Big fast-fashion mogul H&M and Indian online retailer Myntra have become part of a controversy involving plagiarism for stealing content for an advertisement.
As the festive season nears in India, all big fashion brands go all-out to market their sales, with specific Diwali targeted ad. This time, a Myntra x H&M collaboration advertisement, featuring prominent actors from the Hindi industry, including Vikrant Massey, Shobita Dhulipala, Arjun Mathur, Tamannaah Bhatia, Radhika Madan and Karan Tacker among others in the advertisement.
The ad gives the viewers a little sneak peek into what this year’s celebrations will look like owing to the coronavirus pandemic. The ad has Sobhita and Arjun dancing around in one apartment, Radhika and Karan flirting from their separate balconies, and a very cute frame with Tamannaah and Vikrant having a virtual date.
However, part of the ad appears to have been blatantly copied from Russian artist, Karman Verdi’s work.
In the frame where Tamannaah is on a virtual date with Vikrant, and Vikrant’s image is projected onto the wall, just like in the artwork by Karman Verdi.
Karman Verdi and Diet Sabya have both pointed out the similarities, down to even the flower arrangement and candles, pointing out how it wasn’t just coincidence, but blatantly copying of the advertisement.
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How did H&M steal my project idea? ⠀ Have you ever had a favorite photo? This spring, I showed everyone how deep a pandemic can be for each of us. Everyone liked this multi-layered story so much that people made me very famous overnight. ⠀ But this story has a dark side. Not so long ago this idea was taken away from me. Indian @hm released a commercial AD, where the eye catching main frame was my idea copied almost 1 by 1. ⠀ For several days now, my people and I have been trying to call @Myntra and @HM to answer, but they chose the path of ignore, as if I was not even worthy of their attention. ⠀ Is it okay to live in the modern world and not be able to defend against big business? Is it cool when even public condemnation of an act does not affect the situation in any way? In other words, the job of any of us can simply be taken away because these people simply have a lot more fame and money? ⠀ My goal is to achieve justice. I want to show everyone that together we can change these rules. Please help me with this. Tell this story to all your friends, share this problem with the media in your country. Write to your favorite bloggers about it or send this post to them in Direct.
The ad by H&M x Myntra, which has now been taken down, had been called out on social media. In the comment section, several people had pointed out that the “idea is stolen, and they could at least given credit to Karman Verdi."
Karman Verdi, who is a prominent visual artist with over 90,000 followers on Instagram, had first come up with the idea in March - and it subsequently went viral on the Internet.
Speaking to News18, Verdi explains the concept behind the idea, and how he came up with it. “My wife and I arrived in Moscow and there was a ban on walks in the country. Nobody was allowed to leave the house."
Verdi, who is a visual artist, shared that he was unsure of how he’d photograph people in the pandemic. He also suffered from insomnia during the period, and one night while making tea, he wondered “how to photograph people without their physical presence," with the idea then forming.
He then called up his friend, who sent him the projector the very next day, and then began the project.
Verdi also tells News18 that nobody from H&M or Myntra or any creative agency had contacted him for permission. He had only gotten a request from a London-based agency for a license for using his concept in their film and offered a lot of money, but Verdi had refused.
Earlier, another Indian artist, Punjabi singer Maninder Buttar’s album art had also copied the concept. Buttar had since then apologized and given due credit.
“It’s just, my idea was simply taken away from me without even asking for permission," Verdi tells News18. With several people commenting on H&M and Myntra’s videos, he points out, “They already know about the problem. But they choose to be silent, as if the problem will be solved if you just wait out the moment."
An H&M spokesperson responded on email to News18 on reaching out about the advertisement, that “The pandemic and the resultant lockdown across the world have brought people closer than ever before. Our festive campaign film has many elements that highlight the new normal for us in these unprecedented times. One of these elements is the projection technique of people on wall surfaces. This technique has been in representation for a long time, and has always served as a mnemonic for virtual relationships. Our visual depiction for the frame that in question has simply built upon this commonly used concept. We respect the creativity, vision and uniqueness of all artists and any similarities are purely circumstantial."
An emailed statement from Myntra denies any role in the advertisement. “Myntra was not involved in the creation of this advertisement. H&M is our partner and their products are available in India on our platform and hence, we are mentioned in this commercial."