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Copycat charges cast shadow on the catwalk

New Delhi, April 25: The penultimate day of India Fashion Week 2005 saw as much drama off the ramp as on it. With four design honchos showcasing one after the other ' Tarun Tahiliani, Rohit Bal, Sabyasachi Mukherjee and Anamika Khanna ' the ramp affair was no doubt as hot as it can get. But the air off the ramp was perhaps hotter with two plagiarism controversies breaking out.

While creations of big designers getting ripped off by stores and garage designers is a rule rather than an exception all over the world, quite a different story unfolded at the fashion week today. Ace designer Suneet Verma accused another industry bigwig ' Aki Narula ' of copying one of his designs for a costume to be sported by actor Rani Mukherjee for the forthcoming film Bunty Aur Babli.

The outfit in question ' a blue chiffon poncho paired with an embroidered black trouser ' was part of Verma's fall winter 2003 collection, which also featured in the designer's advertising campaign in fashion magazines for three months since October 2003.

'I saw a picture of Rani wearing the same outfit in one of the newspapers this weekend and I was shocked. I have been copied several times in the past, but another big designer ripping off my design so blatantly and shamelessly is just not done. I will take legal action against all the involved parties, including the actor and the designer,' Verma told a media conference in the morning.

Narula, however, said he picked up the outfit from a store called Options in Mumbai and had no idea it resembled one of Verma's designs.

'While working for a film you are a stylist more than a designer. We often source costumes from various stores and we did the same for this one. In films, we are given very tight deadlines and it's not possible to check whether a store is selling copies. I was told the day before the shooting that a blue poncho was required the next morning and so I picked it up from the store,' Narula clarified at a media conference in the afternoon.

Verma, however, is in no mood to buy the argument. 'I think Aki 200 per cent knew that it was my design he was copying,' he said.

Narula, who has given the fashion week the miss this year, feels that Verma should check with the store from where the costume was bought, instead of blaming him. 'I paid Rs 8,000 for the poncho and the trouser and I am even ready to show him the bill if he wants to take up the case with them. It's upsetting to see your designs getting copied, but even my creations have been used in films like Dil Chahta Hai where the costume designer credit went to Arjun Bhasin and not me. I don't think it's a big deal,' he said.

Models display creations by designer Rohit Bal at the fashion week on Monday. (Reuters)

While Verma and Narula were at loggerheads, there was solidarity on another front. The issue at hand was a newspaper report saying Calcutta designer Kiran Uttam Ghosh's 2005 line at the fashion week is a rip-off of Sabyasachi Mukherjee's Frog Princess collection that he showcased in 2004.

Ghosh and Mukherjee denied there were any similarities between the two collections and believed that the retro mood of both the lines led to the allegation. 'Retro is part of the international fashion forecast and that doesn't mean every retro line is a rip-off of another. Kiran's line is a unique point of view that's hers alone and has no similarities with my Frog Princess collection,' said Mukherjee.

'The allegations question my creativity and originality, which is completely uncalled for as my long and successful career is testimony by itself. Second, I have always admired my friend Sabyasachi's work and wouldn't like a fabricated story to mar our relationship,' said Ghosh.

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