Dissecting fast fashion ‘theft’

Photo courtesy: Getty images

In the modern era of fashion, the internet has made access to clothing accessible to many. 

You want that new look you’ve seen Beyonce rocking? Simply search for that same item and you can find it at a cheaper price. 

That may sound like a deal in theory, but designers have grievances with this fashion “theft.” The average person may not care, but in theory is it wrong?

Big fashion brands such as Shein, FashionNova and Zara have all been hit with the designer theft debacle.

Shein was recently hit with a RICO charge, which left the company in a controversial state in the public eye. The company is known for producing 6,000 new items each day for its millions of customers, which keeps consumers on brand with the latest trends.

The suit alleges “Shein has grown rich by committing individual infringements repeatedly, as part of a long and continuous pattern of racketeering, which shows no sign of abating,” according to CBS news.

Shein is the largest fashion retailer in the world with annual sales of almost $30 billion, more than H&M and Zara combined.

Fast fashion companies’ main goal is to produce trends and bring them to the market quickly.

As a college student on a budget, trying to stay in style, is my main concern. Ethical concerns can be raised, but living in a capitalistic society has lessened my ability to sympathize with the designer theft debacle. Stealing fashion concepts has been around for ages and there is bound to be inspiration taken from years and years of fashion concepts. 

The average person does not have the luxury to afford that $500 Balenciaga dress or that $400 Gucci tote.

Accessibility and access are the culprits of why huge designers have an issue with fast fashion. The everyday person can now look and feel just as expensive as those who have the means to purchase items above the average salary.

Fast fashion brands are not the only offender in stealing designs. Luxury fashion brands are also at the forefront of being a part of the designer theft debacle. Gucci’s 2018 cruise collection included a jacket that was an exact copy of 1980s Harlem couturier Dapper Dan. According to Gucci, the jacket was to “celebrate an iconic style of hip-hop fashion culture from the 80s.” More so a “homage” to the artist. 

Although their statement cured the controversy, others still had their doubts about their integrity.

American laws do not cover fashion under plagiarism regulations. The American Copyright law of 1976 only protects music, literature and art, which allows clothing designs to be duplicated.

Fashion correlates and represents our personal identities. Identities can be threatened when others may copy and seek to display those same traits or form of expression. Fast fashion has allowed people to be stylish on a budget.

At the end of the day, the problem is not solely the design. The designer theft debacle sheds light on classism and raises concern for the average person being able to look just as good as those in a certain capital. Fashion is based on inspiration. Style is based on an acute formulation of one’s personal identity, which cannot be stolen.