How Fast Is Our Fashion?
By Christina Karras
This article is a component of our series, “REPLICA” - A project for A-ZINE exploring fashion, its influence and counterfeit culture.
It isn’t an overstatement to suggest we live in a tech-fuelled world with masses of content at our fingertips. We are forced to metabolize content, ideas and advertising from the moment we wake up, until we let our minds goes blank (and screens go black) in the late hours of the night.
But it’s also given birth to a disposable consumerist culture. It’s the reason why you can “tap to shop” on Instagram, and makes you throw caution to the wind when you see new styles on Missguided or Princess Polly. It feeds the monster inside of you that screams, “I have nothing to wear!!!” right before you need leave the house. It’s the catalyst for the constant need to update your closet.
Sites like Pretty Little Thing update every single day, and have been described as fast fashion on steroids. This fast-paced production line popularized by chains like Zara and Topshop has been met with extreme demand due to the Internet, pushing knock-offs to the next level.
This is the key and driving force behind brands manufactured for the online world.
Buying director at Boohoo, one of the UK’s biggest online retailers, Debbi Ball told Racked, “speed is absolutely critical to the shopper today.”
It used to be that you saw something on the catwalk, or a magazine and purchase it the next season - now, you can stream catwalks online and can have the products delivered days later. Think Rihanna’s recent showing at New York Fashion Week for Fenty X Savage, the collection was available to purchase just hours after the show.
While the production of clothing has become more rapid, so has their single use nature. Clothes that are mass-produced also become more affordable, and encourage shoppers to buy more. An Australian study suggests almost a quarter of people admit to throwing out clothes after just one wear. And it’s not too hard to see why.
"It used to be four seasons in a year; now it may be up to 11 or 15 or more," says Tasha Lewis, a professor at Cornell University's Department of Fiber Science and Apparel Design.
The instant gratification of this kind of production has been the fuel to counterfeits’ fire.
While it’s available to purchase with immediacy, it also means counterfeiters can get to work faster, in order to match the production times of the retailer.
According to a new new report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, "fakes" and counterfeit goods has risen into a global industry worth as much as $461 billion, with most of sales happening online.
The report highlighted the effect of the Internet as a ‘giant amplifier’ for the sale of counterfeit goods, giving almost a direct line between producers and consumers - with no filter.
But, in some cases fast fashion and counterfeits are able to bring luxury brands to the masses. Having lots of money doesn’t necessarily mean having great style, or taste – and for that trendy broke fashion student, their bootleg Gucci t-shirt fulfills that same need, without the impossible price tag. In some ways, it’s does a job that the genuine design can’t.
And, the big brands are catching on. Gucci started to play into the counterfeit trend, making bags that say “Gucci REAL”, and designer Alexander Wang cheekily referenced his legal win against counterfeiters. After successfully suing 45 defendants selling fake Wang products in 2016, he was awarded $90 million, and decorating his fashion week after party venue with the words, “Stop leaking my shit”.
While the mechanics of the fast fashion industry has its positives in the eyes of consumers, it’s evidently damaging to designers, facilitating a culture of copycatting.
Replicas seem to have a place in our current fashion culture, but the question is; will their popularity and short-shelf life ever win against the luxury of traditional high fashion?