The tulle has barely stopped rustling from its Paris Couture Week show, but Dior is finding itself in the news once again.
In India, a social-media storm is breaking out over the design of a dress worn by actress Sonam Kapoor on the cover of the January issue of Elle magazine. Kapoor is pictured wearing a strapless, patterned red-brown dress and patchwork jacket from the Dior resort 2017/18 collection, but that is not the issue.
The issue is that Bindaas Unlimited, a small-scale, traditional woodcut-fabric-printing company in India, is claiming that the pattern on the dress bears a remarkable similarity to a design it has been producing since 2000. Posting on its Instagram page, Bindaas Unlimited published an image showing the Elle cover, next to a photograph of a dress produced by the company, for the brand People Tree.
The National contacted Bindaas Unlimited for comment, and was redirected to People Tree, a small collective based in New Delhi (and not to be confused with the UK fashion label of the same name).
We spoke to Orijit Sen, the designer, artist and co-founder of People Tree, who is known for his politically irreverent artwork. “I would like to explain the genesis of this print and many others like it, but that would be a long story. So to cut it short - I, like Meeta [Sen’s wife], am part of a collective of designers artists and craftspeople who collaborate to make contemporary Indian textiles using, and innovating with, traditional techniques of hand-block printing and natural dyeing. We have been doing it for over 20 years, and we sell T-shirts and clothing made from these fabrics through our own completely independent retail outlet called People Tree,” Sen explains.
“This design happens to be one of those that was conceived and drawn out by me. But there many other skilled people - including block carvers, printers and dyers who played an equal role in bringing it to life. As such, we - the designers, producers and artisans - have equal stakes in it in terms of ownership. This is one of our well-loved designs, which was created more than 15 years ago, around the year 2000, and is still in continuous production."
Copycat designs, or those that are inspired by or pay homage to someone or something are very much part and parcel of the fashion universe, as designers constantly reference and counter-reference each other. Dior’s most recent couture collection in Paris, for example, closely references the work of the Surrealist artist Leonor Fini.
The difference in this case, is that People Tree is claiming Dior used its design without permission. When asked if the French fashion giant had contacted Bindaas, People Tree or Sen regarding this pattern, Sen says: ”We have never worked with Dior or any other major fashion brand; anyone can easily access [the dress] physically from one of our two stores or even online from Facebook or elsewhere. None of us were ever approached by Dior or any other related label for permission to use our design. We have the original paper drawings and wood blocks [images of which are attached].”
Dior has declined to comment.
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