TODAY -

Custodian of Traditional Indigenous Meetei Dresses

Mohen Naorem *

Inspecting a Fanek during Gandhi Shilp Bazar 2013 at Tiddim Ground in February 2013
Inspecting a Fanek during Gandhi Shilp Bazar 2013 at Tiddim Ground in February 2013 :: Pix - Deepak Oinam



Manipur is no longer a tiny state in the North Eastern Part of India. It has now become a global player in International market; credit goes to the new buzzword Look East Policy. Fashion is one arena which could tap International market together with tourism.

Recently a fashion show was organised in Imphal by a fashion designer with full support from government Departments and for the first time, foreign models walk the ramp in Manipur. After sports, film and then fashion is promoting Manipur.

However, all these glitters are not gold. Facebook study reveals the fashion show as a direct intrusion into the rich culture of Manipur. The theme "Elegance of the Indigenous" is a total riot to the cultural and traditional costumes of the region. The organiser and its rich supporters failed to understand the meaning of the theme itself. When the beauty lies in bringing out the indigenous and originality, few designers have badly portrayed "beauty of the Indigenous".

There is no harm in designing new dress as per global market per se, but it is not liable to design the indigenous traditional costume in a different form. It will be a legal case. Any designer educated enough and knows the culture should not dare to do such things and any sponsor who valued culture of a land must also check the fashion show does not misinterpreted the society's wealth.

We have several fashion or ramp shows before, it was not publicised. Don't think those were simple event. It was not highlighted for it was organised and done for local market. But the case here is different. When you have International model to walk the ramp, and when you have sponsors from private firms and when you have government department to give milestone, it is very important and you have indeed called the show as biggest and grandest fashion show in Manipur. So your flaw is easily seen by the world. The lost is not for the organisers, but for the whole society.

The survey is done on a particular dress fanek being designed in a different style and walked by a foreign model. The controversy starts on fanek must not be designed in such manner. Lots of valid reasons have been given by the left and right groups. Supporters of the organisers criticised those few Facebook users for discouraging such show, even blaming of jealous and evil intention.

More than 5000 Facebook users took part in the Facebook discussion on the recent fashion show and out of these, 300 comments are received. Those who disagree the portrayal of Fanek in a different format are 250 while 50 supports fanek must be designed as per the global scenario and blamed the majority for poking into others business. Most of the 250 supports are male users and here too they were libel as gay, interested in female dress. Whatever may be the survey report, the question now is who the custodian of traditional indigenous dresses in Manipur is.

Any designer should learn they can't copy the colour, the fabric and design for their work, it's like they creating a new brand for themselves and in Manipur, most of the so called fashion designers would spend lakhs of rupees in prestigious colleges of the country.

Few questions I would like to put to the fashion designers involved in that show:
1) From where you have passed out your diploma or degree
2) How many designs you have?
3) Do you heard the word "Trademark", "Patent" or "Copyright" ever in your life?
4) Do you own the ownership of Fanek or any other Manipur dress which are traditional and indigenous?
5) Do you think you have the liberty and rights to design or copy any indigenous dress as your wish?
6) What is your originality?
7) Do you know the history of fanek and its originality and the value in Society?
8) Do you consult the people of the state on modifying or designing or copying fanek for your brand or trademark?

And lots of questions need to be asked, but these are enough to know your stand on why you used fanek as your original design and promote to the global market, as per your mission.

You can design and brand your own innerwears or any type of designs you have learn in your school, but you are deemed to pick the national legacy as your design or creation. Few questions need to be put to those modern thinkers who blame the majority of society as uncivilised, and poking at our business.
1. How many of you wish to buy and endorse those modified fanek to your family?
2. Do you think yourself modern and globalised by tearing your mother's fanek into pieces?
3. Don't you feel ashamed to be a Manipuri when you don't have sense to see what your friends have seen?
4. Do you think wearing shorts and other forms of innerwear's makes one civilised and modern up to date?
5. If you don't have a feeling for your own traditional costumes and culture, leave the custodian to those who matters.

Remember one thing, your friends are not asking your sisters or mother to wear fanek, instead protesting to keep fanek for them. If you don't want to wear the outdated and old fashioned fanek, don't wear it. Let fanek be remains as fanek for the younger generations who wants to keep the tradition alive with modern thoughts. You are free to wear all sorts of dresses but don't support other careless fools in exploiting your forefather's rich culture. If you want to blame those few protestors it is your loss only. Your repentance will come soon.

Registering of fashion designer's designs, copyrights and patents is still in a nascent stage which was initially started by big production houses like Ravissant, Satya Paul and Kimaya and that was due to their institutionalized set-up. Subsequently more designers like Ritu Kumar, JJ Valaya, Abu Jani Sandeep Khosla and Manish Malhotra have set out to protect their trademarks".

Rohit Bal, a famous Indian fashion designer was sued by Delhi based fashion designer Vijay Laxmi Dogra for infringing the copyright design of the latter. He alleged that Rohit Bal used the sacred symbol in his designs on actor Ranbir Kapoor.

In some countries and regions, such as the United Kingdom and the European Union, the law offers protection for unregistered designs for a relatively short term, but in India for protection Registration under the Designs Act is mandatory. The registering of all new or original designs sounds like an expensive and weighty process, especially in the light of the short span of life that fashion trends have. But it is a good practice, to register designs on a case-to-case basis.

Fashion trends are inspired by the ideas of the pioneering fashion designers and there is no law against wearing a design, which is similar to one worn by a fashion icon to a public place, but the least that can be done is protection of coveted Designer wear so as to restrain unscrupulous competitors from copying some of the most innovative creations.

One can design and create, and build the most wonderful designs in the world, but it takes intellectual property rights to enlarge its monopoly and prevent it from plagiarism.

Fenek comes under traditional cultural expressions, often the product of inter-generational and fluid social and communal creative processes, reflect and identify a community's history, cultural and social identity, and values.

Within the context of cultural heritage, the notions of 'preservation' and 'safeguarding' refer generally to the identification, documentation, transmission, revitalization and promotion of cultural heritage in order to ensure its maintenance or viability. The preservation and safeguarding of cultural heritage and the promotion of cultural diversity are key objectives of several international conventions and programs as well as regional and national policies, practices and processes.

For example a legend that was recorded centuries ago on a piece of cloth. 'IP protection' of the legend could be helpful in preventing others from reproducing the legend on a T-shirt.

It is very good news that out of 100 organisations, civil societies and student bodies, only one organisation have the responsibility to voiced against the changing role of fanek by few uneducated and untalented designers of today. The South East Asian Cultural organisation (SEACO) have done a very encouraging job by asking the new designers responsible for making fanek a different form which we never thought about.

The designers and sponsors must apologise to the people, if they still believe they have the right to modify or copy fanek pattern as their will, a legal thing will work out to teach them some lessons on infringement of one's culture and identity. It is high time to search for the real custodian of Manipuri costume and culture to protect from invasions!


* Mohen Naorem wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao
This article was posted on May 09, 2013.



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