I'd imagine that it must be frustrating for high-end fashion designers to walk past a Forever 21 or H&M storefront and see the dress they toiled over for hours before sending down the runway now rendered in polyester with a $12.50 price tag. But Olivier Rousteing of Balmain is actually grateful to Zara for copying his designs. A designer who loves being ripped off! Who would've thought?
In a conversation with The Independent, Rousteing revealed that he's just tickled by the idea that fast fashion retailers might find him and his high-fashion cohorts, um, inspiring. Unlike many other designers (*coughs* Michael Kors), Rousteing sees the value in accessible fashion.
"I love seeing a Zara window with my clothes mixed with Céline and Proenza [Schouler]! I think that's genius. It's even better than what I do! I love the styling, I love the story... I watch the windows always, and it's genius what they do today. They go fast, they have a great sense of styling and how to pick up what they have to pick up from designers. I'm really happy that Balmain is copied – when I did my Miami collection and we did the black and white checks, I knew they would be in Zara and H&M. But they did it in a clever way – they mixed a Céline shape with my Balmain print! Well done! I love that".
Rosie Huntington-Whiteley in Balmain
While it's great that Rousteing looks kindly upon brands that copy his aesthetic, fast fashion is a tricky beast. Being able to score a brushstroke blouse that looks like Celine´ for a fraction of the cost is a boon for the fashion-conscious consumer, but fashion is art. Ripping off an original design is akin to making an exact replica of someone else's painting and then selling it as your own.
Balmain-inspired Zara sweatshirt
Many designers are (understandably) aggressive in their distaste for knock-offs, like Isabel Marant who famously rejected her own wedge sneakers after too many people copied them. I think there needs to be a middle ground. Obviously, stealing ideas from others is wrong and the fashion world needs more stringent copyright laws to combat blatant design theft. But, as Rousteing said in his interview with The Independent "I think it was Coco Chanel who said if you're original, be ready to be copied." You just can't argue with Ms. Chanel, now can you?