Is Plagiarism the New Normal in the Art and Fashion Industry?

We’ve all heard the word ‘plagiarism’ being thrown around and associated with essays, assignments and the various facets of print media. The Oxford University defines ‘plagiarism’ as presenting someone else’s work or ideas as your own, with or without their consent, by incorporating it into your work without full acknowledgement.

One big industry dealing with the menace of plagiarism is the art and fashion industry. The lines are blurred when it comes to fair use and copyright issues with the lack of lawful implementations so as to protect the original art as well as the young artists whose designs are often knocked off by big design houses coupled with the obvious dearth of credit or remuneration. Fashion police Diet Prada and its desi equivalent Diet Sabya Instagram handles have done a good job at the Instagram exposés targeted at copycats without the slightest trepidation of the eventual reactions that may follow. The following picture elaborates an instance when a clothing brand ripped off a sample collection made by a fashion design graduate on being asked to prepare the same as a pre-requisite for job selection for the brand. This is the reason many art students and fashion design students dither while sharing their portfolio with anyone.

plagiarism of art
Picture Credit: Instagram @dietsabya


On the left: Samples by the graduate.

On the right: Copy of the design without credit

Lajpat Nagar and Chandni Chowk in Delhi are the hubs for copy-paste fashion lehengas & have surprisingly garnered attention from the NRIs as well. A Sabyasachi lehenga’s first copy would be easier to find than some original novice piece of work. To counter this thievery, many ace designers have started modifying their design ethos, creative expression and production process to create completely new weaves and simple motif designs are now embroidered with utmost precision and finesse which can’t be replicated and reproduced.

Sabyasachi Lehenga
Image by Kunal Goswami on Unsplash

Fast fashion companies especially H&M and Zara who cater to mass consumption and their production cycles are at the mercy of the ‘churn 2 collections once a week mandate’, all cheers to the company’s supply and demand equilibrium, have no option other than resorting to look at what big designers are doing for some fashion inspiration and create somewhat cheap-looking substitutes to them.

One big culprit of millennials being unable to conceptualize from scratch and the subsequent drought in creative juices is the excessive subjection of information overload on social media platforms especially Pinterest. Need some idea, go on Pinterest. Need some inspiration for a collection, simple, just google ‘themes for design collection’. Gone are the days of crediting the most ingenious of ideas to solitude spent in nature or the light at the end of the tunnel after a breakdown. So, what is the solid line of control between taking inspiration and copying or any mantra to get your creative juices flowing is perhaps a million-dollar question. Another side to the story is the prospect of artist jobs in India. How can the artistic expression spring up with deadlines and different terms and conditions with the added pressure of a peanut’s worth of an artist’s salary? Take a graphic design project for example. Chances are that a person dealing with a creativity block may apply photoshop effect for photos to pre-existing stuff and resort to this new age art theft.

Famous artist Van Gogh once said “Good artists copy, Great artists steal.” Now one among the plethora of explanations for this statement of his gravitates to the fact that it is also somewhat okay to follow established conventions and to apply the best practices, principles, and patterns for artistic inspiration until one develops a personal style. Don’t we spend all our lives observing everything around and copying, pasting, refining and reworking on it, right? Just like Ben Elton once said ‘Artists don’t create a society, they reflect it.’

Article By: Ipsita Kaul

Ipsita is a fashion student fascinated by corresponding topics of art and sustainability. She aims to contribute to an effective dialogue tackling the above themes for a better understanding among people who are not familiar with these topics and shed light on the socio-cultural implications of the same.

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