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— Jasmeen Dugal

Designer Samant Chauhan is facing criticism for allegedly copying the design sensibility of fashion legend Rohit Bal, ''India's Master of fabric and fantasy'' as profiled by Time magazine. The news came to light when Ranjit Grewal posted, 'Plagiarism 101' on seeing Samant Chauhan's Instagram post with the disputed design. Julie Deb — an integral part of Fashion — posted on Facebook, ''We should not copy from our seniors; the original is called a Jalebia which is his iconic style since decades of RBD [Rohit Bal Design]. Moreover we are young; we should learn and make it our own as opposed to copying it. We are in the creative business after all; where is the creativity? I am disheartened to the core.''


As comments on her social media post began, Samant Chauhan's friends were quick to defend him. 'It is a tier dress. Even my master ji makes them' commented journalist Chinki Sinha. The insinuation that a 'master ji' has the same design sensibility of a legendary fashion designer… ! Designer Varija Bajaj commented, 'Are u saying this long tiered thing is a patent? And if so-what technicality of it is patented? That one can't make tiered dresses or can't make them that long or the white bit of it?' Again, the post is about it being ethically wrong to reproduce a similar design sensibility. So, why defend a designer, accused of the same, with legalese? 'White bit of it' really?!


Rohit Bal's emotions progressed from initial shock, to anger, to disappointment. Regardless of intent or remedy, it is a disheartening experience. What's worse — Chinki Sinha and Varija Bajaj, after provoking him into a heated exchange with their comments, published it on their social media, with counter- arguments taking the spotlight away from the issue. To quote Julie Deb, "The entire controversy has diverted attention from the main issue of plagiarism in Fashion. Being an indirect part of the industry I have observed that a lot of designers copy each other all the time. To point that out, I had posted a status about Samant Chauhan's dress which is a replica of Rohit Bal. What I want to highlight here is that a designer shouldn't copy another's work, out of respect. Instead of clarifying that, these guys are dragging Rohit Bal into a controversy. He has been in the industry for a very long time and everyone respects his artistic abilities. He does not thrive on controversy as he has always been in a secure space!'' There were many who were quick to defend Bal. ''I would expect this from a wedding wear shopkeeper in Lajpat Nagar not an an FDCI designer! Shame, shame, shame'' says Reshma Punj. While Bulbul Roy comments, ''When creativity ends you start copying… simple truth.''


My perspective as a journalist who has been in this industry since fourteen years, including four years with Vogue India? The Jalebia marked the culmination of years of hard work, interpreting the traditional Egyptian garment into a beautiful ensemble appealing to Indian sensibilities, with sixty-two meters flair; an iconic Rohit Bal Design loved and worn by celebrities the world over. it is not an anarkali; it is not a tiered dress. It is his interpretation of the Jalebia! Samant Chauhan's design, as can be seen in the photograph below, is very similiar! Which brings me to my point — across fashion, why is there no system in place, no checks and balances, to vet a collection before it goes out the door?! Shouldn’t offenders — regardless of who they are — be brought to task in a way that makes them think twice before they replicate a designer's work? The need of the hour is to institute robust systems to prevent that from happening and strengthen the laws on plagiarism.

Rohit Bal
Rohit Bal Design
Samant Chauhan
Samant Chauhan
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