Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Is It Céline, Or Is It Zara?

We talked last week about Zara's nasty habit of copying the work of independent artists in order to keep up with the fast-fashion need for constant turn-around of new product. But it seems that both the Inditex brand and one of their competitors, Mango, are are also taking cribs from the look books of high fashion brands.

There is, of course, a fine tradition of brands copying brands. This is why, season on season, the shops are filled with the same kinds of clothes. Fast fashion has done a very good job of emulating the look of luxe fashion, and getting it onto the high street at a fraction of the price.

But, as my new favourite read The Fashion Law points out, brands like Zara are not just grabbing the clothing–they're taking the look and feel of the advertising as well.

A particular focus for the most sincere form of flattery seems to be French brand Céline. Over the past few years Zara has been cribbing hard from their style of cool, minimalist advertising. For the 2015 F/W collections, both brands featured split-image ads with a model on one pane and an item of clothing or accessory on the other.

It's also more than coincidental that the fast fashion brands have started using models who are a strong part of the image of high fashion names. In late 2015, Céline signed newcomer Karly Loyce for their spring 2016 campaign. Not long afterwards, Karly also appeared in ads for Zara. If you can't get the name, a lookalike will do. Mango signed Steffy Argelich for a look book that apes the mood of a recent Chloe campaign. Steffy is the spitting image of Chloe campaign model Antonina Petkovic.

It's important to note that there's nothing illegal in any of this, and it's hardly the first time that cheaper brands have sought to emulate the look and feel of more expensive products. This is something that Aldi have down to a fine art, for example. It's about making the connection and, the brands would argue, giving the fashion fan on the street a taste of luxe branding at a tiny percentage of the cost of the real item. This is a vital part of the fast fashion business model, and as long as Zara, Mango et al evoke the feel and look without actively selling knockoffs, then there's little that Céline or Chloe can do about it. Of course the tailoring and quality of fabric won't be anything like as good, and the items probably won't last the season and will go in the bin. But that's not Zara's problem, right? Just another part of the game...

Our View: the fast fashion chains often dance on a thin line when it comes to copyright infringement. The model they've set up–of constant change fuelling constant demand–means that they have to cast a very wide net to feed the ever-hungry design machine. Inspiration can and does come from everywhere. They're pretty clever at staying on the right side of that line, the occasional high-profile stumble aside. It's just a shame that they can't use that cleverness to come up with their own ideas.


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