Fashion’s New Vigilantes Out to Expose Copycat Designers

Diet Prada is an online website that does something that no one in the fashion industry ever dared do before. It names and shames, to use its own tagline, "ppl knocking each other off lol." In an industry that has tacitly accepted a certain ebb and flow of ideas for decades, the only pre-social media authority that might have addressed copying were magazines and trade publications, but they were too heavily reliant on advertisers to bite the hand that fed them. Enter the audacious duo of Tony Liu and Lindsey Schuyler, founders of Diet Prada, both trained in fashion design and history of fashion and working in the industry. In just three years they have gained 220K followers––including Rihanna and Naomi Campbell––and have been aggressively trolled by Stefano Gabbana. In response to the Italian designer’s latest controversial statement, “I’m not gay, I’m a man” Diet Prada posted a video of a D&G label being set on fire. No one escapes their cross hairs, including revered British Designer of the Year, Jonathan Anderson, and NYC-based name on everyone’s lips, Virgil Abloh, whose label Off-White Diet Prada referred to as “a busy luxury knockoff business.”

Speaking Truth to power

Their wit, their laser lens trained on all corners of the industry from international house to indie label, and their encyclopedic knowledge of fashion’s history and designers’ archives are reasons why so many are hooked on their feed. The idea for Diet Prada came about at work, as they explained to iD magazine: “We would sit and scroll through what used to be Style.com and click through the runway shows. We would crack ourselves up and be like, ‘That's so 2000s Galliano, what were they thinking!’ It got to the point where we were collaging them together to show each other and we were like, ‘We need to put this on the internet.’”

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Recently they have been keeping up with the Kardashians, among others, calling out Khloe for knocking off an Yves Saint Laurent dress for her Good American clothing line, then moving on to sister Kim for selling a knock-off Comme des Garçons jacket in her childrenswear line, awarding her the title KIM Des Garçons, and creating a false Vetements ad campaign featuring Kardashian and daughter North in knockoff pieces from the French label. Their snarky and creative irreverence is certainly refreshing as the torrent of celebrity labels and fast fashion pace have made copycat culture the norm even among designers who might previously have thought better of participating. It’s no wonder devotees of creativity in fashion view Diet Prada’s emergence similarly to outlaw-threatened townsfolk in the wild west: they’re like a pair of bounty hunters possessed of a steady aim, plenty of ammunition and an upright sense of integrity. Out of the site’s popularity there has even grown a solid army of “Dieters” who if they spot infractions report back to them.

Making a difference

Some labels have blocked the website. But the duo are confident in the motivations for what they do, telling ManRepeller.com, ‘Our touchstone is always, “Is this done from a place of love? Is it an homage?” Are they learning about [the designer] and gaining a new perspective, or are they reissuing a Yohji Yamamoto skirt for no reason, without [recognizing] its roots? We don’t call out fast-fashion houses because there’s no surprise to it; that’s their business model.’

Diet Prada is also unafraid to take on hard hitting issues such as diversity on magazine covers, the sexual harassment charges against Bruce Weber, singling out Grace Coddington for appearing to continue to support the photographer, and just this morning calling for clarification from LVMH, on the heels of brand ambassador Catherine Deneuve’s comments criticizing the #MeToo movement, reminding the conglomerate of its 2013 signature on the United Nations Women’s Empowerment Principles.

Fashion’s New Vigilantes Out to Expose Copycat Designers

When Diet Prada meets Prada

Diet Prada have already been invited to Milan for an audience with Gucci’s Alessandro Michele and they have attended the Prada and Miu Miu Spring 18 fashion shows. Questions around how long they will maintain their neutral status uncorrupted by offers of free clothes and lucrative partnerships circulate. And could a scorned designer allege defamation and sue? Many quietly wonder. It has often been said we are in an era of the democratization of fashion, which is why we have the Diet Prada phenomenon in the first place. But the old laws of the land still apply although proof of copyright in fashion is notoriously difficult to argue and intellectual property theft the murkiest of waters. Is it only a matter of time before somebody blows the whistle on the whistleblowers? They remain stoic, stating their goals going forward are simple: “Using our powers for good and not evil."

By contributing guest editor Jackie Mallon, who is on the teaching faculty of several NYC fashion programmes and is the author of Silk for the Feed Dogs, a novel set in the international fashion industry.

Images from Diet Prada Facebook, screenshot Instagram account Diet Prada