Designer collaborations: Is the "democratization" of fashion really an excuse to produce knock-offs?


I don't usually write about controversial topics on Frock Yeah, but here goes. I was on Tumblr the other day, and one of my favorite bloggers, Arushi Khosla posted an op-ed article from Business of Fashion (another favorite of mine) discussing the H&M and Maison Martin Margiela collaboration. Here's one quote from the article:

Real style is a matter of taste. And taste is a matter of experience. Just like one’s tastes in music, art or books, taste in clothes forms over time. It takes effort and knowledge. Buying into a style, quickly and cheaply, inevitably leads to the disposability of style. It’s like reading the Cliff’s Notes instead of the book.” - Eugene Rabkin

And here's what I wrote in reply to the article, which I suggest you read (it's short) before continuing:

"This article really bothers me. Let me start by saying that I have felt for quite some time that designer collaborations should end, or at least not be so ubiquitous, for several reasons. First, the quality is often terrible, sometimes even worse than the usual products in these stores, yet prices are much higher. Second, eBay scalpers often buy up as much product as they can, preventing other shoppers from buying what they want without having to pay way over retail price. Finally, I think the novelty has worn off; there are too many collaborations going on.

Admittedly, I was shocked when I heard about a fast fashion collab with Maison Martin Margiela, because, as the article states, he was not a fan of brand worship; it just seemed really out of placed. But I was also pleased. Pleased, because I would probably never, ever own a piece by MM ever in my life. Not because I’m cheap, not because I don’t want to save up, not because I want the instant gratification of a knockoff, but because I will probably never have the kind of disposable income that would allow me to personally justify spending hundreds or thousands on clothing or accessories. I was so incredibly happy and honestly touched, as corny as that seems, that I was able to get a few pieces from the H&M x MMM collaboration, since I have admired Margiela’s design for quite some time now… so yes, it stings when the writer says, “By all means, if you are willing to buy into this collaboration, please do, just don’t think that you are buying ‘fashion’ or a part of Margiela’s legacy — what you are buying are assembly-line knockoffs that you will discard next year.”

I’m not delusional; I know that by buying H&M x MMM, I’m not actually getting a real, authentic Margiela piece. But maybe I am naive in believing that these are “re-issues” created with the brand’s consent.

In addition, I 
have to settle for those “assembly-line knockoffs”, because that’s all I can afford, and that’s probably all I’ll ever be able to afford… not to mention the fact that I never buy clothing with the intention of throwing them away. I don’t even know anyone who does that, not even my wealthiest friends. It’s even more of a pitiful coincidence that I can only buy from collaborations; I’m a fashion blogger who extensively covers runway collections, knowing full well I’ll probably never even get to see one of those outfits in person.

What I really want to know is: why? Why is it not okay for us, the unwashed masses who don’t have that Margiela money, to access the beautiful, inspiring work of artists like Margiela? Secondly, if that isn’t the issue, and people who share the same opinion as the writer do believe in a real democratization of fashion, then how do we solve that without using collaborations? Designers won’t lower their prices, and for many of these pieces, they shouldn’t. So what do we do?

Photo credit: Fashionologie

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