In July, Kolkata-based designer Snigdha Seksaria messaged sustainable fashion brand Doodlage on Instagram: “Hi! This design of yours is uncannily similar to one of my designs from 2016 of the brand Blankslate. I feel it is a copy and would want to reach out to someone to whom I could talk to in regard to this!”

The two designs in question:

Doodlage, which turns “discarded/rejected fabrics and scraps into beautiful upcycled masterpieces”, responded saying, “The print is in a checkered pattern and was developed in-house. It’s part of our menswear 2017 collection which has a series of slogan printed shirts… We assure you that we had no intentions to make this similar to anything that has been created before by another designer, on purpose.”

Seksaria argued that, apart from the basic pattern, the text style, the styling and the silhouette of Doodlage’s design also matched hers. She added that Blankslate, her indie design label, did not produce much in the way of surplus which could be picked up by another brand and used to remake full clothes.

The spat was sparked off by Diet Sabya, a six-month-old anonymous Instagram account that has made it its mission to flag supposed copycats in Indian fashion. With over 100,000 followers today, Diet Sabya is emblematic of a drastic shift in how plagiarism is treated in the fashion industry, both in India and around the world.

The rarefied circles of haute couture are no stranger to the act of imitation (or even outright knock-offs), but historically, public criticism was a rare sight. Not any more—brands, designers and anonymous vigilantes like Diet Sabya and its global forerunner Diet Prada are increasingly taking to social media to call out imitators big and small. (Diet Prada’s rise, in particular, has been hailed as one of the “definitive fashion moments” of 2018, and its cheeky call-outs have earned it the ire of some of the industry’s biggest names.)

The ensuing conflict could very well help reshape the power dynamics of the design world.

Mirror, mirror

In India, pretty much every brand has to deal with cheap knock-offs churned out by factories across the country (and by local tailors at our request, of course). Most companies choose to ignore them, betting their core audience will seek out originals.

But for small artists and brands, when it comes to plagiarism, legal action is difficult to pull off—and not to mention, expensive.

A South India-based designer and manufacturer of fashion apparel who exports his products is currently fighting two legal battles related to copyright infringement, one against a popular international sports brand.


Chandni Doulatramani

Chandni Doulatramani is an independent journalist and writer. She writes on culture, technology, gender, and lifestyle. Her stories have appeared in publications such as The Caravan, National Geographic Traveller India, VICE India and Mint Lounge. Previously, she worked as a financial journalist for Reuters and Mint.

View Full Profile

Available exclusively to subscribers of The Ken India

This story is a part of The Ken India edition. Subscribe. Questions?


Annual Subscription

12-month access to 200+ stories, archive of 800+ stories from our India edition. Plus our premium newsletters, Beyond The First Order and The Nutgraf worth Rs. 99/month or $2/month each for free.

Rs. 2,750


Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

Rs. 500


Annual Subscription

12-month access to 150+ stories from Southeast Asia.

$ 120


Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

$ 20



What is The Ken?

The Ken is a subscription-only business journalism website and app that provides coverage across two editions - India and Southeast Asia.

What kind of stories do you write?

We publish sharp, original and reported stories on technology, business and healthcare. Our stories are forward-looking, analytical and directional — supported by data, visualisations and infographics.

We use language and narrative that is accessible to even lay readers. And we optimise for quality over quantity, every single time.

What do I get if I subscribe?

For subscribers of the India edition, we publish a new story every weekday, a premium daily newsletter, Beyond The First Order and a weekly newsletter - The Nutgraf.

For subscribers of the Southeast Asia edition, we publish a new story three days a week and a weekly newsletter, Strait Up.

The annual subscription will get you complete, exclusive access to our archive of previously published stories for your edition, along with access to our subscriber-only mobile apps, our premium comment sections, our newsletter archives and several other gifts and benefits.

Do I need to pay separately for your premium newsletters?

Nope. Paid, premium subscribers of The Ken get our newsletters delivered for free.

Does a subscription to the India edition grant me access to Southeast Asia stories? Or vice-versa?

Afraid not. Each edition is separate with its own subscription plan. The India edition publishes stories focused on India. The Southeast Asia edition is focused on Southeast Asia. We may occasionally cross-publish stories from one edition to the other.

Do you offer an all-access joint subscription for both editions?

Not yet. If you’d like to access both editions, you’ll have to purchase two subscriptions separately - one for India and the other for Southeast Asia.

Do you offer any discounts?

No. We have a zero discounts policy.

Is there a free trial I can opt for?

We don’t offer any trials, but you can sign up for a free account which will give you access to the weekly free story, our archive of free stories and summaries of the paid stories. You can stay on the free account as long as you’d like.

Do you offer refunds?

We allow you to sample our journalism for free before signing up, and after you do, we stand by its quality. But we do not offer refunds.

I am facing some trouble purchasing a subscription. What can I do?

Please write to us at detailing the error or queries.