Should you wear a knock-off?

"Fast fashion" is important to college students. We want to be on trend. We want the little leather motorcycle jacket, the bandage skirt and the perfectly sheer white tee that we saw come down the runway. But we have little money to spend. This is why stores like Forever 21 exist. Their clothes have quick-turnover and they're cheap.

When I'm reading a fashion magazine with my boyfriend at my side and I ooh and aah over dresses and shoes, he always asks "how much?" I used to say "a lot." And then he would challenge me. "Well, how much is a lot? It can't be that much." I would slide the magazine over to him, look away from his face and point at the price. (If there even was a price. Sometimes the price was SO ridiculous that it was only available upon request to those people who don't think any price is ridiculous.) He gasped every time. Forever 21 tries to stop this conversation from happening.

We covet Alexander Wang's bandage skirt which is currently priced around $400 and Rick Owens' leather bomber jacket which will deplete your bank account of two grand and even the sheer white tee, a wardrobe staple, which will cost you $300 if you want the re-invented, of-the-moment version included in Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen's clothing line the Row. I can walk into Forever 21, however, and buy a faux leather jacket, a white burnout tee and a simple black skirt for under $70. And Forever 21 makes versions of these trends that aren't too bad and they'll last you at least a few wears.

But we're dreamers. We know that we will probably never wear an article of clothing that costs two grand, but we can still pretend. Stores like Forever 21, though, tend to rip off these designers that we covet. They know what we want and they know we can't afford it. And, really, it doesn't matter much when they rip off designs from Alexander Wang or Rick Owens or the Row. Those labels are established; their names are well-known and they will continue to make money. But it does matter when they steal designs from young, fledgling designers. To those designers, every article sold counts. One expensive dress or coat could decide whether or not they can continue to do business.

Fashionista devotes many posts to Adventures in Copyright. They put an image of the original design next to an image of the knock-off. And you can usually tell which one cost more and which one was better crafted. Price is somewhat indicative of quality. And sometimes it isn't. But the decision to buy or not-to-buy isn't economical, it's ethical.

And we're not saying to buy strictly designer. I personally can't afford ONE designer piece. But make conscious decisions. And think about why stores can offer clothes at low, low prices. Is it because the clothes are made in sweatshops? Is it because the fabric is cheap and will fall apart after two wears?

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