22 November 2012

Knockoffs, Diffusions, Collaborations & Snobbery

Soo Joo in
H&M x Margiela for Dazed & Confused

Been thinking about it for awhile -- every time a collab line comes out from H&M we hear the same arguments about brand legitimacy coming into question, snobbery, etc. My thoughts on designer knockoffs a la Jeffrey Campbell and H&M, Zara, etc are really mixed and complicated. I wrote this post on tumblr awhile back and had it saved, I'll just copy here:

when it comes to fashion houses and exclusivity and fast fashion, i always hear people  complaining about how combining with h&m will ruin the brand or whatever and I just find it very interesting because: 
mmm and rei and all these high fashion brands that i see, they are really post modern and seem to combine these aesthetics and textures from ‘low fashion’ and street culture and use fabrics that were traditionally considered low brow and they make them high fashion when they combine them with ‘higher quality fabrics’ though we all know full well that that $500, $700 dress is just as likely to be made out of polyester. how many times have i gone into barneys or jeffrey or whatever and played with the fabric and realized they’re asking $700 for a shitty basic ass cotton/poly blend? come on.
you buy just as much for the name as for the clothes you know? people are mostly bummed about the fact their favorite brand won’t be ‘exclusive’ but fashion is for everybody because it is so malleable. you can’t pull something off, someone else can, you can wear something, someone else can wear it differently. style is malleable. you can still retain your private connection to a brand and let someone else who isn’t as aware of the brand culture wear something from it too. a lot of my fav brands, they constantly collaborate with people, but you don’t see people shitting on them for doing so. i guess that is because from the get go, rei threw all the rules in the wind and when everyone was still having a boner over traditional luxe fabrics she was using cheaper fabrics and black and made everyone look like futuristic bag lady nomads or something. i think the more progressive you are, the more willing you are to break the barriers between classes and pricepoints. if you can still be high fashion but operate on multiple demographic levels i.e fast fashion and RTW it should be admired. designers don’t really have any way of protecting their own ideas from copycats and those copycats are fast fashion brands, so the only real way they have of cashing in on someone else profiting from their ideas is to join them when they can and take the money and run.
why throw shade at a designer for making it easier for you to buy something they created? chances are fast fashion buyers aren’t going to suddenly love their new shirt so much they go drop 400 bones to buy the non-diffused line version of it, so the ‘integrity’ of the brand you so love and adore is still there if you want it.

This TED talk is something I watch literally all the time -- probably at least once a month, usually once every two weeks. I can never figure out how to feel about it, but it always makes me think.

What is fashion to you? How does fast fashion and knockoffs impact the way you approach clothing? I think it's such a complicated thing most of the time. Buying knockoffs sometimes fills me with shame and this shame is reinforced by my friends who recognize that they are knockoffs and say it's terrible that the designer had their ideas stolen. This shame sometimes deters me from buying shoes that I think are pretty, even though they're the only ones I can afford because the originals are so out of my reach. Hey man, I would if I could, you know?

That's why I'm totally happy with seeing big brands like Margiela collaborate (and essentially just recreate their key looks) with fast fashion retailers; none of the guilt, all of the look. I think it's messed up when people shame you for your purchases just because you can't afford the real thing, but it also makes me uncomfortable to condone knockoffs of an original and beautiful design, because when you buy it, none of that money you're paying for the idea of the shoe goes back to the creator, just the thief.

*sidenote: this is not a response to the BoF op-ed I linked on twitter a few days ago, i actually wrote this post when the collaboration was just announced.