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India’s Northeast States Designers Making Global footprint in Indian fashion but Lack Design & GI Knowledge.

the article introduces talented Northeast women entrepreneurs and the untapped industry of Northeast India, emphasis on the role of IP in fashion designs in general. This article is a copy of our team brief face to face interactions with the designer during the festival.

India’s Northeast States Designers Making Global footprint in Indian fashion but Lack Design & GI Knowledge.

Wednesday November 28, 2018,

9 min Read

Designer jagrity Phukan Collection during Northeast 2018 fashion show . Image source Northeast festival 2018

When it comes to fashion Northeast (NE) states of India is always top the chart, from being the icon of all things casual to sporting classy and feminine looks, on-point fashion is just one of the many things where North-East absolutely rules in India.

The tribal sense of colour combination makes the people from the region stand out from the rest of the country. So, it’s not very surprising that most Reputable fashion designers are from the northeast and dominating the field. The young brigade of fashion designers from NE putting India and their respective state footprints in the Global Map. The interesting part among all fashion designers that they deeply rooted in their tribal culture and their design proudly reflects the fusion of ethnic tribal significance & modern fashion. The India’s Capital was lucky to witness NE traditions & fusion of fashion at Northeast festival, celebrated earlier this October 2018.

As models walked down the ramp in the festival, a Traditional Muga Silk jacket over one piece LBD stood out in a Model outfit — reflects Assam famous heritage, Muga silk, also protected under GI (geographical indication). Muga silk is most popular among Japanese designers.

We spoke to three of the well-established designers from the North-East India festival 2018. These fashion designers beautifully introduced North East Indian life & their tribal culture with the modern fashion that creates a groovy piece of artistic fashion. Their design has been recognized for their unique sense internationally. 

Designer Jagrity Phukan

Jagrity is one of the upcoming popular designer from Assam, a NIFT graduate, when asked her about the design collection presented for the fashion show, she said that “it was inspired by my grandmother closet and her old fabric collection, she merchandises them in unique recycling way and forms a new fashions styling. Jagrity name her Design collection for show “long way Home”, when asked about the name she said that “I name it long way home because even when she stays away from home she feels at home, it's nostalgic”. The unique part of a Jagrity collection was that she recycles old fabric and gives it a new fashion trend, included the footwear in her collection that was made out leaves and bamboos. The young designer not only used creativity but her design are perfect showcase of Sustainability. Definitely, a creative Designer to look for in future. Jagrity Phukan Manage designer clothing brand “Jagrity Phukan”.

Designer Yana Ngoba Chapku 

Yana, from Arunachal Pradesh, another popular and well-established designer from Northeast so far. Yuna already made her headline and represent her fashion line with London fashion week multiple times. Yana’s design recently awarded best national costume in the international pageant Miss model of the world 2018 in Shenzhen China.

Designer Yana Ngoba Chapku Collection during Northeast 2018 fashion show . Image source Northeast festival 2018

Yana is one of the designers who work with weavers from all across the north-eastern state in India, she called herself a tribal fashion designer. Her Design collection reflects Northeast ethnic fashion unified with style. Yuna design profound on ethnic handcraft fabric and accessories. No doubt that we witness unity of tribal culture & handloom during her fashion show i.e. loin loom of Nagaland, Arunachal and Mizoram with a modern twist. Yuna design is very popular Internationally and in High Demand.

Yuna is CEO of NorthEast India fashion Week and she is also upcoming with her online store soon to deliver her designer outfit at your doorstep.

Designer Sanghamitra Phukan 

image source: Picbon

An Indo-Italian designer, who significantly sustaining the ethnic narrative by fusing the Northeast Indian weaving heritage & contemporary European fashion. Sanghamitra Phukan in her interview brief that her latest design consists view of and very much inspired by two countries India & Italy, her latest design consists a classic dressing style of the women in Milan during ’80s and tribal life of Assam, yet fashion-forward.

The Designer used the blend of arts, culture, and latest fashion style of both countries that give her design an elegant touch. Sanghamitra has represented her fashion line in a various fashion show in India, London Fashion Week 2015. This year she was invited to the 10th Edition of Asvoff Paris.

She owns a fashion company “Sanghammitraphukan”.

How Lack of IP Rights affecting the NE India fashion industry?

Even though our Northeast fashion designer making a global footprint but they lack awareness of their own design rights. During the conversation, Jagrity told us “how a well-known fashion designer copies one of her design collection and presented in other fashion show”. Jagrity is not the only victim here, a year back we were put in touch with well-known designer Stacey Syiem, a native of Meghalaya, now settled in the UK, owns a brand “little Hill People” faces the similar problem of design copying by another designer from Nagaland. This year Indian designer Ragini Ahuja accuses French label Antik Batik of design copying. The problem is common and increasing day by day in the industry.

Northeast India fashion industry manifestations of tradition and culture are a source of inspiration and creativity, in other words Northeast Designer combined traditional dress with modern fashion to create beautiful, colourful and distinctive designer garments. There are possible opportunities that IP protection presents for fashion designs that may be considered as traditional cultural expressions or GI tags, that helps:

 i) identifying fashion goods as originating from or manufactured in a particular territory, region or locality, (ii) informing the consumers about quality standards of fashion products, attributable to their geographical origin and (iii) promoting sales of fashion goods of a particular area.

Northeast India forms largely a population of tribal culture and native Designers that used tribe pattern in their designing. Such use of similar pattern leads to the debate of design claim and who has copied what. Interesting thing is that all of Northeast designers used tribal handloom pattern in their design that is registered as GI (geographical indication) but how the designer used it is his/her creativity to form a new pattern of IP in Utility design because designer claiming invention of the unique look of the clothing and not the clothing itself. The utility design protection not only helps Designer to settle this debate but also protect their design Internationally because of GI in design. Even after such frequent used of GI protected rural craft & textiles pattern in their outfits but they are unaware of GI rights.

The Urban outfitter and Navajo Nation, is the best example to understand GI used in fashion & textile industry, Navajo who sued the company for using the Native American tribe’s indigenous patterns on merchandise like underwear and flasks. Finally, urban outfitter settled with Navajo Nation after illegally using the tribe name.

Let’s take a look at how different branch of IP can help Designer Distinguish its brand from others:

Branding & trademark: Pickwick a clothing company is a very good example of the importance of a trademark in the fashion industry. Pickwick Trademark which depicted a young, faceless boy with a spiky hairstyle. This particular trademark attracts and appeals millennials as trendy and who willing to pay extra because of clothes bearing Pickwick trademark. Now today the company subcontracts for manufacturing and control trademark usage.

The latest example is Fjällräven 'Kånken & Herschel Supply Co Duffel bag as a trendsetter, even same style and pattern available in other brands but millennials avoid bag without Fjällräven 'Kånken trademark. 

Patent & technology: In recent years, we observe how textile industry & designer adapted innovative technology & bio fabrics when it comes to formal dressing, be it iron free shirt & trousers, odour free garments or a suit that clean in normal washing or socks that always remain dry. The latest trend is formal men suits that stretch and even waterproof, always remain dry. The textile engineering doesn’t limit to outerwear’s but It’s not limited to dresses but seen in certain sports bras, and other ornamental designs in footwear, sportswear, and accessories. Above are the illustration of design that qualified under patent protection.

Trade secrets and new business models: Let’s take an example of ZARA that use unique information technology (IT) system to short its production cycle as short as 30 days cycle compare to its competitor that take 4 to 12 months cycle. That Zara is one of few High Fashion Brand Store in the world that not only introduce a maximum number of a new design in a year but also store & distribute these new designs in 48 hours across its worldwide store.

Other fashion brand fashion houses Shirtsdotnet focus on IT for customized tailored made request to cater Individual request. On Shirtsdotnet, the customer can make order from its virtual shop. Shirtsdotnet is a B2B garment software platform provider. The business software is protected as a trade secret and under copyright law.

IP plays a very important role in fashion industries, most of the designer showcase their creativity at fashion show & runways, designer shows their talent, attract media attention and build awareness of their brand. It’s an opportunity for designers to display their brand and to sell more affordable items, like associated accessories. In short, fashion industry thrives on the IP licensing and protected design and utility patent, and their brand name which is also used as trademarks in a later stage. The successful IP protection in the fashion Industry also seen as one of an effective way to diminish competition and stand out from the crowd. In today world of social media & competition, it’s very important for Designer to identify valuable intangible assets and agree on those to be protected and leveraged through the intellectual property (IP) system time to time.