Image: Charles Deluvio/Unsplash

Creative Expression and Accessibility: Where do we draw the line?

By:
Reya Rana (@ReyaRana10)

Fashion in today’s day and age has unequivocally become about fast fashion. 

It seems almost impractical to criticize a business model that allows the average buyer a taste of luxury fashion at a fraction of the cost.

In addition, the fast fashion industry has been lucrative in job creation for the era of Instagram Influencers to promote themselves, acting as a brand ambassador for boutiques or larger brands such as Fashion Nova, or Zara. 

Fast fashion and social media together have created this uniquely symbiotic relationship that provides an individual the aura of celebrity, while also appearing “accessible” because they wear pieces almost anyone can afford to wear too.

Fast fashion is yet another marvel to be born out of the “see now, buy now” world we live in -- but the industry is not without its flaws.

There exists several sources that speak to how fast fashion is destroying the planet. From issues of waste accumulation, to water pollution from dye run-offs, and matters of labour rights violations: the ills of fast fashion are well documented.

But another issue that exists has to do with “knockoffs”.

Now knockoffs are not a new problem—in fact, it is one the fundamental cores of what fast fashion is, but the industry typically relies on plagiarizing high-end designers and haute couture.

So, what is to be said when commercial giants produce pieces in the likeness of smaller designers?

In late March, Guess released a tote bag and many were quick to recognize the similarities to the Telfar “Shopping bag”.

@fashionbombdaily IG

Telfar Clemons, founder of Telfar Global, is a queer Liberian-American designer. Telfar places their namesake by creating pieces on the pillars of sustainable material, uniqueness and accessibility, with the brands slogan being “It’s not for you-it’s for everyone.”

Fast fashion requires rapid turnaround in styles and product releases. While Telfar does have a strong cult following, its production power is nowhere near that of Guess. It is still very much a small company where product is not readily available for purchase whenever a customer would like for it to be. 

Telfar instead relies on on-demand manufacturing meaning there is no inventory, and instead opt to take a pre-sale approach which allows them to create only as much as the consumer demands.

It was a matter of days before public outcry resulted in Guess agreeing to pull their iteration of the shopping bag from its product line.

Fashion is a direct representation of culture. It can also serve to act for individual expression, but it very much serves as a zeitgeist for the current state of art, politics and especially technological innovation—or more simply put, social media.

Fashion culture and the means in which it is presented has become so intrinsically connected to social media presence that the need for longevity in brand reputation is sacrificed to simply being fast and noticed first.

Therefore, the preservation of artistic integrity is important now more than ever. It is a disservice to fashion as an art medium to be minimized solely to a single moment rather than its ability to transcend time.

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About the author: Reya Rana is a UBC grad who studied Poli Sci and English language. She is really interested in writing and reading rhetorical analyses, and she enjoys all kinds of music, fashion and books that make her cry. Her pronouns are she/her.Follow her on Twiter @ReyaRana10

5X Press is a forum for opinions, conversations, & experiences, powered by South Asian youth. The views expressed here are not representative of those of 5X Festival.

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