Copycatting in fashion, beauty is more harmful (and prevalent!) than you think

From a young age we are taught that copying our peers’ work is wrong. Their intellectual property–whether it’s a kindergarten macaroni necklace or Pulitzer Prize-winning literature–is just that: their property.

Federal law mandates that intellectual property receives copyright protection from the moment it is fixed in a medium, according to the United States Copyright Office. In short, the second an idea leaves your mind and becomes something tangible (i.e., perceptible to at least one of the five senses), it is copyright protected under U.S. law.

But, that didn’t stop the classroom bully, and it certainly does not stop big-name fashion and beauty retailers. The rise in fashion and beauty bloggers and YouTubers has created a new environment in which dupes can not only breed, but thrive.

Beauty gurus (and aspiring beauty gurus) share countless dupe guides on social media platforms like Pinterest. Dupe guides compare high-end products their low-end counterparts. [source: Pinterest]
“Everyone has gotten so fucking lazy in [the beauty] industry. There. I said it. There are some beautiful things out there that the labs are doing, but no one bothers to do it,” writes Glossible‘s Sonia Roselli.

“Why? Why bother? Copycatting is big business and it’s faster to get to market. There is no better time than now to be in the cosmetics manufacturing game. Cosmetic labs are working at full capacity and some aren’t even taking new customers, thanks to social media.  But because of social media, I find that we are going down a path that is bad for all of us.”

According to Roselli’s post, the biggest names in beauty knockoff products from small brands such as Viseart, Melanie Mills and PPI. Their motive?

“If I were being completely honest, in my opinion, most big cosmetic companies don’t even TRY anymore. And it’s not just the cosmetic companies, it’s the labs and manufacturers too who take direction from these companies.  I imagine the chemists are crying in their glass beakers because they WANT to create innovative products but the companies won’t let them. Why? Because copycatting is big business and easier to do.”

Roselli also notes that copycatting runs rampant in the technology industry, as well, citing Apple’s recent lack of innovation.

“What happened to luxurious textures and colors that were perfect for skin tones? What happened to a brand being known for their foundation colors? What about a brand being known for their skin products? It’s all the same shit just a different day,” Roselli asks.

“To me the beauty industry looks a little something like this: We are the lions and the cosmetic companies just throw us a carcass.”

Viseart’s multicolor eyeshadow palette, which retails on Sephora.com for $80, has been duped by web-based retailer Morphe. Morphe’s so-called Picasso Palette retails for $14.99.

W-7, a UK-based cosmetics company, has not one, but three blatant knockoffs of Urban Decay’s famous Naked eyeshadow palettes. Naked, Naked 2 and Naked 3 retail for $54 each, while W-7’s dupes go for $12.95 each. The company also sells a bronzer called Honolulu ($5.30) eerily similar in color and packaging to Benefit’s Hoola bronzer ($29), a cult favorite.

There is also e.l.f., a drugstore beauty brand also known as Eyes, Lips, Face. Roselli notes the similarities between e.l.f.’s Pink Passion blush ($5.30) and Nars’ Desire blush ($30), and mentions that the brand is a notorious industry-wide copycat.

W-7 In The Buff: Lightly Toasted palette versus Urban Decay’s Naked palette [source: Pinterest]
“Most people don’t realize how or why copycat imitation hurts our industry, or for that matter, even care,” Roselli writes.

“As a pro makeup artist, I can go our right now to any Ulta or Sephora and tell you that 85 percent of all makeup is complete and utter bullshit. Don’t believe me? Go on any Facebook group that caters to professional makeup artists and you will see a surge in going back to old brands…Graftobian, Ben Nye, RCMA just to name a few…Why? Because the big brands are not listening to working pros. They are listening to beauty bloggers.”

While some beauty bloggers and vloggers are truly trustworthy and informative, Roselli insists there are many who are quite the opposite:

“I think [bloggers] have an interesting place in the industry [because they] allow people to discover new products. While a lot of bloggers out there are great (especially the ones that have worked in the industry for years), these aren’t the ones I’m talking about here. I’m talking about people who have no clue about beauty.”

These bloggers care more about making money than they do about creating quality content or sharing what they’ve learned with a larger community.

“Over the last few years, beauty bloggers have become puppets for the cosmetic companies,” Roselli continues.

“Last year, I sat in on a big meeting with some higher up cosmetic level execs who were giving a talk on how they utilize social media influencers.  The story went a little something like this: A very popular Youtube beauty blogger was given $100,000 to blog about a new product that was coming out.  (Yes, you read that correctly: 1 video. 15 minutes long. $100k). But, guess what? Her videos drove over $2 million in sales in one day! As a matter of fact, [in] minutes. [The blogger] said exactly what [the cosmetics company] wanted her to say (in her own words of course).”

As long as cosmetics companies can rely on big-name beauty bloggers and YouTubers, they can continue to make shoddy dupes of high-end products an end up with a pretty spectacular return on investment.

“That means these cosmetic companies can make absolute bullshit products and not care about the actual product they produce because they have beauty bloggers to drive the sales. So, they rip each other’s products, have a pissing match on who can knock it off better and play this game of cat and mouse to see who has the bigger balls,” Roselli writes.

Jenn Im, YouTuber behind Clothes Encounters, sports a slip dress by Necessary Clothing, a trendy fast fashion retailer. [source: Instagram user @imjennim]
Crushed Velvet Zillah Slip Dress in Blush by Are You Am I, $675 [source: Are You Am I]
However, Roselli doesn’t blame any beauty blogger for what they do; in fact, she applauds their ability to be so influential.

“Secretly, I laugh and say, ‘go girl!’ to the beauty blogger and wanna high five her after she hits ‘publish’ on her YouTube channel. It’s this double edge sword that is creating a sea of mediocrity in the marketplace. And who loses? We do, the pro and the consumer. ”

Nonetheless, it is the process in itself that perpetuates the lack of quality products currently on the market; Roselli insists it is a vicious cycle.

“The cosmetic companies watch social media trends, give the masses what the think they want, and use the beauty blogger to promote the sales. What are we left with? Subpar bullshit,” she writes.

“If beauty blogger tells you that the Waffle House yellow foundation she is using is the best thing since Netflix on a cold rainy day, well guess what? People believe her. Then, women are left with crappy products that don’t perform and are constantly shopping for something that works, leaving us in a constant state of searching for the next hero product for ourselves.”

And, the same can be said for fashion. It doesn’t matter anymore what’s on the runway or what’s in the most esteemed fashion magazines. Consumers are more likely lust after looks they see on the most influential bloggers and vloggers, who in large part promote fast fashion (whether they realize it or not!), according to The Fashion Law.

In addition to being a violation of intellectual property, fast fashion negatively impacts both garment workers and the environment, as well as consumers. From an article published in 2014, The Huffington Post notes a number of toxins found in garments from several popular fast fashion retailers.

“According to the Center for Environmental Health, Charlotte Russe, Wet Seal, Forever21 and other popular fast-fashion chains are still selling lead-contaminated purses, belts and shoes above the legal amount, years after signing a settlement agreeing to limit the use of heavy metals in their products,” Shannon Whitehead writes.

“Lead exposure has also been linked to higher rates of infertility in women and increased risks of heart attacks, strokes and high blood pressure. Many scientists agree there is no ‘safe’ level of lead exposure for anyone. The lead contamination is all in addition to the pesticides, insecticides, formaldehyde, flame-retardants and other known carcinogens that reside on the clothes we wear.”

[source: takepart.com]
Whitehead also goes on to explain the impacts the fast fashion industry has on the environment:

“The average American throws away over 68 pounds of textiles per year. We’re not talking about clothing being donated to charity shops or sold to consignment stores, that 68 pounds of clothing is going directly into landfills. Because most of our clothing today is made with synthetic, petroleum-based fibers, it will take decades for these garments to decompose.”

Fast fashion retailers also exploit garment workers in developing countries, because these countries do not offer labor laws that protect their workers.

“Industry estimates suggest that 20 to 60 percent of garment production is sewn at home by informal workers, according author Lucy Siegle in her book, To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World?

While there are machines that can apply sequins and beading that look like handiwork, they are very expensive and must be purchased by the garment factory. According to Siegle, it’s highly unlikely that an overseas factory would invest in the equipment, particularly if the clothing being made is for a value-driven fast-fashion label,” Whitehead continues.

“Carrying out her own investigation, Siegle learned that millions of desperate home-workers are hidden in some of the poorest regions of the world, ‘hunched over, stitching and embroidering the contents of the global wardrobe…in slums where a whole family can live in a single room.’

Often with the help of their children, the home workers sew as fast as they can and for as long as daylight allows to embellish and bedazzle the clothes that end up in our closets. Siegle goes on to say, ‘They live hand to mouth, presided over by middlemen, tyrannical go-betweens who hand over some of the lowest wages in the garment industry.'”

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What does it mean when fast fashion goes green?

Often the object of criticism for environmental advocates and enthusiasts, a handful of fast fashion retailers launched green initiatives earlier this year.

Last month, Haute Mess reported that retail giant Target announced a sophisticated plan to revamp its stores and increase sales, which includes a series of goals to better the environment.

Target revealed a new forest products policy and goals, including having full visibility into the wood contained in or used to make products sold by Target or used in its operations; implementing policies, practices and tools that facilitate the management of raw materials throughout the supply chain and across operations, and actively supporting efforts that prevent the destruction of forests and other natural resources,” reports WWD.

“Last year, Target introduced its reliable sourcing aspirations, which included a commitment to sourcing wood from well-managed forests. The retailer pledged to source for Target’s own brands wood from well-managed and credibly certified forests, and whenever possible, from post-consumer recycled materials.”

WWD also reports that Target will implement its policies beginning in 2018, with “a goal to have six of Target’s owned brands fully compliant with the forest products policy by 2022.”

The first products the retail giant plans to revamp are those containing wood or paper-based materials, like tissues and paper towels, wrapping paper, furniture components and clothing, according to WWD. This includes brands such as Cat & Jack, Pillowfort, Threshold and Smith & Hawken.

“This policy comes after Target announced its commitments to responsible sourcing, which focuses on improving worker well-being, achieving net-positive manufacturing and deriving key raw materials from ethical and sustainable sources. The retailer in January announced a chemical policy,” WWD continues.

Kelly Caruso, president of Target Sourcing Services, tells WWD that the retailer also plans to “target the rayon used in apparel, which comes from viscose, a forest product.”

“We’ll be working on the brands’ packaging, too,” Caruso continues.

The new forest policy comes a couple years after the retail giant announced that palm oil, which is “used in its owned brand food, personal care and household cleaning products, will be fully traceable and sustainably sourced by 2018, or sooner, according to WWD.

“When the retailer moves from raw materials to commodities such as beef and soy, it will look for ways to achieve zero net forestation.”

In 2012 Target also aimed to reduce the environmental impact of its production practices.

“Target piloted 10 best practices in three high-volume textile mills in China for a year. Realizing significant savings in water energy and materials, Target expanded the pilot to two additional Chinese cities in 2013 and is hoping for similarly positive results,” WWD writes.

Target’s forest products policy goal at a glance [source: A Bullseye View, Target’s official blog]
Swedish fast fashion giant H&M launched its Bring It On campaign in January 2017 as part of its Garment Collecting program, which began in 2013.

“Nothing is too torn, worn or used to get a second life. Not your lonely sock, your worn-out dress or your ripped sheet. Yet tons and tons of textiles—that could’ve been reused or recycled—are thrown away with household waste. Being one of the world’s largest fashion companies comes with great responsibility, and that’s why we launched our global garment collecting initiative in 2013. You bring your garments, we give them a new purpose. Together we can close the loop on fashion,” H&M’s website explains.

“We believe that clothes deserve better than to end up in landfills. So, for our newest conscious initiative we made two new designs in 500 unique pieces – entirely out of used denim. Because great fashion can be made from old clothes.”

Consumers can bring their unwanted garments to any H&M store to be repurposed.

“The garments collected that cannot be distributed as second-hand goods will either be converted into other products, such as cleaning cloths and upcycled items, or ground down and used in the construction or automotive industries as padding and insulation. Some garments get a new chance as textile fibers. They will be spun into yarn and used in the new H&M Conscious range,” the site continues.

“During the process, nothing goes to waste. The metals from buttons and zippers are also recycled. Even the dust is taken care of. It is pressed into cubes that goes to the paper industry as a co-product to cardboard. The very last remains of the collected garments are burned and turned into new energy.”

Garments part of the retailer’s Conscious range are denoted with a green label that reads “CONSCIOUS” on H&M’s website. The company insists it does not profit from any of the returned textiles.

“Revenue generated from collected items is donated to charity and invested in recycling innovation,” the website reads.

[source: H&M]
But, attorney and famed fast fashion critic Julie Zerbo, the voice behind The Fashion Law, argues that this is all a part of greenwashing: “the promotion of green-based environmental initiatives or images without the implementation of business practices that actually minimize environmental impact (or any of the other negative effects of fast fashion).”

“[Greenwashing often includes misleading customers about the actual benefits of a product or practice through misleading advertising and/or unsubstantiated claims. And swearing off the use of animal products.”

Last year, Nasty Gal, a web-based fast fashion retailer and notorious copycat, announced it would no longer continue to sell any items made with angora rabbit fur, after People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) “conducted an investigation of the angora wool industry, leading to allegations of harsh and inhumane conditions in which the rabbits used for angora are treated,” according to The Fashion Law.

“Much like H&M’s well publicized recycling efforts and its ‘Conscious’ Collection, and Zara’s new eco-friendly stores, such green efforts–including those involving animals–tend to come with downsides of their own, such as alternative motives, aimed at creating a pretty picture in the face of significant problems at the foundational level of such business models.”

Zerbo insists that fast fashion inherently has a negative environmental impact; eye-catching campaigns that claim to be environmentally conscious are really marketing strategies aimed at attracting consumers.

“Fast fashion is a dirty industry, second only to the oil industry, according to recent reports. In order to keep costs low, fast fashion suppliers and even the big-name retailers, themselves, operate in ethically questionable ways. As we have seen in a number of recent lawsuits, they fire pregnant employees to avoid paying health insurance costs (hey, Nasty Gal). They discriminate against transgender employees (hey, Forever 21). They target shoppers based on race (that’s you, H&M) and employees based on religion (and you, Zara),” The Fashion Law writes.

“Their suppliers routinely bypass important quality control and manufacturing health/safety standards because these practices are costly to implement and monitor and that would cut into their bottom line. Hence, the toxic chemicals in clothes, the frequent employee hospitalizations and the increasing number of fires and buildings collapsing.”

Kiini settles lawsuit with notorious copycat Victoria’s Secret

Knockoffs are all too common in the world of fashion–especially now that social media allows retailers to have an inside look at their competitors’ inner workings.

The latest high-profile lawsuit, involving New York-based swimwear brand Kiini and famed lingerie powerhouse Victoria’s Secret, was settled late last month, despite the fact it was filed in October 2015.

“According to Kiini’s complaint, Victoria’s Secret produced a bathing suit that looked ‘virtually indistinguishable’ to its original bikini design. Though the terms of the settlement are confidential, the [law]suit is worth reflecting on,” The Fashion Law writes.

“Kiini, which has gained a ‘cult-like following and is known for the original, distinct, copyright-protected swimwear designs,’ initiated the action against the lingerie giant for copyright infringement, trade dress infringement, and unfair competition.”

There are tons of Kiini dupes on the online market from small web-based boutiques nowadays, but when a retail giant like Victoria’s Secret blatantly copies a high-end swimwear brand, there are several complex lessons to be learned.

Kiini original bikini [source: Lyst]
Victoria’s Secret dupe [source: Bikini Mecca]
“As Kiini set forth in its complaint, Victoria’s Secret allegedly marketed and sold an infringing copy of Kiini’s well-known bikini design ‘in the pursuit of its own self promotion and profit, and to Kiini’s unfair harm and detriment,'” The Fashion Law continues.

“The Kiini swimsuit in question–which is stocked by high end retailers, such as Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman and Net-A-Porter, and retails for $165 for a top and $120 for a bottom–has ‘become a much sought after bikini.'”

The pricey bikinis, worn in a number of editorials, as well as by celebrities like Heidi Klum and Cara Delevingne, are known for their amazing attention-to-detail and stunning bohemian design are obviously of the highest quality. Not to mention, they are ultimately a product of Ipek Irgit’s, the brand’s founder and creative director, intellectual property.

“Irgit obtained federal copyright protection for the bikini design in December 2014, making Kiini the ‘sole and exclusive owner to all right, title and interest in and to the copyright to the design,'” according to The Fashion Law.

“The brand alleges that in addition to enjoying federal copyright protection, it has developed trade dress rights, as ‘the purchasing public has come to associate the distinct Kiini trade dress with Kiini, and Kiini trade dress has achieved secondary meaning.'”

The trade dress at hand?

“[It] consists of: ‘1) a triangle profile bikini; 2) a distinctive, rectangular crochet pattern that borders the edges of the bikini; 3) the rectangular geometric pattern is doubled at the bottom edge of the bikini top, and the top edge of the bikini bottom; 4) bright color blocking resulting from a woven interlaced pattern of contrasting colored and textured material, specifically elastic and crochet yarn; and, 5) the bikini top’s upright triangle profile and the bikini bottom’s upside down triangle profile,'” according to The Fashion Law.

“For the uninitiated, trade dress extends to the total image of a product and can be based on shape, size, color, texture and graphics. In order to be eligible for trade dress protection, a design must serve as a non-functional identifier of source.”

Furthermore, “per Kiini, the triangle designs featured on the bathing suit at issue are in no way functional and that ‘the only reason to copy the Kiini trade dress is to attempt to trade off its goodwill and draw sales away from Kiini. This is exactly what [Victoria’s Secret] has unfairly and unlawfully done here.'”

Unsurprisingly, this is not Victoria’s Secret’s first rodeo. In 2012 the California-born, Ohio-based lingerie retailer was sued by Zephyrs, a hosiery supplier, for selling shoddy versions of their designs.

“Zephyrs filed a complaint in federal court in Ohio charging the lingerie behemoth with using images of its products on packaging and in-store product displays, while selling a cheaper version of the product inside,” according to The Huffington Post.

“In a nutshell, Victoria’s Secret used to sell Zephyrs’ Italian-made hosiery, but cut ties with them, switched to a Canadian supplier and allegedly didn’t change images or text on the packaging, except for adding a ‘Made In Canada.’ In addition to the $15 million for breach of contract, Zephyrs is also seeking “corrective advertising” and a recall of the accused products.”

The parties settled out of court for an undisclosed amount and “mutually agreed to dismiss the claims and counterclaims with prejudice,” according to The Fashion Law.

More recently, in 2015, Victoria’s Secret began copy-catting Triangl, another upscale swimwear brand. The distinct sporty swimsuits feature thick black lines that separate blocks of bold colors. Via social media platforms like Twitter, The Fashion Law then went on to explain that Australia-based Triangl is the one of world’s most-copied swimwear brands.

Flipping through Victoria’s Secret’s catalogs or strolling through a brick-and-mortar store, nearly anyone in the fashion or retail industries will notice the company frequently knocks-off designs from high-end brands like Kiini, Triangl and Gooseberry Intimates, a world-class French lingerie label.

“Kiini goes on to bolster its claim by stating that it is not the only one who noticed the similarities between its designs and the Victoria’s Secret copies. According to Kiini’s complaint, ‘several discerning customers have generated electronic content posted on popular social media, referring to the Victoria’s Secret copy-infringing design, and stating: ‘totally Kinii [sic] knock off,’ ‘Kiini copiers,’ and ‘Victoria’s Secret knock off Kiini,'” writes The Fashion Law.

“The complaint continues on to note that the similarities between its design and the Victoria’s Secret copy gave rise to actual confusion amongst consumers and offered evidence that consumers ‘queried on photos’ of the Victoria’s Secret copy, asking: ‘Is this a Kiini swimsuit or a Victoria’s Secret?’ Victoria’s Secret allegedly ignored the customer comments ‘chiding it for stealing the Kiini design, and they continue to intentionally market and sell their imitations.'”

Despite the number of copyright- and patent- based lawsuits Victoria’s Secret has faced, it seems the company is not slowing down its infringing design procedures. However, The Fashion Law makes an interesting point regarding the company’s practices:

“Interestingly, in the time since [Kiini] filed suit, Victoria’s Secret has folded its swimwear division entirely to focus exclusively on lingerie and loungewear.”

Fast fashion retailers up prices without forgoing unethical practices

Competition among fast fashion retailers has led stores like Forever 21 and Zara to increase prices without cutting back on their shady, inhumane and downright dirty design and production practices, according to The Fashion Law.

“Additionally, [thanks to] the influx and success of other similarly situated web-based retailers like Nasty Gal, Missguided and Pixie Market, the most longstanding fast fashion retailers, such as H&M, Forever 21 and Zara, are being forced to up the ante in order to attract new customers and to hang on to the ones they already have.”

This has caused fast fashion retailers to stock their shelves, both in-store and online, with higher priced goods. Stores known for their cheaply made and cheaply priced versions (i.e., copies) of runway trends now stock $70 trousers and $60 sweaters, without changing the unethical and harmful methods with which they are produced.

Adding variety to their garments in terms of price, quality and, in some cases, brand, The Fashion Law continues, helps fast fashion retailers keep up with competition. Some even stock certain pieces on Revolve.com and other non-fast fashion e-commerce websites.

Alexa Chung wearing Topshop at Topshop Unique’s Fall/Winter 2015 show [source: Who What Wear]
“Another theory centers on the fact that influencers–whether it be Alexa Chung, who has been a proponent of Topshop for years, Olivia Palermo, who is a fan of Zara or Kendall and Kylie Jenner, who have been spotted in Forever 21 and Nasty Gal garments, and have fronted their own collection for PacSun–have increased demand for street brands, thereby driving up prices,” according to The Fashion Law.

In short, it seems high fashion is not as cool or desirable as it once ways. The more young consumers see social media startlets like Kendall and Kylie Jenner shopping–and designing!–fast fashion, the more likely they are to shop fast fashion themselves. Thanks to Kendall Jenner and co., buying cheap is trendy again, and fast fashion’s accessibility ensures young people will keep consuming it.

“One major factor [in the rise of fast fashion prices] has been this real push globally by some of the fashion industry’s most influential bloggers and fashion editors, who have said to the world, ‘it’s OK to mix and match,’” says Simon Lock, owner and CEO of The Lock Group and the pioneering force behind Mercedes-Benz Australia Fashion Week.

“It’s OK to wear a Chloe top with a pair of Zara or H&M jeans. With that has come a certain amount of prestige that is then associated with these fast fashion brands and as a result, consumers are willing to pay more for it.”

Lock is not alone in believing this theory. In fact, it is an idea he has in common with Anna Wintour, esteemed Editor-in-Chief of Vogue magazine.

Bercu on the cover of Wintour’s first Vogue, November 1988 [source: Vogue]
“[Wintour’s] first-ever Vogue cover, from the November 1988 issue, featured model Michaela Bercu in a Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele-styled look of a haute couture Christian Lacroix jacket and stonewashed Guess jeans,” according to The Fashion Law.

The Christian Lacroix jacket, Wintour revealed in 2012, came with a matching skirt. But, Bercu gained a little weight prior to her photoshoot with Vogue–she had been on vacation at home in Israel–so the skirt did not fit her.

“It was so unlike the studied and elegant close-ups that were typical of Vogue’s covers back then, with tons of makeup and major jewelry. This one broke all the rules. Michaela wasn’t looking at you, and worse, she had her eyes almost closed. Her hair was blowing across her face. It looked easy, casual, a moment that had been snapped on the street, which it had been, and which was the whole point,” Wintour continued, reflecting on the issue on Vogue’s 120th anniversary.

“I had just looked at that picture and sensed the winds of change. And you can’t ask for more from a cover image than that.”

It seems Wintour was ahead of her time.

Exploring the garment gap: why high fashion brands sell more accessories than clothes

If you take a walk on any college campus, you will notice one thing for certain: a plethora of young women who tote designer handbags and trek in name-brand shoes, yet sport low-end loungewear in terms of clothing. And, it is no accident that a large percentage of young women dress this way. Their style, or lack thereof, is evidence of the garment gap: the phenomenon in which luxury clothing brands sell exponentially more accessories than actual garments.

“For me [producing every single look from the runway for retail] is absolutely necessary,” Dries Van Noten told The Talks in 2015.

Per The Fashion Law, the Belgian designer’s sentiment “sheds light on his ongoing resistance to conforming to a larger practice in the fashion industry,” i.e., “brands’ reliance on the sales of non-runway–and in many cases, non-garment–goods to derive the majority of their profits.”

There is no question that many big-name designers (think: Chanel, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Yves Saint Laurent) sell more handbags, shoes, even makeup and fragrance than they do clothing. In fact, “leather goods represent over 50 percent of the €7.9 billion that the conglomerate’s luxury division earned in revenue for the 2015 fiscal year,” while “ready-to-wear accounted for only 16 percent,” according to The Fashion Law.

“At Louis Vuitton–by far LVMH’s most valuable and recognizable brand, accounting for no less than one-third of total group sales and almost half of its profit–bags play a significant role,” The Fashion Law Continues.

“[Louis Vuitton’s] current roster of bags and related accessories includes upwards of 850 products,” while “shop-able womenswear collections consist of just over 380 products.”

To anyone with fair reasoning skills, it may seem pretty pointless, for lack of a better term, for luxury fashion brands to design clothes anymore. After all, both the amount of effort and the cost of putting together just one fashion show are extremely high. But, high fashion has never been logical or practical–quite the opposite, in fact. The Fashion Law lists two major reasons high-fashion brands continue to show garments on the runway, despite the fact they never make the transition to retail:

“The first [is] that runway garments are simply not meant to represent marketable items but instead, serve a different purpose.”

“One could argue that modern day couture and ready-to-wear shows, in many cases, are more akin to large scale marketing events for brands–for the purpose of enabling and/or maintaining lucrative licensing deals–than buying opportunities for clients.”

When you think this through, it actually makes a lot of sense in today’s society. Fashion shows once served as buying opportunities for clients, as The Fashion Law states, but today, Fashion shows are more like pseudo-events. That is, they exist purely for publicity.

Chanel Fall/Winter 2017/2018 at Paris Fashion Week, March 2017 [source: Fashionisers]
“Over-the-top shows serve as an opportunity for brands to market themselves as luxury fashion brands,” The Fashion Law continues, bringing us to the second reason.

“The second reason centers on the tactic of putting runway garments on the back-burner in favor of brands more strongly pushing runway accessories and derivatives thereof–namely, bags and sometimes, shoes, [as well as] watered down garments, as these have proven to be key sources of income for brands.”

Plainly, this means clothes just aren’t selling for most high-end designers.

“For luxury brands, it is about licensing and handbags with nearly everything else taking the form of marketing,” according to The Fashion Law.

Thanks to Paris-based brands like Saint Laurent and Vetements, “the most recent rise of ‘it’ items…are not limited to bags.” Ultimately, when it comes to Saint Laurent, you think biker jackets, not purses. And, when it comes to Vetements, you think hoodies, sweats and activewear–definitely not handbags.

“Hoodies, bomber jackets, statement jeans and other eye-catching garments have taken center stage in street style shots, in Gucci stores, in editorials and elsewhere.”

But, this is a rarity and, not to mention, an extremely new phenomenon in the fashion industry.

“Most runway pieces never get produced. They’re marketing exercises. The legacy brands aren’t in the fashion business anymore. They’re selling handbags and lipstick,” Cameron Silver, founder of Decades, the posh Los Angeles vintage clothing store, told The Daily Beast last year.

Saint Laurent Fall/Winter 2017/2018 at Paris Fashion Week, February 2017 [source: Fashionisers]
“According to a report released by Exane BNP Paribas, accessories– namely, handbags–dominate in the luxury market. They represent one of the few categories with high sales densities and full-price sell-through rates,” according to The Fashion Law.

“As of 2016, they account for almost 30 percent of the total global luxury market, up from just 18 percent in 2003.”

So, why isn’t high fashion selling?

Silver has an answer: “Luxury brands have alienated the luxury customer.”

“Bloggers and celebrities, who either borrow or get clothes free, have replaced paying customers in the hearts, minds and front rows of fashion’s nabobs,” according to The Daily Beast.

Blogger Jetset Justine carries a Neverfull by Louis Vuitton and wears sunglasses by Ray-Ban [source: jetsetjustine.com]
“Runway clothes are made for magazines or loans,” Silver continues.

“Customers are low on the totem pole and they’re starting to rebel. It started in the mid-’90s with the red carpet and celebrities. Who wants to pay $250,000 for a couture dress they’ve seen loaned to some actress six months earlier?”

But, it’s not only couture that is failing to sell. Fast fashion has also taken its toll on ready-to-wear sales.

“Thanks to the Internet, [ready-to-wear] is also now instantly over-exposed,” writes The Daily Beast.

“By the time it’s in stores, it looks tired,” says Silver.

“The quirkiness of luxury, the artisanal experience, has largely been lost.”

Bloggers Chiara Ferragni and Aimee Song, among others, sit front row at Tommy Hilfiger’s Fall 2015 fashion show [source: runwaynewsroom.tommy.com]

Notoriously aloof CÉLINE joins Instagram, announces plans to launch e-commerce

After 70 years of being one of the most aloof high fashion brands, Paris-based CÉLINE created an official Instagram account (@celine) and announced plans to launch an e-commerce branch on its official website, according to The Fashion Law.

[source: The Fashion Law]
“Despite being one of the most influential (and highly copied) fashion brands on the market, under the direction of Phoebe Philo, Céline has maintained a low profile in terms of its retail footprint and distribution chain,” writes The Fashion Law.

“Moreover, it has traditionally eschewed most digital channels, making it one of the new brands lacking a social media presence and a website without e-commerce capabilities–until recently, that is. The brand launched an official Instagram account this week.”

These big changes come on the heels of another big change at CÉLINE; namely, the appointment of the company’s new CEO Séverine Merle, who will take office April 1. CÉLINE is one of the final LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton-owned house to launch an online store, following other big names such as Louis Vuitton, Fendi and Sephora, who have made significant sales via e-commerce.

CÉLINE ad campaign Spring 2017 [source: celine.com]
“Even if luxury purchases are not made online, the presence of an e-commerce strategy is essential, as more than 60 percent of luxury goods purchases, online or in-store, depend on what customers see on the web,” according to The Fashion Law.

As of February 28, CÉLINE amassed 56,700 Instagram followers and posted nine images in a few short days. Images include seven up-close shots of its Spring and Summer 2017 collections, as well as an apparent shot of a horse’s leg and one of an earthy lamppost captioned “Lamppost.”

“With the desirability created by Philo beginning in 2008, Céline’s sales are up and so, to meet demand, it has slowly moved to expand its retail network,” The Fashion Law writes.

“In September 2014, the brand opened its second brick-and-mortar store in New York – in Soho – the other New York location being uptown on Madison Avenue. This second New York store brought the total number of Céline stores in the U.S. to five (other locations include Bal Harbor, Las Vegas, and Beverly Hills).”

Pierre-Yves Roussel, Chairman and CEO of LVMH Fashion Group, insists CÉLINE’s e-commerce launch is crucial for showing “the breadth and depth of the collection,” according to British Vogue.

“We want to be very product-focused. It’s always been the motto of creative director Phoebe Philo since the very beginning,” Roussel continues.

Interestingly enough, Roussel is currently “filling the breach at CÉLINE since [former CEO Marco Gobbetti’s] departure” until Merle’s arrival at the company in April.

Gobbetti left the French fashion house last July after eight years. He is now poised to become Burberry’s next CEO, according to Business of Fashion; he will take the title from Christopher Bailey, who will in turn become the London-based luxury brand’s chief creative officer and president.

“Merle joins [CÉLINE] from another of LVMH’s labels, menswear brand Berluti, where she is currently executive vice president,” according to WWD.

Merle poses alongside Louis Vuitton luggage [source: Madame Figaro]
The Paris-based businesswoman also held previous positions at Kenzo and Louis Vuitton, according to her LinkedIn profile, two other LVMH brands.

Her prior experience makes her a promising authority to oversee the company’s first e-commerce endeavor.

Chris Morton, chief executive of Lyst.com, a multi-brand online luxury retailer in which LVMH chairman Bernard Arnault’s family investment company has a small stake, told The Fashion Law the following:

“A luxury brand that avoids the Internet is effectively refusing to engage with its customers where they are increasingly spending time and money. It is not listening to what its customers want, which is dangerous in any consumer-facing industry.”

Simply put, it would be in CÉLINE’s best interest to not ignore its customers in favor of maintaining its traditionally cool, distant ways. The brand’s customers are now online, so the brand itself should be more accessible via new media platforms, as well.

American Apparel extends blowout sales before likely liquidation of all U.S. stores

Twice-bankrupt American Apparel is no stranger to bad publicity. But, 40 percent-off all online and in-store purchases–which was supposed to end January 8, according to its website–has been extended indefinitely, causing quite a buzz among shoppers. Although the Canadian company Gildan Activewear bought rights to American Apparel’s intellectual property and other assets, according to Business Insider, that does not include the 110 brick-and-mortar stores in the U.S., which will likely be forced to close if not sold.

Gildan gained a temporary license to all 110 stores, but that expires in a little over two months, according to Business Insider. Gildan never intended to resume operations at American Apparel stores, and does not plan to keep the stores beyond the 100 days designated by the temporary license.

[source: Instagram user @americanapparelusa]
Via Instagram (@americanapparelusa), American Apparel promotes its 40 percent-off sale almost daily. Many posts suggest several pieces–including the popular Disco Pants–are nearly sold out, while another insists the company’s line of basics will soon be considered “vintage” due to the company’s bankruptcy.

American Apparel’s first bankruptcy, filed in 2015, was caused by “a $300 million debt load, intense competition and excess inventory,” according the The Fashion Law. The bankruptcy also occurred on the heels of allegations of misconduct against former Chief Executive Dov Charney’s in 2014. Although Charney denied the allegations, it is still very likely the issue caused the Los Angeles-based company to suffer.

The company, which prides itself on sweatshop-free, Made-in-the-U.S.A clothing, is one of the largest manufacturers in the country. Because prices are relatively affordable at American Apparel (even without a 40 percent-off sale), its competition includes fast fashion retailers, all of which outsource operations to developing countries like Bangladesh. Staying true to its name, American Apparel, chose not change its manufacturing protocol in order to keep up with competition.

When stores eventually close, some 2,000 employees will be laid off, in addition to the 2,400 already affected by the bankruptcy, according to Business Insider. It is unclear whether the online store will remain, or if the company’s social media presence will be archived.