The year was 1994 and Raghavendra Rathore had just returned after his stint in the West,where he had worked with prominent fashion labels such as Donna Karan,Bill Blass and Oscar de la Renta. Rathore,who hails from the royal family of Jodhpur,knew that his debut show would set the pace for the rest of his career,so he decided to showcase what he knew best fine cuts with more than a touch of royalty. I showed a line of bandhgalas for men and women; it was the first time I put the bandhgala on the runway, he recollects.
Since then,the classic Jodhpuri bandhgala suit and the Jodhpuri breeches,also known as Jodhpurs,have come to be his mainstay. But whats more interesting is that today,after 18 years,Rathore is copyrighting the classic patterns and the technical details that form the essence of the designs for both the silhouettes. I want to avoid any misrepresentation,apart from bringing a certain legitimacy to the specifics of the original blueprint, he reasons.
Rathore compares his case to a luxury carmaker copyrighting its detailing and style. Anybody can make a car but you cant copy its interiors to the T. Similarly,the bandhgala in itself is not subject to copyright but the piping and the print inside the collar,the inner design of the jacket and the Hindi label of the Raghavendra Rathore bandhgala are all covered under the copyright, he says.
This move is also meant to stop plagiarism of his designs. I have corporatised my company and I have to promote my core product (read: bandhgalas and breeches) the right way. So when I launched my Mumbai store at the Taj Mahal hotel last month,I decided to go ahead with the copyrights, says Rathore. The designer believes that this will set a new precedent in an industry that has seen a fair share of the copy-paste culture.
Designer Shane Peacock,who was struck by the resemblance between his rosette creation and a rosette outfit by Manav Gangwani at a fashion week four years ago,believes that copyrighting is the future. I wouldnt be against the idea of copyrighting my prints,the lining and other such intricate details, he says. However,a lot of designers do not agree with Rathore and Peacock. So while Arjun Khanna concedes that both Indian and international fashion are victims of plagiarism,he doesnt believe that copyrighting will solve the problem. More often than not,I have seen my designs copied. I have seen both Bollywood and TV actors wear these rip-offs. But preventing this phenomenon is easier said than done. Copyrighting may not help at all as people can work their way around it. For instance,the pocket of your creation may have been cut at a 45 degree angle,but a similar one with a 47 degree angle cut will escape the law, says Khanna.
For Shantanu Mehra of Shantanu and Nikhil,copyrighting is a cumbersome process. Its a tricky road with too many legalities,so while one can copyright a print or certain other unique detail,the basic features cant be marked as ones own. The piping,for one,is used by all designers who make the bandhgala. So Rathores piping will have to have its own unique stamp to qualify for a copyright, he says,adding that he doesnt see himself go down that road.
We keep evolving and innovating so we are always coming up with modified versions of our own previous creations. This,in turn,dilutes the copyright, he signs off.