THE FASHION LAW EXCLUSIVE – As Diet Prada wrote in a recent post, calling out J.W. Anderson for allegedly copying Hermès, “Everything surfaces at some point, people!” With that in mind, here is the answer to the question on many fashion figures’ and fans’ minds as of late: Tony Liu and Lindsey Schuyler. They are the duo behind the anonymous Instagram account Diet Prada. What has been called “a must follow for fashion lovers” by WWD, Diet Prada’s founders first posted in December 2014, pitting a Dior Pre-Fall 2015 coat by Raf Simons against a Prada Fall/Winter 2014 one.
Liu – a fine arts graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, who moved to New York in 2007, where he runs little known YOU AS, “a capsule collection of menswear focused on building a lasting wardrobe” (which comes with some obvious inspiration-taking of its own) – and Schuyler have swiftly built a following by calling out fashion copies, or calling attention to, as their bio says, people “knocking each other off lol.” With their meme-like call outs, the duo is essentially 2018’s version of the Fat Jewish, and have taken to monetizing their account by way of “parody” merch, which thanks to the use of elements of other brands’ trademark-protected logos, is likely infringing – i.e., illegal – in nature.
While Diet Prada has gained no shortage of fans for its side-by-side takes on fashion industry copying, they have also made an enemy or two. On that list? Stefano Gabbana, who vocalized his displeasure after the account posted a stretch of a side-by-side of Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana, along with the caption: “D&G GHOST! @dolcegabbana takes a stab at the high-low aesthetics of @troubleandrew and @gucci ‘s GUCCI GHOST collab.”
As for how the Instagram account got its start, Liu anonymously told i-D this summer, “We officially made an Instagram account two years ago. I used to run it with one of my friends, but now it’s just me.” The friend he is referring to? Schuyler, a behind-the-scenes designer at FGXI, a LuxxoticaEssilor-owned eyewear company, who also recently did stints as a Design and Product Development Associate at Eugenia Kim, and a Markets Designer intern for Michael Kors. According to i-D, “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.’”
And it has caught on. While these formerly unheard of Brooklynites may be covert entities on the web, they are busy making friends in high places. Gucci’s Alessandro Michele is a fan; the Italian brand paid Liu and Schuyler to take over its Instagram account to coincide with its Spring/Summer 2018 show. Flying the two to Milan and putting them up in a hotel in order to attend the show and call out the references in Michele’s latest collection. Prada had them in attendance (and sipping champagne backstage after the show) this season, and Liu turned up at Miu Miu’s Spring/Summer 2018 show, as well. The seating assignment read “Diet Prada.”
As for whether their budding new friendships with brands – do not overlook the current season Prada looks that they are wearing in some of their personal Instagram photos; gifts from the brand, according to TFL’s sources – will impact the objectivity of their content, that is to be seen. It is worth noting, though, that the two have been clear in their desire to be fashion industry insiders, telling The Cut, for instance, that they want a spot on Business of Fashion’s BoF 500 list.
Another thing that will be quite telling: Will any of the brands called out in some of Diet Prada’s more tenuous posts, such as Dolce & Gabbana, take legal action? Many a brand could somewhat easily allege defamation per se in New York court (as both Liu and Schuyler reside in New York) – and argue that such erroneous claims of “copying” made by Diet Prada stand to injure them in a business capacity, and thereby gives rise to legally actionable claims of libel. It is worth noting that no shortage of the number of “copies” that Diet Prada cites are not actually copies, legally or otherwise.
Maybe the most interesting question of all, however, it this: Is Diet Prada willing to be just as bold with fashion’s biggest brands now that Liu and Schuyler’s names are essentially attached to all forthcoming copying call-outs?
Diet Prada did not respond to a request for comment, but Diet Prada did report a Diet Prada-related TFL Instagram post to the social media platform, citing copyright infringement, in order to further obscure their identities. Apparently fair use (when using others’ imagery) only applies to them.