In Defence Of Designer Knock-Offs

Why spend thousands of pounds on a designer dress when you can nip down to the high street and get a similar look for the cost of a chicken dinner?


by Zing Tsjeng |
Published on

In my super-brief phase as a clueless fashion intern, I didn’t usually get many compliments from stylists and editors. But I treasured the few that I did receive. ‘Nice dress – Missoni, right?’ ’Your scarf is very Miu Miu’ - that kind of thing. Obviously, being an intern, I could barely afford a Miu Miu keychain, let alone dream of the accessories department. Everything I wore was a high street knock-off of a way more luxurious brand. If fashion was a game and you lost points for cheating, I was definitely in the minus figures. But why spend thousands of pounds on a designer dress when you can nip down to the high street and get a similar look for the cost of a chicken dinner?

Lately, designers are fighting back. Mary Katrantzou, for one, has totally changed her style to tackle the problem. After seeing her hyper-coloured digital prints copied everywhere, she has decided to drop the aesthetic entirely and go with hand-embroidered jacquards and lace. ‘It’s impossible [for mass-market chains] to come close to the quality and the craftsmanship,’ she told the Wall Street Journal. ‘I think it’s also the way to build a luxury brand.’


Emma, 25, remembers purchasing a Katrantzou-inspired frock from a high street store that shall remain nameless. It was a colour-for-colour replica of the Spring 2012 fish tank dress worn by Lucy Liu on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon – but the quality was not quite up to Katrantzou standards. ‘I regretted buying it because it looked so cheap and ridiculous,’ Emma says. ‘I’ve never really liked wearing things that are obviously a rip-off of a more expensive item. It seems desperate to me.’

‘I think on one level (copying) is bad, especially if it’s a print,’ Emma adds. ‘But on the other hand I’d never have bought the Katrantzou dress anyway, so she’s not missing out on my money.’

‘I love looking at pics from the catwalk and pics of what celebs are wearing, but I know with my salary I’m never going to be able to afford it,’ says Natasha, 26. ‘So something similar from Zara, Asos, H&M, even Primark is obviously great because I can get the same look but at a fraction of the price.’

Her most recent knock-off purchase? A pink £20 teddy coat from Primark in January. It resembles slouchy numbers from Carven and Rochas (minus the thousand-pound price tag). ‘It’s pretty elitist to get annoyed about high street rip-offs,’ Natasha concludes. ‘It’s about making fashion more accessible.’


I’m sure designers must get annoyed over imitations, but I’d be loathe to argue that any designer is weeping poverty-stricken tears into his pillow over fakes – he’s too busy flying around on his private jet with a harem of nubile male models. If you’re a cash-strapped millennial into fashion, there’s no better place to head than the high street.

And it’s not that simple as once a knock-off queen, always a knock-off queen. Sometimes, opting for a more affordable alternative is a stepping stone to buying the real item. When I got my first big pay cheque (OK, ‘big’ relative to the ‘big fat zero’ I’d been earning as an intern), I went out and bought an actual Sophie Hulme bag instead of the rip-off I’d been looking at online. That Miu Miu lookalike scarf, though? Still wear it. #sorrynotsorry

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This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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