Rip-off or not: A tale of two blue dresses
African fashion designer Bayanda Khathini, who specialises in high-end traditional beaded wedding dresses, has sent a letter of demand to Sello Medupe, the owner of fashion label Scalo. The issue: Khathini believes that a dress Scalo designed for former Miss South Africa, Tamaryn Green, copies a dress designed by Khathini in 2019.
Khathini asserts that his unique aesthetic style is due to his ability to skilfully draw from his past experiences with the pre-existing vocabulary of cover, style, and pattern, and points out that all his beaded dresses have two signature features — the use of different colour lines going down; and the use of three lines to differentiate the shades in patterns.
He further claims to have suffered a financial loss from Scalo's alleged infringement, as some of his clients have terminated contracts because they fear that the public will think their dresses were copied from Scalo’s designs.
Khathini’s lawyer argues that the designer has a right to copyright protection of which he does not need to register.
Social media users, however, are not all convinced by his claims. Some believe the only commonality shared by the two designs in question is the colour blue, while others note that other designers also use matching colours for beads and gowns. This same design feature is also found on the Zulu traditional skirts sold in the local market.
Copying is a common problem in the fashion industry, but while some plagiarism cases may be quite clear-cut, others, like this one, are more open to debate. What's clear is that creators will always need more tools at their disposal to provide protection from idea theft.
PitchMark helps innovators deter idea theft, so that clients get the idea but not take it. Visit PitchMark.net and register for free as a PitchMark member today.