In line with the notion that fashion is far more about the brands than the individual garments and accessories, themselves, these days, it makes a lot of sense that fast fashion retailers have taken to copying more than just runway looks and are bringing in larger brand elements, as well. Consider Spanish fast fashion brand, Zara. In addition to consistent attempts to recreate Céline garments for a tiny fraction of the price, it is hardly a coincidence that an array of its ad campaigns mirror the look and feel of Céline campaigns, right down to the models.
Here are a few examples: For F/W 2011, Céline’s ad campaign consisted of models mixed with foliage, such as palm leaves and oversized aloe plants. Skip forward to S/S 2014, which saw Zara doing something very similar, albeit in black and white. Again, for F/W 2015, Zara’s campaign seemed to mirror another Céline aesthetic – particularly with its minimalist, dual-image set up, with one image focused on the model and her garment and the other more specifically on a bag.
There is also the use of the same or at the very least, similar-looking models. On the heels of Céline casting new face Karly Loyce for its F/W 2015 ad campaign (and then its S/S 2016 campaign), Zara welcomed Loyce to its roster of models. That’s just one example. Fellow Spanish fast fashion brand, Mango, has also made use of this tactic, tapping Céline girl Mathilde Brok Brandi for a recent Céline-inspired campaign, and Chloe campaign model Antonina Petkovic-lookalike, Steffy Argelich, for one of its Chloe-esque lookbooks.
As evidenced when comparing Zara’s ad campaigns with the high fashion ones it is emulating, it is worth noting that the similarities are not line-for-line, and even if they were, they would not be protectable by law, as the law, at least in the U.S., does not provide protection for ideas (such as the idea of staging models among plants in an ad campaign) or general aesthetics. No, these are not outrageously literal similarities, nor are they illegal. However, they are similarities, nonetheless, and they are utilized – by Zara or Mango or Forever 21 or [insert fast fashion brand name here] – for a very specific purpose: To bolster the already significant similarities between the garments and accessories it offers to those of Céline (or whatever brand it is channeling at any given time).
More specifically, though, fast fashion brands insert these arguably small similarities for the purpose of getting consumers to make a connection between Céline and Zara, aside from just its cheap knockoffs. Or between Chloe’s campaigns and Mango’s S/S 2016 lookbook. Or Mango’s recent Céline-like lookbook, which featured models in Céline-like garments (and creative director Phoebe Philo’s shoe of choice, the adidas Stan Smith) posed against an orange wall not unlike Céline’s S/S 2016 runway show, which was staged against its own orange background. Or Zara’s recent Gucci-inspired campaign, complete with go-to Gucci model, Peyton Knight, and metallic block-heeled mules and very Gucci-esque loafers.
But the similarities utilized in order to get consumers to make an association between a high fashion brand and a fast fashion one for the purpose of selling stuff do not stop there. Fast fashion brands are also particularly good at getting consumers to associate their brands with high fashion ones by way of styling, design details, and/or color to achieve the same overall look and feel of the original designer pieces in the mind of the fashion-minded consumer without technically infringing the design house it is channeling by copying a logo or print or design patent-protected staple.
You may recall the salmon/maroon and maroon and black pairings of the floral-printed garments that Zara offered for S/S 2014, which were meant to look quite a bit like the floral garments that made up Prada's S/S 2014 menswear and Resort 2014 womenswear collections (without directly replicating the print, which would amount to copyright infringement, as original prints and patterns are subject to copyright protection). The same is true for the sports jersey-style ribbing, which appears in the aforementioned Prada collections. And don’t forget Zara’s take on Raf Simons’ S/S 2014 Dior collection with the very similar color palette and block lettering badges.
Or most recently, Zara's take on Demna Gvasalia's Balenciaga Fall/Winter 2016 collection - with the standout red parka - complete with Lotta Volkova for Balencciaga-esque styling and paired with a similar-looking houndstooth look for effect. The same can be said for the pairing of the camel-colored trench coat and athletic zip up a la Burberry Fall 2016 (that was a stand out look for Burberry that season, as it was modeled by Chinese boy-bander Chris Wu). And if you're really good, you'll notice the red, white, and blue color palette to the zip ups, which is like to bring Gosha Rubchinskiy's Spring 2017 FILA references to mind, which will, in turn, strengthen the Gvasalia reference (as Rubchinskiy is closely tied to Vestments) or remind you of the Russian Olympics tracksuits, which will still likely bring Gosha Rubchinskiy to mind.
In this way, Zara and its fellow fast fashion retailers are freakishly good at infusing particular details into a garment or accessory to get you to think of the high fashion one.
When taken together, it is difficult not to notice the truly great lengths to which fast fashion brands are going to plant a high fashion seed in our minds in connection with their own brands’ garments and accessories, and an almost completely – if not completely – legal manner. And judging by Zara’s recent revenue reports and the sheer number of fans it has that reside in the fashion industry, itself, these little tricks certainly do not seem to be hurting their cause.