On "Diet Prada" & Cultural Watchdogs
By Jaylin Paschal
Who holds creators responsible?
In a sociocultural landscape where millions of projects are being released, published or displayed everyday, it's almost impossible to keep up with artists and their work. More importantly, it's become more difficult to keep track of work that's been done, and then redone without the proper citation or attribution. More simply--it's easier for copiers to get away by simply relying on the massive amount of content/art that's being put out to either a) make audiences forget about the original or b) make it so that audiences don't really care to check or revisit.
This is where cultural watchdogs come in--those committed to "calling out copiers." Of course, these watchdogs must carefully discern between inspiration and imitation. This is a concept stressed in the mildly controversial book, Steal Like An Artist, in which Austin Kleon places an emphasis on borrowing work and ideas for your own projects.
Artists, as you might imagine, don't really believe in the "imitation is the highest form of flattery" notion. You can see that they're obviously and rightfully annoyed when they're ripped off. D.R.AM. was pissed when "Hotline Bling" overcame "Cha Cha." Raf Simons practically hates Virgil Abloh. Gucci is suing the hell out of Forever 21 (as many artists, large and small, are doing to many fast-fashion brands). But are artists the only ones who care?
After all, "Hotline Bling" was an international hit. Off--White c/o Virgil Abloh is the coolest brand on the planet right now. And your woman crush Wednesday is wearing those "green-stripe, red-stripe, green-stripe" slides that Forever 21 sells for $11.80. It's easy to think, for a moment, that maybe there is no greater societal need for "watchdogs," because no one really gives a damn. Or so the creative world thought, as it began to lose faith in consumers' interest in and appreciation of originality.
But then Gucci sent a look down the cruise collection runway in May that pissed off a lot of Black Twitter users: a jacket that was an unattributed remake of Dapper Dan's iconic design for olympian Diane Dixon.
Black Twitter acted as a massive force, policing the brand to such an extent that Steve Stoute's Translation made a deal with Gucci and Dapper Dan as a public reconciliation. Twitter holding the brand accountable for so-called "homage" led to a responsible decision from the brand and an opportunity for Dapper Dan. This is one impressive example of the way cultural watchdogs wild power.
Which brings us to the relatively new Instagram watchdog, Diet Prada. Diet Prada is an account which regularly calls out "copy cats" and other wrongdoings within the fashion industry. The account is ran by Tony Liu and Lindsey Schuyler. While Diet Prada has gotten lots of love from big industry names like Naomi Campbell and WWD, they've also made enemies out of the likes of Stefano Gabbana (of Dolce & Gabbana). Which, as The Fashion Law points out, can raise legal issues:
"Will any of the brands called out in some of Diet Prada's more tenuous posts, such as Dolce & Gabbana, take legal action? Many a brand arguably could somewhat easily allege defamation per se in New York court (as both Liu and Schuyler reside in New York) - and argue that such erroneous claims of copying made by Diet Prada stand to injure them in a business capacity. It is worth noting that no shortage of the number of 'copies' that Diet Prada cites are not actually copies, legally or otherwise."
Diet Prada's possible libel or defamation issues highlight another major aspect of the cultural watchdog's responsibility: Accuracy. When "the culture" trusts you with such information regarding the artistic integrity of creators, it's essential that you validate everything. All content you produce should be fact-checked, contextually relevant and updated. Influence is power, and power is responsibility.
Monitoring ethics means apply ethics to your own work.