what's the difference

today's article in the Times comes just months after Professors Kal Raustiala and Chris Sprigman wrote their piece for freakonomics on the role that the trickle down effect plays in the growth and health of the fashion industry. They respond to the new legislation that Charles Schumer, New York's Senior Senator is trying to pass to enforce protection on designs in the fashion industry. Also an article from the Business Insider just after Rausiala and Sprigman's March article.

1. Whether or not it is a good idea, how in the world are you supposed to distinguish between plagiarism and the phenomenon of the collective consciousness. Fashion and trends have always been an expression of sociological phases. Which means that everyone, at all levels of design, is affected by the direction of the climate at any given time. And right now, fast fashion and lower tier suppliers are an important part of the way we dress. Mixing YSL pants and an American Apparel top with Zara shoes that look just like those that walked down the Balenciaga runway. The A.P.C. dress with the Chloé bag converse sneakers and the H & M belt. Mixing all levels is what enables a large percentage of shoppers to afford what they can at the designer level. And by filling in the blanks with lower priced goods, they can still achieve the look.
2. It is always a surprise when a dress that looks expensive, is well finished, or has something about it that makes it seem special, turns out to be from H&M, or Topshop, for example. And it is normally announced proudly, as if it is a personal achievement to find such a treasure among the racks of cheap knock-offs.
"I love your dress"
"You'll never believe it, it's H&M."
"Really? Wow, I never would have guessed."
But seriously, it happens often enough now that we shouldn't be surprised anymore. H&M makes some wonderfully trendy clothes. And so a lot of people can have the look from the month's editorials without looking at their 'Where to buy it' lists. So what will make them want to go directly to the source?
3. That is up to the designers. Part of the responsibility is theirs. It is up to them to give the consumers a reason to spend their pay on the runway version, rather than the regurgitation. It is up to the designers to make the distinction between their garments and those that are being sold at a lower price to achieve the same look. If you can buy the same silhouette of trousers from H&M as from Marc Jacobs, Mr. Jacobs had better make it worth the extra dough. Use that difference in price to buy some fantastic fabric, durable construction, thoughtfully selected trims, and a killer fit. Until then, it is no surprise that people are opting for the rip-off. Plastic buttons on a 2,000 dollar coat, unfinished hems on 2,500 dollar dresses (this rarely gives the 'deconstructed' effect; more often it is just cheap), and 600 dollar tee shirts- really, designers are surprised when people think twice before hading over their credit cards? It is getting harder to see the value in the high-end garments that are asking ever mounting prices.
4. In other words, while the lower end of the spectrum may be taking design ideas from the high end sources, the high end is taking production ideas from the low end. And so the approach is coming from both directions. The luxury brands need to climb back up the ladder of production standards, and think again about which corners they are cutting to make their margins.
In all, the lower ends should be able to produce something to the effect of what they designers are selling (keeping the desire there, with the eventual goal of buying the real thing) but never become a replacement (unable to achieve the same effect as the luxury option). And right now, that is a question that the shopper asks before making any decisions.

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