Image source: https://www.wedmegood.com/blog/bridalshopping-where-to-buy-sabyasachi-online/

This article is written by Mudita Savai, pursuing a Diploma in Business Laws for In House Counsels from Lawsikho.

Introduction

Are you planning to wear a Sabyasachi saree/ lehenga for the next marriage function in your family? Know a little about the brand that you are going to put your money in. Sabyasachi (“the Brand”) is synonymous with ethnic bridal wear. The name depicts extravagance and luxury. Sabyasachi Couture Private Limited was incorporated in 2006 by Sabyasachi Mukherjee, an Indian fashion designer. What has made the designer such a successful one is his eye by creating embellishment looks by fusing colors, patterns, and texture. 

About the founder and early life of the label

Sabyasachi Mukherjee is Kolkata-based fashion designer, jewelry designer, retailer, and couturier. Mukherjee’s fashion career started in 1999, with his label Sabyasachi. In 2002, Mukherjee participated in the Indian Fashion week and the very next year he went international with Asia Fashion week. Post that a host of international runways followed such as Kuala Lumpur Fashion Week, Miami Fashion week. Mukherjee was also honored to showcase his collection at Oxford University in 2005.

By 2006, Mukherjee received global recognition and he started selling his products worldwide. While the Brand started with a luxurious ethnic wear line for women, it has in course of time diversified in jewelry, menswear as well as accessories. 

Collaboration with Christian Louboutin 

One remarkable collaboration for Sabyasachi Couture Private Limited was that with Christian Louboutin. This collaboration began in 2015, where Christian Louboutin and Sabyasachi Mukerjee collaborated on limited, exclusive edition footwear for both men and women, all embroidered with the quintessential Sabyasachi embroidery and embellished with hand-placed sequins, were created for the show. Louboutin also modified his signature Victoria heel for the collection, to be embroidered with the signature Sabyasachi embroidery using acid-dyed burnt zardozi and vintage Parsi Gara.

A vivacious quote by Christian Louboutin demonstrated the vision behind their collaboration. He had remarked, “Let’s make the embroideries into shoes that can dance into the light”. To bring the collaboration to life, Louboutin is said to have imagined the novel “Deep Sleep for Beauty”, which lays the tale of an Indian actress cast under a spell who can only be freed by two designers.

The Bollywood connect

Sabyasachi designs were showcased on the big screen with Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Black, where he had designed costumes for the movie.  Thereon he went on to design costumes for multiple movies, Baabul, Laaga Chunari Mein Daag, Paa, Guzarish, and English Vinglish, to name a few. He also won the National Award in 2005 for the best costume designer. 

Post this Sabyasachi lehengas have been the most preferred outfits for Bollywood and a lot of A-listed actresses wore the label on their wedding days including Anushka Sharma and Deepika Padukone.  

Save the sari

In 2013, Sabyasachi started a campaign called Save the Sari, to preserve and revive the Indian textiles, handlooms, and heirlooms. This line is startlingly different from the other products under the designer’s label, in terms of affordability. Mukherjee strongly believes that for youngsters to choose saris, it is important to make them chic and affordable. This has been the inspiration for the line created under the campaign.  This line is a part of a CSR initiative of Sabyasachi Couture Private Limited, wherein he has launched saris at as low a price as that of INR 1800. The aim is to make saris a popular choice and to also save the livelihood of the weavers.

Trademark

Although the company was incorporated in 2006, the Sabyasachi trademark was only filled in 2017. The application was approved, and it became a trademark on November 28, 2017.  The wordmark is Sabyasachi Calcutta while the design marks are tigers and other large cats. There are 7 more trademarks registered under various classes in the name of Sabyasachi. One interesting point to note is that all trademarks are registered under the designer’s name and not the organization’s name. A list of trademarks owned by Sabyasachi is as under;

Sr.

No

Trademark

Trademark

Class

Description 

 

Device of Tiger

 

26

Lace and embroidery, ribbons and braid, hooks and eyes,  pins and needles, artificial flowers

2.

Device of Cheetah

 

35

Advertisement, business management, business administration, office functions 

3.

Device of Cheetah

 

24

Textiles and textile goods, bed and table covers 

4

Device of Cheetah

 

25

Clothing, footwear, headgear

5.

Sabyasachi Calcutta (Device of Tiger)

 

24

Textile and textile goods

6.

Sabyasachi Calcutta 

 

25

Clothing, footwear, headgear

7. 

Sabyasachi Calcutta (Device of Tiger)

 

35

Advertising, business management, business administration, office functions.

8.

Sabyasachi Calcutta (Device of Tiger)

 

42

Services related to fashion designing 

9. 

Sabyasachi

 

24

Textile and Textile goods

10.

Sabyasachi

 

25

Clothing, footwear, headgear

11.

Sabyasachi

 

42

Services related to fashion designing 

12. 

Sabyasachi

 

35

Advertisement, business management, business administrations, office functions

13. 

Sabyasahi by Sabyasachi (Label)

 

25

Readymade garments including kidswear 

14.

Sabyasachi By Sabyasachi

 

24

All types of sarees

15. 

Chota Sabya

 

25

Readymade garments including kidswear

16. 

Chota Sabya

 

24

All types of saree

17.

S Sabyasachi

 

26

Lace and embroidery, ribbons and braid, hooks and eyes,  pins and needles, artificial flowers

Copyright, patent, and plagiarism

Under copyright law, a garment cannot be copyrighted, however, the sketch made by designers is considered to come under artistic work, and therefore it can be copyrighted. However, this is conditional, i.e. if the work is reproduced more than fifty times, it ceases to be protected by copyright.

The Design Act 2000 did bring some relief to the fashion industry by permitting fashion products and jewelry to be protected by law if they are registered with the Controller of Designs, whose Design office is in Kolkata. There are two preceding conditions to be met for registering the products: The product to be registered should contain a novel factor, and the registration should take place before the product is released in the market. 

Sabyasachi Couture Private Limited has over seven hundred copyrighted designs and has even won the National Intellectual property Award in 2018. It is probably one of the very few fashion houses that have taken the effort to register its designs. Sabyasachi Couture Private Limited is India’s first fashion house to have won this award. Mukherjee has always believed in the importance of getting his designs copyrighted, even though it is an expensive process. 

The dilemma between registering as copyright or design?

 Drawing and sketches are covered under Section 2(c) of the Copyright Act. If these drawings are converted into dresses, they enjoy protection as copyright in artistic work which includes conversion of 2D work into 3D work. However, the designer cannot have dual protection i.e. can’t be protected under the copyright act and design act at the same time. An affidavit is required stating that the design is not enjoying protection under the other Act, which becomes a challenging decision to be made by designers. 

Looking at the adverse side of the story, plagiarism has been a constant issue for the fashion industry, when often the lines between inspiration and copying are blurred. Mukherjee and other designers from the industry have come up with a solution of their own to voice out copyright infringement, in the form of an Instagram page called @dietsabya. This page calls out on designers who have copied the works of well-known designers.

(The diet sabya Instagram handle calling out Hazoorilal for a blatant copy of a Sabyasachi neckpiece.)

If statistics are to be believed, Sabyasachi is the country’s most copied couturier. In 2016, Sabyasachi Couture Private Limited filed a case of copyright infringement against a well-known store in south Delhi known as Frontier Raas. The store was selling replicas of designs by Sabyasachi and was marketing it using Sabyasachi’s name. It was a clear case of infringement and the defendant was ordered to not possess any copy of the plaintiff’s designs and prevented from misusing his trademark.

Conclusion

The recent developments for the brand have been worth celebrating. In January 2021, Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail, an arm of Aditya Birla Group acquired a 51% stake in Sabyasachi Couture Private Limited.  The Brand is not only well established and popular in India but also has a global presence and acceptance. It offers stores in the US, UK, and Middle east. Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail spokesperson was quoted saying that the stake in Sabyasachi will accelerate the company’s strategy to capture a large share of the ethnic wear market across key consumer segments. It is estimated that INR 398 crore has been infused to acquire a 51% stake. In Financial Year 2020, Sabyasachi Couture had revenue of INR 274 crore. 

Having secured its designs and trademarks, it has not only delved into the international markets but also has some interesting collaborations. The most noteworthy being with Christian Louboutin and H&M. With the western culture meeting Indian apparels, it shall be interesting to watch the journey of Sabyasachi post this collaboration. The most recent acquisition by Aditya Birla Group will also bring some changes to the working of the brand. Sabyasachi since its inception has been a brand to look out for and even more so now, considering it has given up 51% of its stake, it shall be interesting to watch how this unfolds. On the other hand, having advocated for investing in the protection of IPR by the fashion industry and taking strong action against those infringing fashion designers’ designs and copyrights, Sabyasachi Couture became the first Indian company to win Intellectual Property Award in 2018.

References

  1. https://www.livemint.com/companies/news/aditya-birla-fashion-to-acquire-51-in-designer-brand-sabyasachi-11611759486851.html
  2. https://www.business-standard.com/article/companies/aditya-birla-fashion-buys-51-stake-in-luxury-designer-brand-sabyasachi-121012701507_1.html
  3. https://us.christianlouboutin.com/us_en/news/en_behind-the-collaboration-christian-louboutin-x-sabyasachi
  4. https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=ced9f8ea-16e2-44c1-bb7e-6afb2ee08be4

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