Do High Street Dupes Appropriate Designers or Make Fashion Accessible for All?


It's a widely recognised notion that the designs of high-end fashion houses inevitably filter down into the high street, so that we mere mortals can, for a significantly lower price, still wear clothes that resemble the style pages of Vogue, albeit a watered down version. 

It's an unspoken agreement between the two sides - on the one hand high fashion saying to the high street: 'We set the trends, you create your garments that resemble something like ours, satisfying the market who cannot afford us, while we cater for the elite.' Both sides are happy, the end.

All has been well, until a recent shift has seen our lust for high street dupes snowball (excuse the festive pun). The rise of Instagram influencers and fashion bloggers has brought with it designer 'It' pieces on everyone's want list, except it's not just fashion editors that want a pair of Gucci loafers; the university student, the young pro and the strapped intern (hiya) now want them too. With that desire for the 'It' pieces inflating, so does the demand for a high-street dupe that looks as close as possible to the real deal - simply a watered down version will no longer do.

While high street retailers stepping up their game and offering hyper-convincing dupes is an exciting advancement for the more cash-strapped among us, when, however, do we draw the line between these dupes making fashion accessible for all and acknowledging direct plagiarism of designers? 

I'm as much a sucker for a high street dupe as the next person - I bought the Topshop £50 version of the Princetown loafer quicker than you can say 'Gucci', and my heart swells every time someone asks if my Zara faux shearling jacket is by Acne Studios. More recently, I've wanted to get my grubby mitts on a Bella Freud '1970' jumper, unfortunately the small matter of the £290 price tag has held me back. Upon browsing the Urban Outfitters site, as one does on a Saturday morning in bed, I stumbled across this red bodysuit. I wasn't looking for anything in the colour red, nor was I looking for a bodysuit, but I instantly wanted the bloody thing because it's so clearly a direct rip off of the Bella Freud design. Call me sad? I'll take that one firmly on the chin.


As I pondered running into town to snap up the top immediately, I spared a thought for poor Bella, likely having poured a significant amount of effort into her designs only for it to be ripped off by UO and sold to a bunch of 16-21 year olds who want to look like Alexa Chung - I can say this because I am one of them, except I'm 23, tragic. FYI I didn't end up buying it, but walked out with this PU leather A-line skirt that's a convincing lookalike to the sold out Archive by Alexa Kirkgate mini - ironic, I know.

Does Bella care about UO effectively appropriating her design? Perhaps the Urban customer isn't her target market anyway - why would she care? Either way, there are designers out there who definitely DO care about high street retailers copying their work.

Back in July 2016, it was reported that LA-based designer Tuesday Bassen accused high street giant Zara of copying her designs on Twitter (natch), and upon observing the comparisons, the evidence is hard to ignore. 

After being alerted to Zara's activity by members of her 170k following, Bassen tweeted: 'You know what? Sometimes it sucks being an artist because companies like @zara consistently rip you off and deny it.' 
She tried to sue Zara, who obviously denied the accusations, but after anticipating that the legal fees of taking action against Zara would prove too expensive for her as an independent artist, she resorted to utilising social media to expose them instead, which garnered impressive support.

This isn't enough for Bassen though, along with the number of other designers having their work ripped off by high street retailers. Sure, it's hard to give a rat's arse about Gucci having its Princetown design copied by Topshop, River Island, Mango etc etc, when its estimated value is around $12 billion, but we have a duty to be discerning about our high street dupe purchases to protect emerging designers. 

While I, like many women in their early twenties, certainly cannot afford to buy designer clothing even 10% of the time, that's not to say I believe designers should suffer for the sake of me having a cheap knock-off. After all, the high street would be a whole lot more 'norm core' without the influence of high-end designers, independent or not. As shoppers, we are joined by our unified love of fashion and ought to do our best to boycott and oust high street retailers that cripple smalltime designers through their imitations. But if you do end up buying an H&M replica of the Gucci Soho Disco bag, ain't no one gunna judge you for that ;-)


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2 comments

  1. Love the skirt and boots!
    xx,
    arelisapril.blogspot.com

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  2. Polls(z) its the lanky dude you work with! haha your blogs are flipping good and you look amazing in all your pictures! Im assuming you have slight insta fame now!!?? Ill book with your reps for an interview! X x #KeepItReal

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