Fast fashion has become one of the most challenging parts of the design process. Mass retailers like Zara, H&M and Forever 21 have bypassed the fashion week calendar for a relentless cycle of trends that are often times imitations of luxury designs, made at a cheaper and faster rate. These fast fashion retailers are achieving multi-billion dollar revenues from a modus operandi of high volumes and low quality. Other than the moral implications these garments carry, which are often made overseas in poor working conditions – fashion designers are having their work and intellectual property replicated and shipped faster than ever, and they’re having a hard time keeping up with the pace of current fashion cycle.
According to Elizabeth Cline, who examines the implications of fast fashion in her book Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, H&M and Forever 21 receive new shipments of clothing daily, while UK retailer Topshop adds over 400 styles each week to its website. With retailers churning out knocked off styles at rapid rates, designers are feeling the pressure of maintaining creativity
The fashion community hasn’t developed a singular outlook on the matter neither. Olivier Rousteing says he loves when Zara copies his designs; meanwhile, Anna Sui gifted shirts branding the founders of Forever 21 as “Outlaws” at one of her runway shows (she’s sued the company for infringement). While there isn’t a readily available solution to combat fast fashion retailers from duplicating designer pieces, there are a few known ways designers are making it harder. From intricate trims, to luxe fabrics and structure, some designers are decidedly designing items which are difficult to reproduce in mass quantities.
It seems, however, that even the designers that stand between high end design, and fast fashion retailers, are feelings the effects of this fast fashion cycle. Rebecca Minkoff launched her brand in 2005, and has seen it grow at an exponential rate in the past decade. Despite launching the brand during what seems like the height of fast fashion replications, the brand has successfully grown from handbags, to now include apparel, shoes, jewelry, and a men’s accessory line, Ben Minkoff (operated by her brother and collaborator, Uri Minkoff). The Rebecca Minkoff brand is currently on the verge of a Michael Kors-esque global takeover, and has established itself as a prominent, strong designer, standing between high end design and fast fashion retailers. The ever-evolving trend cycle has affected fashion designers at both ends of the spectrum – from the high-end to the more affordable.
We spoke with Rebecca about her thoughts on the issue and what designers can do to change the current cycle. She believes if enough designers band together, a change could come about. As she points out, the rise of social media allows us to all be our own broadcasting network. Rebecca also shared with us her success story and told us about how her mother’s guidance helped her build an empire out of her first hit bag.