High street knock-offs: Keeping the wheels turning?

Are high street knock offs of high-end brands plain plagiarism or a welcome dose of fashion democracy?

Copying or inspiration? The two words carry very different definitions and also very different meanings, especially in the fashion industry. There has been endless debate as to whether high street knock-offs are keeping the wheels turning for high-end fashion houses or damaging the industry.

This is very clear when looking at Gucci’s embroidered denim pre fall edit. They’ve gone for light wash, vintage denim, hand embroidered with bright botanical and bird prints. A convincing replica can be found at Topshop with a huge £1830 price difference.

High street shops would argue they are simply taking inspiration from the high-end fashion designs and re creating them so they are more affordable for everyone. However, the top designers disagree, with most of them saying that high street knock offs dilute and water down the industry, bringing down sales and ultimately driving out the high-end brands. Emerging designers also criticise the replicas as they believe it means their work goes unnoticed because people buy cheap copies without being aware of the original designs they are based on. Some up and coming designers say they feel their work has been ‘ripped off’ and it isn’t fair that a high street chain can take the credit for it.

As always, there is a flipside to this argument. The cheaper copies, to an extent, definitely keep the wheels of the industry turning because high street copies can echo and draw attention to their high end inspiration, acting as advertising for designer brands. Some luxury fashion designers have also described seeing high street copies as complimentary, since shops have considered their work to be appealing to a mass market.

It is difficult for designers to claim absolute originality. Most fashion takes inspiration from trends that have gone before and whilst the super rich will always clamour for luxury labels, not everyone can afford almost two grand for a pair of jeans this autumn. Perhaps designers should enjoy the fact that those of us who can only afford high street copies are at least appreciative of their art.

screen-shot-2016-11-03-at-15-17-03From left: Gucci embroidered denim £1890, Topshop fall floral jeans £60

Lucy Brown

Cover Image: http://www.racked.com

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