Saturday December 05, 2020
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Fariha Marjia

The social-media police has yet again spotted another case of “knock-off”. And to only add fuel to the, already rampant, fire in the design industry, certain Pakistani clothing articles have been spotted by the media police, which claim to have been “inspired” by the Western designers. But we here at INTELLECT can call a spade a spade when we see one.

There is a very fine line between a design work being “inspired” and being a “knock off”, but for many that fine line is dissolving. The current victim is the Pakistan’s hottest selling lawn duo, Sana Safinaz. 

Fashion blogger Aamir Bukhari, pointed out that the designer lawn had prints very similar to Zara design. He writes, “The design in question is [Spanish brand] Zara’s silk wide leg pants from last year’s collection. In Sana Safinaz’s version, the exact same design motif is used on the front of the shirt piece. Although the silk pants [are] retailed for around $90, this printed fabric retails for around $57.”



However, Safinaz Muneer did not deny the truth. Her approach was rather a diplomatic one, probably to save her dignity and her neck. “Designers get inspired by [other] designers all the time,” Muneer said frankly. “From books to catalogues, [they are inspired] all the time. So yes, we saw these Zara silk printed pants and were inspired. Our respective designs bear embroidery which is similar to that.” 

Although Safinaz Muneer had been brave to admit that they have been “inspired”, the irony is that she had once complained about her designs being copied by local textile mills. But luck was at her side as one of their designs had reportedly inspired a Valentino design the same year. The event was celebrated believing “a flow of fashion from east to west”. 


Safinaz had also clarified that the Valentino design “looks inspired by the east but is definitely not a copy”. I am sure, even it was a copy, no one would complain being copied by the great Valentino.

But Sana Safinaz is not the first to get “inspired” by other designers. Italian designer Roberto Cavalli has been accusing the American designer, Michael Kors, for years, of being “the biggest copy designer in the world”. International fashion house Balmain may be a frequent target of knockoffs in Pakistan. While the Creative Director for Balmain, Olivier Rousteing was so inspired by Alexander McQueen’s 1997 white pantsuit with cutout panels, that Rousteing decided to use the exact design and showcase it on a different model, thinking no one would even know. Christian Louboutin dragged the brand YSL to court for incorporating his trademark red under sole in its shoe collection. And Georgio Armani famously accused Dolce & Gabanna of copying his quilted trouser design. However, the trick here is that none of them can claim, to never have been “inspired” by some other design. It would be the pot calling the kettle black. 

Legally it is almost impossible to implicate any fashion brand for plagiarism because the Schumer Law on copyright in fashion, the Innovative Design Protection and Piracy Prevention Act, has put some ground rules for a design to be considered plagiarized. 

We all know that “copying-pasting” a graphic artist’s exclusive designs are theft of intellectual property. Therefore the moral of the story is even if Sana Safinaz used a Zara motif in their lawn do their customers care? Probably not, apparently our wishes to wear high-end couture (even if it is just printed) precedes over any designer’s copyrights. The knockoff lawns are selling faster than you can pronounce Zara. 

Sadly, this replica trend has also crossed borders over to Bangladesh. From the famous tailors of Indira road, to the small but over-crowded streets of Ghausia market or at the heart of all things garments, Islampur, replicas are being made at every corner. Various grade replicas of celebrity worn clothing pieces are available in the market in different quality materials.

What we fail to realize is that, rather than just being one of the thousands same pieces of clothing, it would make more sense to pay a respectable amount of money for a piece of clothing that is unique. Bangladesh is so rich when it comes to garments, our heritage and culture seeps into our clothing. From the fine woven handloom designs, to expertly done block prints, incorporating the Nakshi Katha designs for clothes, or even the famous Jamdani print is now available and can be used in clothes other than sarees. Many artists, hand paint over pure cotton sarees, or salwar kamiz, of the beautiful lush green sceneries of Bangladesh. Yet, we still choose Indian knock offs or Pakistani replicas, to quench the thirst for “classy couture” over such works of genuine art.

April 12, 2017
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