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When plagiarism hits the fan

Design­er Khadij­ah Shah’s respon­se to allega­tions takes debate forwar­d

It was pointed out that Sapphire’s design (L) was an exact replica of artwork by Sweden-based illustrator Johanna Burai. PHOTO: AAMIRIAT/INSTAGRAM

It was pointed out that Sapphire’s design (L) was an exact replica of artwork by Sweden-based illustrator Johanna Burai. PHOTO: AAMIRIAT/INSTAGRAM

LAHORE: Fashion in its truest form is art and French artist Paul Gauguin said art is either plagiarism or revolution. A host of Pakistani designers have, unfortunately, been contributing to the former, with Khadijah Shah of design house Élan and high-street brand Sapphire being the latest to be slammed with plagiarism accusations. And when a designer as established as Shah comes in the limelight for the wrong reasons, the ethics of the industry itself come under question.

Bloggers such as LuxePakistan and Aamiriat have pointed out that two of Sapphire’s designs are exact replicas of artworks by Shelley Steer and Johanna Burai, who are both freelance graphic designers and illustrators based in London and Sweden, respectively.

Both illustrators denied knowledge of the designs being used by Sapphire. In a tirade on Instagram, Steer said, “I most certainly did not give permission. [It is] sad that people/companies think it’s alright to steal someone else’s hard work.” Burai shared similar sentiments, saying, “I had no idea as they [Sapphire] have not contacted me. A big company like theirs should be aware of things like this. This is my print and I make prints like this for big fashion companies and they pay me for it.”

Read: The slow and steady in the fashion race

Their posts quickly went viral with the local fashion fraternity and social media mavens pitching in their opinions on the matter. Steer and Burai were rightly outraged to discover the designs, but Sapphire did not let this slide.

Unlike other ‘designers’ who plagiarise under the guise of inspiration, Shah admitted to using Burai’s design for Sapphire. “We are a brand in our infancy and used the web or Pinterest quite literally as a common-interest fashion resource for selecting patterns for our ready-to-wear range, as is the norm for all high-street brands in our country since there is no copyright or intellectual law in place here,” she said.

Natasha Saleem, marketing head at Sapphire, noted, “[Since the launch of this design], we have in place strict protocols to ensure that the designs are not taken from any copyrighted online resource.” Shah also added that the illustrators will be compensated for their designs.

Read: Taking a shine to the finer things

In Pakistan, high-street industry practices are such that many designers lift designs off the internet, with it being difficult to ascertain the owner of the patterns. Although this does not make it acceptable, Shah acknowledging her brand’s mistake and buying the designs is a step in the right direction.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 16th, 2015.

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About Amin Khan

Amin Khan is a web developer, SEO expert, Online Mentor & marketer working from last 4 years on the internet and managing several successful websites.

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