By Grace Sarkoyan
Fast fashion has become a staple of the American fashion landscape in the past 10-20 years. Brands like Zara, Forever 21, and H&M are the most popular fashion forward and affordable brands raking in billions of dollars per year from middle class consumers. The draw of fast fashion is not just in its affordability but in the fact that their clothing pieces and accessories often “look” high end. And who doesn’t want to look expensive?
In recent years, however, fast fashion brands such as Zara, Forever 21, and H&M have made no bones about the fact that they are stealing high end designs. Fast fashion brands have the ability to make clothing at a cheaper, faster rate using lower end textiles. But, to the untrained eye, the pieces appear to look just like their higher end counterparts. So, then everyone is happy right?
But, high fashion designers are getting fed up with this blatant practice. What used to happen in the dark corners of New York City where the likes of Louis Vuitton purses were “knocked off” and sold at lower prices is now occurring in broad daylight. Today’s consumers can view fashion in increasingly new ways, and this is what has made this issue such a problem. Social media users can follow their favorite celebrities on Instagram or a number of other platforms, seeing what that person’s fashion choices are in real time. Within hours, a member of the public could essentially, see what a celebrity like Kim Kardashian or Taylor Swift is wearing on a Tuesday morning and go out and buy something that looks similar at a store like Zara or H&M by that same afternoon, wearing it to the club by that evening where they take a photo of it and post it to Instagram before midnight ever falls.
This scenario is not entirely fictional. In fact, Kim Kardashian West is at the center of the newest iteration of this issue. On February 17th, 2019, Kardashian West wore a “one-of-a-kind” vintage dress by French fashion designer Mugler at the Hollywood Beauty Awards. In an Instagram post, she asked that fast fashion brands, which have been notorious for creating pieces of her Instagram “looks”, not make a dress that resembled this one. Of course, this request fell on deaf ears. Fashion Nova, a fast fashion brand, released a dress nearly indistinguishable from the Mugler dress that was even labeled on their website as “Kim Dress” — get this, HOURS before Kardashian West even showed up to the awards ceremony!
Kardashian West is not the only person or designer who has been a victim having their designs copied by fast fashion. Fashion brand HFS Collective, an accessories brand committed to creating to eco-friendly handbags, states: “We create hands-free bags using only sustainable materials and pride ourselves on ethical and local manufacturing which ensures that each person that makes our bags is paid a fair, living wage in healthy and safe working conditions.” Yet, in January of 2018 two of HFS Collective’s fanny pack designs showed up on a fast fashion website, selling for $24 which HFS Collective states is less than the cost of the American labor they pay to their workers for creation of each bag. In instances like this, fast fashion is not merely stealing a design but stealing the integrity of what a brand even stands for.
From Gucci to Yeezy, the controversial relationship between high end designers and low end “fast fashion” is not going away. Currently, Gucci is suing Forever 21 for using green and red stripes on their accessories while Yeezy’s Kaney West decided to not release the full line of his sweat suits that had been prematurely poached by Zara. While the old adage says that “Imitation is the highest form of flattery,” designers are slowly but surely putting their foot down on fast fashion’s foolhardy “flattery.”
Gucci (left) & Forever 21 (right)