Instagram has brought us many a thing we could, frankly, do without: the belfie (that’s a bum selfie for the uninitiated), an epidemic of inferiority complexes and a bevy of desperate Kardashian wannabes. Diet Prada, an Instagram account dedicated to calling out copycat designs, is not one of them. We caught up with emerging fashion designer Lucie Martyr to discuss Diet Prada, and the pitfalls of creative theft on social media.
Fashion’s favourite (or least favourite, depending on which side of the fence you fall on) new Insta account, Diet Prada, is one thumb-scrolling guilty pleasure to be proud of. What started as a way to archive the conversations between then-anonymous founders Tony Liu and Lindsey Schuyler, is now a force bringing about the social reckoning of copycat designers. Having your work feature on Diet Prada goes one of two ways: either you’re the designer who has had your work stolen, or you’re the subject of much embarrassment.
Copycats brought to ridicule include established names such as Dolce & Gabbana’s Stefano Gabbana and London-based designer Richard Quinn. In some cases, products have been pulled and defensive clarifications made. But if the results are no small feat, the methods are simple enough. Photographs of new, copycat designs are posted next to their original versions for the entertainment of legions of fans; including power players Naomi Campbell and Gigi Hadid.
But entertainment value is only part of the story behind Diet Prada’s astronomical success – 539k followers and counting- the unapologetic exposé has triggered a rallying cry; with fans of the account, named ‘dieters’ (or ‘star dieters’ if particularly meritorious), ruthlessly tipping off copycat designers, in a move towards justice for victims and the revival of creativity in fashion. “For small designers. It can wreck their businesses,” says Schuler. “The most rewarding part of Diet Prada, is helping out small companies that don’t have financial resources to litigate. Bigger companies have such marketing power that, if they rip off a design, most consumers never become aware of the original,” adds Liu.
Testament to the power of the internet’s call out culture, the duo believe the fear of public shaming will put a stop to copy cats producing watered down designs and improve the world of fashion as a result; “If people think we are ruining the fashion industry then they need to come up with their own ideas,” says Liu. Not stopping at giving credit where credit is due, the account also lays bare brands’ usage of cultural appropriation, lack of model diversity and toleration of abuse. Liu has also appealed to customers to buy pieces that “will last longer in terms of style,” thus reducing the amount of clothes going into landfill.
Diet Prada’s popularity hints at a shift in shopping trends, away from fads and towards sustainability. Fast fashion – the world’s second biggest polluter; notorious for labour conditions likened to modern-day slavery – has somewhat lost its appeal in the eyes of the conscious consumer, whose wardrobe contains quality items, rather than cheaply constructed knock offs.
FIB had the chance to talk with Lucie Martyr, emerging Australian designer, about designer copy-cats and the dangers of showcasing your work online. Earlier in the year, Lucie discovered that her polka-dot, balloon-sleeved robe being sold on Asian clothing websites, with them even using her own promotional photos in their advertisements.
A stylist who had used one of my pieces frequently shopped on one of the websites on. I then had a friend who is very tech savvy track down the image, and discovered it to be selling on a number of different websites, worldwide. I was very, very upset. Burst into tears. I was so disappointed to see all that hard work selling on a website for only $50.
Martyr is a victim of one of the downfalls of social media: while providing a broader reach, uploading photos of your designs also makes you a target for creative theft. Martyr contacted the company, but for an emerging designer without a full reach of resources, what could be done was limited. “I talked to a few friends who had been working for labels in Australia but, unfortunately, there is not a lot that can be done unless a lot of time and money is invested. I decided I would rather invest that effort into something new and creative.”
(Combating fast-fashion and cheaply-made garments) is something that worries me every day. I think that today’s increasing concern for the environment should eventually encourage more people to buy pieces that are longer lasting rather than throw-away pieces. Diet Prada is a great platform to put down people that are blatantly copying and I do know it makes designers stop and think.
While the pitfalls of Instagram are obvious in Martyr’s case, it is obvious, too, that the merit of social media is undeniable for emerging artists. “Like everything, there are always highs and lows,” Martyr admits. “For the most part, I think social media is fashion’s friend. It has provided all artists with a platform to not only share their work but also gain so much inspiration. It also encourages collaborations and endless connections.”
So what of the future? The pair behind Diet Prada plans to continue to build a community that in Schuyler’s words has; “come together to support transparency;” and make that community a “constructive force.”
Diet Prada: Doing God’s work? Let us know what you think in the comments.