Over the last couple of weeks I came across a few articles that were about the ever increasing problem of fast fashion companies like ZARA, Mango and H&M copying designer brands’ pieces in order to sell copies for much lower prices and a lot quicker. Is it OK? Is the argument that this keeps the fashion industry turning valid? Should the brands take it as a form of flattery? Just like to any other story, there are two, or even more sides to it, which both fast fashion industry and designer brands might have to acknowledge.
Copying is everywhere and you can’t avoid it even if you tried. If you don’t believe me, try to think of something no one has ever thought of. Take your time, I’ll wait.
You can’t, right? Every single thing is some form of copy of something else. The best book that describes this is Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist. It’s not about how to literally make a copy of something you like, but to research the things that interest you, learn from them and create based on your knowledge. Losing your mind over inventing something new is useless, you’ll forever end up with something that was already out there. Even though you didn’t do it on purpose.
Fast fashion companies do just that. Recreate on purpose for the masses. Uniqueness of the designer’s item is gone. But was it even ever there? That floral printed dress for upcoming season will most definitely be recreated by fast fashion company in the next couple of weeks from it’s reveal. But wait – didn’t you buy a really similar one two years ago from some other designer? Designers are angry because fast fashion companies steal their ideas and make money on their account, even though the copying happens between designers as well.
Their true anger most likely lies in the fact that profit for that season doesn’t go to the designer but to the fast fashion companies. Fast fashion companies are here and are successful because there are still more people that can’t afford designers than those who can. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t people who are able to afford them or even are willing to save up for that one designer item.
Let’s focus on the latter type of customer – has a good pay check that allows a comfortable life (paid bills, food on the table, is interested in fashion but can’t afford every designer item that catches their eye). If there’s a copy of some designer item available – ARE they really less likely to buy an original? Why does one decide for an original/a copy? In the last 12 months appeared a strong push on value of things customers invest in. So if this designer’s piece is an item that looks like a classic and is made of quality material, chances are that this customer will decide to buy it. Why? Because this is a type of person that thinks out their purchases.
Brands are worrying about losing profit from people that are not even their potential customer. Fast fashion grows because it’s accessible to everybody and as media does it’s thing, the selling grows. Brands aren’t interested in lowering their prices because it eliminates their exclusivity, luxury and even the whole essence of what customers are investing in, whatever that is.
So how to solve this issue? You can’t exactly expect people to simply earn more to be able to afford designer products. Brands need to focus to impress and give value to the type of customer that is in-between. The ones that are interested but need a little convincing. And the amount of those customers is growing because first of all the population is growing, the brands are constantly opening stores in new areas in the world which means that there are more and more locations where people earn enough for these kind of purchases.
In conclusion there should be laws in all countries that participate in fashion industry which will handle the issue of copying. But before they are written and put into effect, there should be extensive debates around what is a copy and what is inspired by. Because if the industry just describes everything as a copy and laws forbid it, everyone can stop designing after two years and only the big designer brands stay in the circle of creating. Besides, who can prove that only the fast fashion companies copy the big brands and never the other way around?
What do YOU think about this topic? Please share your opinion in the comments below, let’s debate about this! :)