Award-winning Myanmar actress Phway Phway sparked public debate about her country’s fashion industry last week after showing up to a Yangon event in a dress identical to the one worn by British singer Dua Lipa at the 2018 Brit Awards in February.
Phway Phway’s dress at the POND’S Summer Promotional Event on March 1 was constructed by Myanmar designer Phyo Ko, who shared photos of the actress in the dress on Facebook shortly after the event. In his post, he credited Dua Lipa’s fluffy pink tulle dress, originally designed by Giambattista Valli, as his inspiration, and he said he made his dress after Phway Phway asked for a less voluminous version of the British singer’s outfit.
However, some were not satisfied by Phyo Ko’s explanation. Among them was the Lisu fashion designer Jeera Mona, who wrote in a now-viral Facebook post on March 2: “Knock-off business is serious killer here.”
“It’s not an offense or personal attack to the actress. But we all fashion lovers understand the meaning and values of ‘couture,’” his post went on. “Taking references from world-renowned brands is an occasional spotlight-finder to follow trends, but…copying has buried the industry here.”
The post’s 4,000 reactions and nearly 600 comments included a mixture of approval and outrage at Jeera Mona’s apparent accusation that Phway Phway had done a disservice to the fashion industry in Myanmar, where tailors are frequently given photos of existing outfits and asked to copy them.
One commenter wrote: “We all should better learn about ‘copyright.’” Some called Phway Phway a “thief” and said they were “embarrassed” by her “shameless” copying.
Many others, however, defended Phway Phway, saying the imitation was an innocent form of flattery and that Giambattista Valli “should give our actress Phway Phway a modeling fee.”
Phway Phway, who had credited only Phyo Ko for the design when she first posted about it on March 1, responded to the controversy the next day, saying: “I wore this dress because I am so crazy in my love for Dua Lipa, and so revenant of the design… She is globally famous, and I am just a famous little pond in Myanmar… I am grateful to Ko Phyo for his careful work in replicating the outfit.”
A few hours after his original post about the dress, Jeera Mona sought to put the controversy to rest, writing in another post: “Please take it easy. It’s about fashion education and creating a more solid fashion industry in Myanmar. It’s just a Facebook post. Love and peace to Phway Phway and the designer who replicated the design nicely.”