Artistic License vs. Fast Fashion: Where is the Line?

Note: This article is Part 2 of 2 opinion pieces covering fast fashion. Part 1 can be viewed here.

Last week I trekked through the overbearing maze of Forever 21, trying to grab a pack of socks, and get out before being seduced by all of the affordable clothing. I saw a collection of Barbie inspired apparel from sweaters to makeup bags of a similar pattern. I thought to myself, “This design looks familiar; this may not be the first time I’ve seen this.” And I was right. I had seen it a few weeks ago throughout Moschino’s Jeremy Scott SS ’15 Collection during fashion week.

Retailers like H&M, Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters often copy high-end designer styles. In fact, it is the very foundation on which consumer fashion culture is founded. If my religious re-watching of The Devil Wears Prada has taught me anything, it is that fashion trickles down throughout time. Those who cannot afford to buy the latest trend straight from the runway wait until it hits the nearest local affordable clothing store to buy the trend and join the conversation of trend and luxury.


But we too often focus on the vanity of wearing the trends and the excess of extravagance encoded in them, forgetting that at the end of the day, fashion is a creative process. A fashion designer invests their time and energy to come up with the newest trend, and spends countless months with their creative teams to put together a fashion show that spectators from around the world watch and report before it ever hits the radar of the lower cost competition. When a store like Forever 21 and H&M reproduces a trend on the runway in their materials to sell to the public at a much lower price, the trend is doomed to be worn out in a matter of months.

When these retail chains produce a rendition of a designer’s trend, consumers often forget that they did not create the idea; they are merely copying an existing idea created by another artist. Art is about creation, and an artist puts a lot of effort and thought into their work. Whether or not we understand their finished product, we must respect it. By purchasing cheaper copies of the original designs from chain clothing stores, the original work is devalued at a much faster rate with little to no benefit for the creators themselves.

I understand: not everybody can afford that SS ’15 Valentino Linen Skirt with Trousseau Embroidery or dress in head-to-toe Gucci, and stores such as Forever 21 and H&M provide the budget-conscious college student with clothes we can actually afford. In fact, half of my closet is from H&M, Forever 21, Zara and similar brands. However be aware and wary—these chain stores are not creating fashion; they are taking away from the substance of fashion and blindly producing it for the masses.

Sue Liang is a contributing writer. Email her at 

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