European luxury brand Dior came under hot water in January this year when one of their designs was worn by Bollywood actress Sonam Kapoor on the cover of Elle Magazine. Orijit Sen, the co-founder of People Tree, a New Delhi based design studio, accused Dior of plagiarism for copying their original designs on the dress without any credits.
People Tree came with receipts. On social media, Sen shared their original work of a yoga block print created by those working at The People Tree several years ago. Kapoor is wearing a dress with extremely similar color and design work on the Elle cover.
“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,” he told The National.
While Dior did not immediately respond to the accusations, Sen recently shared that they won an out-of-court settlement against Christian Dior. They’ve signed a non-disclosure agreement which prevents him from revealing more details about the case. However, with this victory, he shared that People Tree will now be able to set up a properly equipped studio, which will in turn help sponsor and foster artists in Goa, India.
Since its launch in 1991, People Tree has established itself as an artisanal, resourceful brand in India, coming up with innovative and handcrafted cotton clothing, accessories and jewelry made from biodegradable material. They “take pride in their reputation as a small independent business, which combines a sense of social purpose and ecological responsibility with the spirit of collective creativity.”
It’s quite surprising that Dior, a reputed and revered brand, would rip off an idea and design from India so blatantly only to let a famous actress from the same country wear it for a magazine intended for Indian audiences. It’s also commendable that Sen’s use of social media, combined with support from fellow fans, has now benefited this small and independent Indian brand. Beyond that, even, all the artists and designers who work at People Tree and who will continue to shine with them through their new studio have rightfully earned this win.