Runway To Racks: How Fashion Gets Knocked Off

There's that infamous cerulean speech from The Devil Wears Prada that introduced a lot of the world to fashion's domino-line of production. But, in reality, the process that puts a look on the runway, debuts it in stores, and then gets that exact look replicated for a fraction of the original cost is much more complicated, more calculated, and — dare we say it? — a little more menacing than even Miranda Priestly.
How exactly is it that a look can go from the runway to the $20 sale rack in just a few months? And how is it legal? Hold onto your blue sweaters, ladies — we've got the full story on how fashion get knocked off, all the way from the runway to the bargain bin.
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Status Report — Before creating their lines, many top-level designers receive reports, statistics, and inventories of the kinds of fabrics, trends, and raw materials that are popular at industry trade shows. Many times, these stats are taken into consideration when designing a collection. Ever wonder why a certain shade of neon is everywhere in any given season? It's because designers often all receive the same information!

Illustrated by Isabelle Rancier
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Show Time — Designers will host presentations or runway shows to debut their original designs. These seasonal fashion shows are attended by buyers, editors, journalists, and stylists. With the advent of online fashion-news sources, social photography tools, and livestreams, these shows are hardly an industry-only event anymore, and can be viewed, enjoyed, and dissected by nearly anyone with an Internet connection.

Illustrated by Isabelle Rancier
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So Popular — Even before the clothing shown during a Fashion Week is produced in bulk, certain garments become more popular than others via online coverage, celebrity red carpet photos, and editorial fashion shoots. Sometimes, the pieces that get the most coverage don't even end up being produced — meaning they don't end up in stores at all.

Illustrated by Isabelle Rancier
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Good Buy — Buyers for department stores and high-end boutiques meet with designers' sales representatives to place orders for the upcoming season. These buyers are in charge of what gets stocked in stores, and in what quantities.

Illustrated by Isabelle Rancier
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Study Up — Mass brands use this time to do research. Based on editorial coverage, consumer interest, and retail reports, they judge which styles, trends, and specific looks will sell. Then, their own team of designers gets to work making "inspired by" designs that incorporate the season's trends without explicitly copying any look exactly.

Illustrated by Isabelle Rancier
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Test Copy — As soon as designer duds hit the shelves, copycat brands go on shopping sprees and scoop up what they've seen as the most popular styles. Then, they go to work, often going so far as taking apart all the seams and replicating garment stitch by stitch. Because of loopholes in copyright laws, they're able to copy the entire design of an item of clothing as long as they leave the fabric, lace patterns, or surface designs alone.

Illustrated by Isabelle Rancier
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Due Justice — When copies are too blatant, the original designer will sue the brand producing the knock-off. That's what happened in the court case that Gucci recently won. However, many of these defendants already anticipate the lawsuits, and build the cost of settling out of court into their budgets.

Illustrated by Isabelle Rancier
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Et Voilà! — Even though a knock-off design costs tiny fraction of the original, it conveniently jumps over the heads of a whole industry of creative people, which is a big bummer (not to mention the fact that companies producing these pieces often engage in shady, unethical manufacturing practices).

However, with designer duds perpetually increasing in price, it's not always possible to find affordable, trendy fashion that also has integrity.

Buying indie and vintage, researching the brands you choose to spend your money on, and opting for honest, well-made designs instead of going for five versions of a cheaper design are all good consumer habits to practice. And armed with this little industry lesson, we hope you're a little more aware of what makes a garment really special.

Illustrated by Isabelle Rancier
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