It’s no question that the alternative is the mainstream these days. More than likely, if you think you’re shitting in a different toilet, you’re not.  Next time you take a trip to Urban Outfitters or H&M, make mental note of what people are wearing around you on your way there. Now, walk into the store and see how many of the items you saw on other people, are actually on the racks. Being a hipster is cool now. Take Ray-Ban Wayfarers for instance. Once a retro choice for the ultra trendy and style conscience, you can now find cheap, colorful, rip-off renditions of the iconic shades on nearly every face you see when out and about. After the hipster elite rocked their throwback Wayfarers and once a celebrity or two got photographed with them on, the style trickled down amongst the ranks. It’s a cycle. A certain fashion is debuted by the ultra-trendy, a celeb or two catch on and create free advertisement, companies like Forever 21, and H&M take notice and mock the style, the ultra-trendy and celebs are disgusted and move on. And then you restart the cycle.

While we are on the subject of Forever 21 and H&M and trendy stores of that sort, let’s talk about how they make their living. As a matter of fact, let’s focus on F21 since it seems to be the most popular among its competitors. Basically, F21 is a low price surplus store for rip-offs of high fashion’s most accessible trends. They’ve had a litany of lawsuits against them for copyright infringement for their blatant design theft with the most notable coming from Diane von Fürstenberg and Gwen Stefani. However, throughout it all, in the past couple of years, F21’s success has been remarkable especially considering the company’s humble roots. The company started as “Fashion 21” in a 900 sq. ft. facility on the North East side of LA. The Korean-American duo that started the store in 1984, Do-Won Chang and Jin Sook, mostly sold inexpensive, Korean based fashion. Sales in 1984 topped at $700,000. Now, F21 pulls in damn near 1 billion dollars in revenue a year. The reason for the growth is obvious. The clothing is cheap, not only for the buyer but for F21 themselves. Fast-fashion isn’t expensive to make so even with the low prices in the store, profit is still enormous. But it seems that F21 and it’s main competitors, Urban Outfitters, Charlotte Russe, H&M, Wet Seal, American Eagle, Hollister, and American Apparel are making their money largely off the efforts of others. The other day, I was in H&M with some friends and a pair of jeans caught my eye. They looked exactly like a pair of Thaye 0088Z Diesel jeans that I saw at the Diesel store on Wisconsin Ave. Now, the H&M denim was about $50 bucks give our take if I can remember correctly and the Diesel Thayes are about $160. The difference you ask? Quality, authenticity, and exclusivity. There is no doubt that Diesel’s excellent, soft Italian denim and hip-hugging, gravitating look far out matches the cheap H&M knock off. More over, let’s get into some of F21’s infamous offenses.

Anna Sui vs. Forever 21

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Anna Sui Spring 2007 RTW vs. Forever 21 Maven Top

 

Kate Moss vs. Forever 21

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Diane von Fürstenberg vs. Forever 21

 

DVF Aubrey Dress vs Forever 21 Pinecone Dress

DVF Aubrey Dress vs Forever 21 Pinecone Dress

DVF Cerisier Dress vs Forever 21 Silk Sabrina Dress

DVF Cerisier Dress vs Forever 21 Silk Sabrina Dress

 

 

Marc Jacobs vs. Forever 21

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Travota vs. Forever 21

 

 

 

Forever 21 shirts are top row, and Trovata shirts are bottom row

Forever 21 shirts are top row, and Trovata shirts are bottom row

 

 

 

 

 

So, there are a few examples, in picture form, of the type of offenses stores like Forever 21 make on the daily basis. Now, these were easy to spot because these are major designers but imagine the little, independent designers that are getting their designs ripped off on a daily basis. On one hand, it can seem a bit ridiculous that companies like Forever 21 and H&M are letting 5th Ave. heavy hitters and little guys do all the work, while they sell cheap knock offs of the ultra chic to the masses. None of these fast fashion chains have designers for shoes, apparel, and accessories and thus have no need to pay salary for a team of designers.  Doesn’t that seem a little cheap and half-hearted to you?

On the other hand, boutique and high fashion is really fucking expensive. I usually think that the price is justified in some sort of way, but it’s still expensive nonetheless. So, stores like Forever 21 and H&M are a haven for pre-teens, college students, and twenty somethings that don’t have the budget to blow $595 on a DVF LBD (little black dress). Actually, I would say that roughly 65% of F21’s buying population has no idea that the shirt or dress their picking up may have been in a Downtown boutique showroom. They probably have no idea that they’re buying a legal knockoff and nor do they care. They just care that they look good and for a good price. The politics are irrelevant to them.

There is more to this issue than black and white, but it’s much easier to look at it that way. You’re either on the “Knock off is a knock off, and I can’t stand it” tangent or you’re thinking “It’s sold in a legal store so I could care less where the design came from, I just want to look good for a good price” tip. I’d love to hear some responses to this so light up the comments section! What do you girls and guys think?