Curators. I have met more curators than designers in past one year. Any socialite who can bring together 5 designers under one roof becomes a fashion and style curator. I think the word ‘curation’ should be checked off the Oxford dictionary soonest.
Looking at the current scenario, one thinks of a pertinent ethical and moral question.
Who is copying whom?
How can designers/ photographers/curators/bloggers insist on the authenticity while they have been copying?
Why does a consumer pay premium for a plagiarized product?
Where does one draw a line between inspiration and plagiarism?
Most creative people will argue that they follow other artists for inspiration. It is a part of creative exposure and personal style building – be it designer, photographer, blogger or writer. I agree, influence is necessary to build up thought processes.
I understand not the art, but its expression is what differentiates one from other. But what if these forms of expression are same?
Under the garb of exposure and learning, when does inspiration become too close for comfort is a million dollar question..
Thin moral line it is then, isn’t it?
In case you would love to read up on cases in plagiarism in Fashion industry, here are few links :