Fashion

Plagiarism or Inspiration?

The four main fashion weeks, or more so “fashion month”, occur biannually as a whirlwind of clothes, shoes, bags and walking mannequins (models) in marvellous creations slinking down the runways. The top designers showcase their visions and we (as the consumers) soak it up, often subconsciously.  Essentially what the designers show in February and September, a mere matter of months later the masses will be wearing. High street stores often recreate entire outfits that are seen on the runway and sell them for a tiny fraction of the price, making them available to the general public who cannot afford the immensely priced originals. Isn’t it unethical to copy someone else’s work for profit? Should we be thankful for the reasonably priced copies? It’s all a battle between what we, as the mass market, want and what we would want if we were the designers.

Firstly, the high street stores themselves are not solely responsible for copying the ideas. Designers are often exposed to the same influences in relation to art exhibitions, films, books and events and often draw inspiration from these. For this reason, coincidentally, designers may produce collections which have similar elements in them as others. Trend forecasting agencies such as WGSN are hired by the companies to help them to decide what is in and what is out for the upcoming season. For example, WGSN’s clients include River Island and Primark. What you see on the runway is then filtered into River Island and Primark at a lesser price hence why so many high street shops all appear to carry the same clothes, sometimes even in the exact same fabrics. Magazines and forecasting agencies then pick up on these and project them onto the public. The high street stores are told what to produce and the public is told what to buy. Just like that, a trend is formed. To further understand this, I fully advise you to watch the Devil Wears Prada. You may be thinking, “it’s just a film????” but really, there are so many snippets of truth in it. Take Miranda Priestly’s rant about how the two belts (photographed further down) are very much different, and how the designers’ collections made that colour very important, so much so that it had filtered all the way down into the bargain section of the department stores so that her dowdy assistant, Andy, could wear it. I have linked the video on youtube, it is hilarious and very apt (but an awful quality video, I do apologise).

This dress probably costs more than a year's college tution
This dress probably costs more than a year’s college tution

However, just because the high street stores are buying into a trend does not mean that they can make blatant copies of items. In France, you can face up to three years of jail or a maximum fine of £250000 for buying counterfeit goods; for buying an “inspired” item none of these charges occur. Different copyright laws exist for fashion than what exists in literature, art and music, hence making the lines as to what is copying and what is actually allowed a little hazy. Regardless, it is different buying a counterfeit item to an “inspired” item. At least with the latter, it is not falsely claiming to be a designer item unlike the counterfeit offenders. The troublesome part occurs when trying to decide when “inspired” is too close to borderline plagiarism. Christian Louboutin and his infamous red soled shoes are often subject to copies with numerous lawsuits against the culprits. A court case occurred against high street store Zara which Louboutin lost, even with the little copyright protection he was entitled to on his designs. With many high street stores such as H&M, Zara and Forever 21 becoming almost synonymous with designer “inspired” copies that are a little too similar to the originals, you are often left wondering how they manage to get away with it? If somebody copied a book, a poem, a song melody, a movie script would they get away with it? Highly unlikely. If you copy a clothing item, even down to the smallest detail, you can somehow escape unscathed. How? Simply because clothing isn’t entitled to the same protection as other art forms so it is relatively easy to win a case. It all comes down to the fact that fashion is thought of as a lesser art form than the rest: many people don’t even think of it as that. Fashion is the poor-mans art, some may think. Unworthy of the same rights and protections as classical art forms like painting and sculptures but often with a price tag to match. Fashion is just as collectable, and often just as valuable, as other creative outlets yet gets very little respect. Fashion is still thought of as frivolous, unimportant: mere fluff. Getting back to the law part, sometimes cases are even settled outside of court. A simple pay off and agreement seems sufficient to allow the high street chains to keep mass producing the copies. Is this wrong?

On the other hand, if it were not for these high street stores where would we shop? Only a small margin of people can afford to buy designer goods due to the excessive prices and the amount of small family run stores is ever decreasing. At least with our trusty high street items, we can afford to get a little mucky, the items are replaceable. Nobody wants to be in their “Sunday best” seven days a week. With the lower priced items of the high street, you know better than to expect something you paid a small price for to last you a lifetime. You do know, however, that it will last you the amount of time you want it for. With the ever changing cycle of fashion, what is the point in spending staggering amounts of money on clothing that in a year’s time you may not still like? Even the magazines advise this – in November 2014 Elle, they advise you to turn to the high street for trend pieces and only invest in designer goods if you see it becoming a classic or a wardrobe staple. By allowing high street imitations of the designer goods, it makes fashion accessible for a wider audience. Actually, I have started making my “Shopping Find” posts as a result of this. I am enjoying finding cheaper, designer inspired options out there on the high street, although some of what I have found really has been a little bit too similar.

Gemma Ward for Prada FW04. (Just wanted to showcase this beautiful image really).
Gemma Ward for Prada FW04. (Just wanted to showcase this beautiful image really).

In spite of this, designer goods are usually so expensive for a reason. You are paying for quality that cannot be rivalled by the high street stores. The price is often a reflection of the materials used to make them. Bags cost a small fortune due to what is used to create them; the ponyskin, the calfskin, the snakeskin. Designers will rarely use faux leather and if they do prices will be lowered dramatically to echo this (unless you are Stella McCartney…). Luxurious fur coats can cost you more than a brand new car, but increasingly even dresses can cost multiple thousands. The vast prices are also due to the fair wages and working conditions in which the actual makers of the clothes are given. Unlike in fast fashion where sweatshops are commonplace, the luxury designers take pride in their humane treatment of workers, something that is not afforded to fast fashion. The designers also do research in abundance when creating their collections and the money to cover that needs to come from somewhere. However, a huge mark-up does exist. This is to further the illusion of luxury. As the rich are getting richer, designers are able to charge much more for their products as their target market can afford to pay the obscene prices.

Money may not be the only object in the way of buying the designer goods. Since the designers are charging such high prices, logically, they must use the highest quality materials. They cannot charge such steep rates without that. But what if using the highest quality means using real fur, real leather, and real animal products? Many people have objections to this due to what they perceive to be the cruelty to animals. Many fashion shows are even targeted by groups such as PETA who have made famous the slogan “I’d rather go naked than wear fur” which has also been endorsed by many celebrities. Due to this, high street stores may be a better option as they are more likely to stock the faux versions for the same look as what is offered by the real thing but without the moral objections.

There was a wonderful scene in the Devil Wears Prada (photographed) where Meryl Streep's character wonderfully explains how fashion filters down through the designers and into the bargain basements of department stores. Basically, it explains the fashion industry in a nutshell.
There was a wonderful scene in the Devil Wears Prada (photographed) where Meryl Streep’s character wonderfully explains how fashion filters down through the designers and into the bargain basements of department stores. Basically, it explains the fashion industry in a nutshell.

Now, we could all lie and pretend that we are completely against the imitation designs that we see all across our beloved high street stores, that would be a falsity so what’s the point? As consumers we want value for our money and also products which we actually like. While it may be nice to be able to walk into a Prada boutique and buy a whole wardrobe worth of clothes, it is unlikely that the majority of us are ever in a financial situation where that’s viable. Most people are aware that counterfeit goods are wrong yet people still buy into them frequently so it’s improbable that people will ever object to the high street imitations of the designer goods. Some people simply don’t care and others are just unaware. Until copyright laws are changed universally in the favour of designers, the dupes will still crop up. As consumers we should revel in this; out of appreciation to the art form we should sympathise.

Fashion Flashback: Anthony Vaccarello FW11

Italian-Belgian designer Anthony Vaccarello has come a long way in a short time. After opening his brand in 2009 and gaining international attention, Vaccarello designed capsule collections for Versus Versace before being appointed the Creative Director of Saint Laurent Paris in 2016. Considering that his start in fashion was in 2007 when he began working at Fendi under Karl Lagerfeld, Vaccarello’s trajectory from student to master, leading one of the world’s top esteemed fashion houses, was very sharp and accelerated. The FW11 collection is Vaccarello’s third, and continued to solidify his aesthetic which can be characterized in three words: black, slinky, and sexy.

It’s amazing to see his evolution into the Creative Director of Saint Laurent, where his aesthetic is unwavering. Yes, there may be a little more sparkle and color now, but he is still definitely designing for the same woman. The eponymous line has been put on hold since the Fall 2016 season, when rumors of his impending appointment at Saint Laurent were still swirling. If you take a look back at that collection, it is obvious that his ideas aligned directly with where the Saint Laurent brand was heading. So far, he has proven himself to be a fantastic match.

See the full collection here.

 

Thoughts on a Popular Social Media Brand

The brand I.Am.Gia The Label first entered my stream of consciousness towards the end of last summer when they did a huge rollout of product to various influencers and models who all have followings on social media. Quickly, it became impossible to ignore the brand. The beige teddy bear coat? Check. The branded tracksuits? Check. The oversized, worker style pants with all the pockets? Check. If Bella Hadid wore it, it was probably from this brand. Soon afterwards, I found myself browsing on their website. Sure, the stuff was cute, but it was pricey. Most items were priced upward of $150, yet I had watched reviews online from YouTubers who had been sent things for free who said the quality was not great but the items were still cute. I became skeptical. Yes, the pieces were so pretty and I wanted to buy almost the entire site (minus the hugely baggy pants because I do not like that look at all) but could I justify spending that much money on something where the quality is subpar?

I first made a note about this on my iPhone back in October where I said the brand made me feel stupid for wanting to buy anything from there when girls with 10,000 followers were getting it all for free. Why should I have to spend my money on something that other people are getting for nothing? I think it was a case of influencer marketing gone wrong. When you send out too much free product, it makes real customers feel like they have been used. It definitely put me off from purchasing anything. Revolve is facing a similar issue with the backlash to the #revolvearoundtheworld scheme, where influencers get sent on wildly extravagant trips for free, kitted out entirely in Revolve apparel whilst the company lays off workers who they “can’t afford” to pay. I don’t know how the company works out their marketing budget / the entire financial situation of the company, but from a PR perspective it doesn’t look great. Furthermore, they have also received criticism for lack of diversity.

Lack of diversity isn’t the issue faced by I.Am.Gia, instead it is claims of copying as highlighted by industry watchdog Diet Prada. At first, I wasn’t sure what the backstory was to the brand as it seemed to pop up out of nowhere last summer, but after doing some digging around online I found out the following: I.Am.Gia is an Australian brand started by Alana Pallister and her sister Stevie Cox, the duo behind Tigermist (interestingly enough, both sisters made their IG accounts private after the Diet Prada exposé). The inspiration for the line came from Gia Carangi, hence the name, and the line began production in May 2017. The first big break came when Elizabeth Sulcer, stylist to Bella Hadid and Romee Strijd (amongst many others) requested pieces for Bella to wear to Paris Fashion Week. As they say, the rest is history.

Australian fashion has been having a bit of a “moment” in recent years, due to the rise of social media making the other side of the world seem just a little bit closer. The Aussie look, basically dressing for summer and very casually year round, migrated to the US through the rise of influencers who never seem to dress weather appropriate (at least for their audience) as they are always jetting off on trips to warm locales. Big name stylists like Christine Centenera work with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian regularly, plus Zimmerman and Dion Lee are permanent fixtures in stores stateside.

Celeb exposure can be game-changing for small brands, but the downside (given your clothes land on the right girls) is that they make you extremely vulnerable to knockoffs.  A favorite of Kendall and Bella, @daisydaisy.tv is another indie label whose designs/aesthetic have been copied by the shameless sisters behind @tigermist and @i.am.gia.thelabel .  Made locally in Sydney, every Daisy collection is designed, styled, and shot by a wife/husband duo themselves.  And…as if it wasn't enough to downgrade their creations into a cheap, pervasive import business, they've also been known to poach their loyal instagram following by seeding those very knockoffs. Support independent brands when you can, Dieters! #daisydaisytv #daisydaisy #heavenlybodies #australia #dpaustralia #instathot #white #lace #copycat #knockoff #iamgia #tigermist #bellahadid #kendalljenner #nicolapeltz #petracollins #selenagomez #madeinsydney #ocexclusive #openingceremony #australiandesigner #sydney #husbandandwife #copycat #knockoff #dietprada

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Dialling back to the copying accusations, Diet Prada alleges that I.Am.Gia copied another Aussie label DaisyDaisy. Judging by the side by side images, plus the fact that the Gia team made their accounts private, I’d say that the claims are indeed true. As you can see from the above images, I.Am.Gia copied the entire photoshoots even and tried to poach models (as demonstrated by the DM). I’d love to know who the model was in that conversation. The DaisyDaisy brand is made locally in Sydney by a husband and wife duo and retails for a slightly higher price point than IAG. The quality is reportedly a lot higher, reflecting the price point, and the designs are a little more original. Some people argued that the DaisyDaisy desigs were Victorian-inspired and that they can’t cry copying because their own designs aren’t entirely original, but the difference between what they have done and what IAG does is that one brand takes inspiration whereas the other one makes imitations. Can you tell the difference?

I will be interested to see where things go in the future. I.Am.Gia undoubtedly receives a lot more press coverage than DaisyDaisy, which, up until this point, has been glowing. They’ve received shoutouts on Vogue and other major channels, mainly due to the sheer number of influencers and celebrity models who have been spotted in their clothing. Interestingly enough, a lot of fashion people follow Diet Prada and likely will have seen this post. If everyone is so against copying, I wonder if they will stay true to their values and leave this brand behind (until they come up with something more original) or will they continue to wear things that they are being sent for free / potentially compensated to wear? Only time will tell.

Capsule Wardrobes and Bundles

The concept of the capsule wardrobe is nothing new. For years women have been told to simplify their lives and build a closet around a few staple pieces. However, the concept is hard to buy into simply because it seems boring. Imagine only owning a few pieces and wearing a variation of the same outfit every day?

Christine Centenera and Josh Goot, the Australian stylist/designer duo and couple who are most known for their association with Kanye West, have come up with a new take on the concept. They have launched a clothing line called Wardrobe.NYC, a direct-to-consumer e-commerce site which sells four or eight piece capsule collections for both men and women.

The concept is great. Basically, you choose between the four piece option which includes a blazer, shirt, t-shirt, and skirt (for women’s) or the eight piece option which includes the aforementioned pieces plus a coat, a knit, a blouse, and a pair of leggings. The items are cute, all work perfectly together, but could also be worn separately and mixed with other items in your wardrobe. The four piece retails for $1500 whereas the eight piece retails for $3000. The men’s versions retail for the same price. Interestingly enough, they claim that there is no retail markup on the products meaning they are selling them at wholesale cost. None of the items can be purchased individually, meaning you have to buy the entire bundle.

Another instance where the bundle model was in place was for the newest drop of Kanye West’s Yeezy shoe. It was touted as a way to beat the resale market, forcing people to buy an entire tracksuit instead of just the sneakers. The price point was around $760, with the sneakers themselves only having a $200 value. The first resellers to buy the bundle and list the sneakers online didn’t know how to price them. Initially they priced too high and the sneakers didn’t move, unlike in every other previous Yeezy drop where they have sold out instantly and then sell online on the resale market straight afterwards.

It is telling that Wardrobe.NYC and Yeezy chose to follow a similar model as Christine Centenera is long-rumored to be the woman behind Kim Kardashian’s minimalist makeover. She is a long-time collaborator of Kanye West, often serving as a consultant for his Yeezy shows. It makes me wonder if the two of them discuss the business strategy too and came up with this idea together. Kanye is supposed to work with a lot of Australians on his brand, according to an article from The Sydney Morning Herald. I hope to hear a lot more about this brand and wish it all the success in the world because I think it’s a really fun concept and if you have the money to spend on luxe staples, why not get it all in one place?

Further reading

Kanye West May Have Finally Outsmarted the Resale Market – GQ

Christine Centenera and Josh Goot Get Into the Direct-to-consumer Retail Game With Wardrobe.NYC – Fashionista

Aussies: the Secret to Kanye West’s Success – The Sydney Morning Herald

Wardrobe.NYC Capsule Collections

The Précis: 13th January 2018

New year, new title! As I mentioned in last Saturday’s post, my blog is in a slightly transitional phase and the renaming of the weekly words series is just one of the many changes that I am making: enter, the précis. Précis, meaning summary or synopsis, is the new name of my weekly series as I figured it was really a roundup of some of the newsworthy stories of the week and précis sounds a little more elegant. I hope you enjoy the new name.

Victoria’s Secret Sales Declined Every Single Month Last Year – Fashionista.com


In an unsurprising announcement, L Brands, the parent company of Victoria’s Secret reported declining sales of 5% to 14% each month compared to 2016. It may seem that Victoria’s Secret is the go-to stop for lingerie but much of their hype comes from their annual fashion show, which was largely considered disastrous last year, and from their models’, angels’, own social media followings. The online attention doesn’t always translate into sales and the newly released figures proves this. VS changed their product offerings a couple of years ago, cutting the hugely popular swimwear division and focusing on activewear instead. The move away from swim was met with much disappointment from consumers and VS’ sales have been declining since.

Personally, I can’t imagine things getting any better for Victoria’s Secret unless they vastly change their products. Their brand of sexy is just not cool anymore. As a company that is trying to capture the wallets of young girls (as young as tweens, with the PINK division), they are out of touch with what young girls want. Young people do not wear lingerie and padded bras anymore; they wear bralets, which VS does sell but at higher prices than competitors in that area. The women of the age who would be interested in buying the kind of underwear sold by Victoria’s Secret is often sized out of the store due to the miniscule size range normally available in stores – if you have very small or very large boobs, try somewhere else – plus the fact that the underwear only goes up to size XL and definitely runs small (according to their size chart an XL is a US 16, average women’s size is 16-18 across the country). It will be interesting to monitor VS’ performance over the course of 2018 to see if they make any noticeable changes to their branding or how they market their products as I also feel like this could change their fate long term.

The Weeknd Cuts Ties With H&M Over ‘Deeply Offensive’ Photo – Rolling Stone

from The Weeknd’s official Twitter account

If you didn’t already hear about it, H&M posted a product on their site that received hefty (and deserved) criticism online. The product in question was a kids hoodie with “coolest monkey in the jungle” printed on it. The hoodie in question was worn by a black child, prompting outcries of racism. I struggle to understand how this product got through so many stages of development without anybody flagging it as a potential issue. It takes many people to make a product live on a website and I can’t believe that nobody raised this as an issue. The Weeknd has a clothing collaboration with the fast-fashion retailer but after seeing the news online, he announced that he would not be working with the store any longer. G-Eazy, who has a similar deal, said the same thing. Pressure has been building for Nicki Minaj to make a similar statement, but as of now she has remained quiet.

I was glad to see people quickly condemning H&M over this product and it was nice to see celebrities putting their money where their mouth is and actually pull out of partnerships that no longer align with their values. It means forfeiting a paycheck for them, but in the long run what even is that to people who are making multi-millions annually? People have called for a boycott of the Swedish retailer but that will likely not happen. People tend to be all talk and no action when it comes to things like that. H&M released a statement earlier this week apologizing for their actions. I just really don’t understand how things like this continue to happen: it’s 2018.

Golden Globes 2018

The Golden Globes red carpet experienced a blackout this year, and in the best way possible. Stars joined together in solidarity for women who have been sexually assaulted, a topic that has been in the news almost daily since last fall when the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke. Many have shushed the celebrities, saying that wearing black is really the least they can do, but if you’re going to minimize every action that a person takes then how are you contributing positively to the conversation? The point of everyone wearing black was to continue the conversation on sexual assault and inequality and that was definitely achieved.

From a sartorial standpoint, I love black. It is the most chic color and really looks good on everybody. As a New York resident (but not yet a New Yorker, I hear there’s a date requirement on that…), black is practically my daily uniform and I never tire of the color. I often look at red carpet looks and say “oh, it would be nicer in black”. The Golden Globes then provided me with my dream red carpet, where everyone was dressed exactly as I’d desire. I’m just going to ignore the two actresses who chose not to wear black because their reasons for doing so can be roughly conflated with wanting attention all in the name of “female empowerment”. Instead, let me focus on the positives and all of the amazingly dressed stars. What a way to kick off award season!

Catherine Zeta Jones in Zuhair Murad
Tracee Ellis Ross in Marc Jacobs (side note: I want to see her in one of his colorful turbans at some point too)
Issa Rae in Prabal Gurung
Zoe Kravitz in Saint Laurent
Mariah Carey in Dolce & Gabbana
Angelina Jolie in Versace
Geena Davis in Monique Lhuillier

Best Looks of 2017

I don’t think 2017 has been a very “look”-filled year. I have been compiling this post for the duration of the year and upon looking back, only a few of the looks that I initially selected stood out to me. In terms of the more recent ones, I love Kim Kardashian’s Tom Ford suit. I wish she wore things like this more often. The oversized style suits her well and I love a woman in a suit. I also loved the little matching two piece worn by Elsa Hosk at the VSFS After Party. A lot of the girls in attendance wore cute outfits there actually. I look forward to seeing how the red carpet evolves in 2018. There are already talks of all of the female actors wearing black to the Golden Globes in a form of protest so I am curious as to whether or not that happens. What was your favorite look in 2017?

Kendall Jenner in Paule Ka – January 2017
Tracee Ellis Ross in Zuhair Murad – January 2017
Jennifer Lopez in Reem Acra – January 2017
Kim Kardashian in Rick Owens – March 2017
Grace Elizabeth in Roberto Cavalli – April 2017
Bella Hadid in Alexander Wang – May 2017
Donald Glover in Gucci – May 2017
Emily Ratajkowski – August 2017
Selena Gomez in Valentino – September 2017
Kendall Jenner in Dolce & Gabbana – September 2017
Leslie Jones in Christian Siriano – September 2017
Jessica Biel in Ralph & Russo – September 2017
Giovanna Battaglia at Paris Fashion Week – October 2017
Sofia Richie in Giorgio Armani at a Bulgari event – October 2017
Beyoncé in Walter Mendez at a Tidal event – October 2017
Selena Gomez in Jacquemus at the Instyle Awards – October 2017
Elsa Hosk in Fannie Schiavoni at the VSFS afterparty – November 2017
Gal Gadot in Givenchy – November 2017
Kim Kardashian in Tom Ford – November 2017
Margot Robbie in Versace – December 2017

Fashion Flashback: Versace FW91

Versace is the buzzy brand of the moment. Donatella Versace’s SS18 show was a tribute to her brother Gianni, marking the 20th anniversary of his 1997 death. At the end of the show, which was filled with archival prints and homages to his most popular pieces, a group of the original supermodels took to the runway and did one turn down the catwalk in head-to-toe sparkling gowns. They marched to George Michael’s Freedom, bringing the audience back to the Fall 1991 show when the moment originally happened. Most of us on social media weren’t even alive when the original show occurred, but any fashion fanatic knows it was a moment for life. The show that I am featuring today is the original, and here are the original looks with, you guessed it, the original supermodels. Divine!

This collection is simply iconic. There’s no other word to describe it. I challenge you to spot the pieces which Donatella reimagined for the new season in this show. See the full collection here.

Also, I recommend reading this article about how 2017 was the year of Donatella Versace from the beginning of December. As a bonus, there are a few great photos of the early 90s supermodels thrown in.

Weekly Words: 30th December 2017

The week between Christmas and New Year is always a slow one, like drifting down a lazy river. It is a time to relax, unwind, and reflect on the past year. I have spent a lot of time doing that, and also thinking about what I want in the year ahead. Every year people make resolutions to lose weight, work out, and be entirely different people than they currently are. I don’t think that’s a good approach. Instead make manageable and achievable goals that you won’t beat yourself up over if you don’t achieve. I’m making more of a bucket list of things I want to do, places I want to visit, and things I want to buy – I might do a post on this at some point.

As a result of the week-long holiday taken by nearly everybody in fashion, the news cycle has been rather slow so I’m adding something from last week which I forgot to mention: the departure of Phoebe Philo from Céline. I’m hoping that the designers who have all left houses (such as Philo and, my favorite, Riccardo Tisci) find a new brand to call home in 2018.

Phoebe Philo Is Exiting Céline” – Fashionista

In a surprising twist, Phoebe Philo has stepped down from her position at Céline. Rumors of her impending departure began swirling back in 2015 when Vanessa Friedman of The New York Times mentioned them in an article about Alber Elbaz being fired from Lanvin. However, in fashion’s game of musical chairs it began to appear that Philo was staying put. Alas, on December 22nd it was confirmed that she was leaving the brand after the Fall 2018 show in March. Philo is best known for her minimalist style which is oft-copied by other luxury brands and fast-fashion stores alike. Her contribution to fashion is huge and the loss surrounding her departure will definitely be felt in the coming seasons.

Reselling Gifts

Famous people get free shit. It has been that way for a long time. Nowadays, it has evolved from merely gifting (e.g. swag bags at events) to paying them to promote the product. The notion of fame has expanded too. Anyone with internet access can be famous now, which means that regular people with followers online are being paid large sums of money to talk about things. It seems that we all have a price and, in fact, are all just walking billboards. People are now more aware of this than before and take what they see and read online with a pinch of salt, so perhaps paid promotions will be less effective for brands than before (although I did read that FashionNova was one of the top Google searches of the year and they are known for paying influencers and celebrities to promote the brand).

Obsessed with my @fashionnova dress 💎 Get it at FashionNova.com ✨ #ad @fashionnova

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The lesser discussed side of things is what happens to pieces that people are gifted. As an influencer, you receive PR packages from brands on a daily basis. I used to watch a Beauty YouTuber who would receive an entire collection from a brand and only actually like say 2 out of 30 shades of lipstick sent. The rest of the collection would either be hoarded or donated to women’s shelters. With beauty products, the resale market is small. Only the most collectible items can be sold, and only if they are unopened for sanitary reasons. If a YouTuber opens a product to swatch it, the value is gone. Fashion, on the other hand, is a booming resale market and shows no sign of slowing down.

Influencers are donated pieces, or buy them at a super steep discount (80-90% off), and sell them after they’ve worn them once or twice. After all, once they’ve posted it on their Instagram they have to get rid of it (or not rewear it publicly…). The same thing happens at fashion magazines: editors are gifted pieces for promotional consideration, whether they choose to write about them or not is up to them, and they can do whatever they want with the pieces afterwards. The sheer volume of stuff is why people sell it on and make some money in the process. I have sold items on Depop in the past. The app tends to focus on items with a lower price point, mainly vintage pieces that you could find in a thrift store (often what Depop sellers do, hauling items from Goodwill and comparable stores and selling them for a small profit) or gently worn fast-fashion pieces. You don’t tend to see too many brands on there. The sites that are used for selling designer pieces are TheRealReal, Tradesy, Vestiaire Collective, and sometimes eBay.

The ethics of selling things that you didn’t actually pay for are a little bit murky. On one hand, it is how many young editors in fashion sustain their lifestyles. On the other, you are profiting 100% off of things you did not purchase and are likely not declaring that income on your tax forms so it is pretty shady. Fashion editors tend to be on a very low salary yet seem to all be wearing designer pieces and living in New York City. Something’s gotta give.

Racked did a wonderful project, called The Swag Project, where they kept all of the pieces that the editors were given over a 6 month period and totaled its value, plus added a few articles digging deeper into the ethics behind it all. In the 6 months, the site received close to $100k worth of items for free yet only wrote about 3% of the products sent to them. The best article to come out of this project is an article entitled “The Secret Swag Resale Economy” which delves into the rife reselling that goes on at magazines. For example, a Conde Nast staffer initially felt guilty after selling a laser hair removal package that she was gifted and keeping the proceeds then quickly realized that that is just how things operate there. Much of the fashion industry runs on a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, in all facets of the industry. I follow a YouTuber who was involved in a mini-scandal when a follower on Depop called her out for reselling an item gifted to her that was an exclusive piece not originally for sale. This happens all the time so it was interesting to see her response which was, of course, very defensive. Also interesting was the fact that fashion editors do this all the time and get no response. Perhaps it is just because it is less known or less public.

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With the rise of social media, fashion editors have fast become celebrities with followings in their own right. It used to be that only the top tier of magazine editors were known, but now even a fashion assistant at a publication can garner a following in the tens of thousands. Of course, once you hit around 5000 followers on Instagram, the paid promotions come-a-knocking. The FTC has cracked down on paid promotions online though, releasing guidelines that say you must clearly state at the beginning of the caption that it is an ad. They have also been investigating people and issuing fines for influencers and celebrities who do not abide by the guidelines. Paid promotions in the fashion industry, however, are not as clear as #ad. Editors get free clothes, discounts, attend parties, get sent on trips, and have dinners. They often attend the same events as influencers who are vocal about their payment / partnership, but don’t post about them in the same way: Fashionista did a good post about the “tricky ethical territory” that editors verge into as a result of this. The discussion on this topic is promising because it means that consumer awareness is high. I don’t have a problem with people attending the events or reselling their free stuff, as long as people know that it is happening. Instagram tends to portray a false reality and people are often fooled into seeing the world in a way that simply does not exist. I would like to see that change and people be a lot more transparent about things.

Recommended reading:

The Secret Swag Resale Economy” – Racked

Arguably the most interesting article in The Swag Project, this article delves deep into the practice of gifting at magazines and the ethical guidelines in which staff are told to follow.

“We Received $95,000 Worth of Free Stuff in 6 Months” – Racked

The first article in The Swag Project with a lot of information on what was received and what happened to it all. Amazing infographics!

“As Editors Transition to Influencers, They Enter Tricky Ethical Territory” – Fashionista

Further delves into the discussion started by Racked and mentions some key items that were suspected to be gifted to editors and influencers alike.