Who Knocks Off What?

Chasing trends mindlessly never pays off. But the key to good style is combining a strong sense of personal taste with an eye for integrating current items.

Designer collaborations aren't the only way to get runway looks in wearable translations and on a dime. Watch the runways to keep an eye on what's current, and then head to the mass market stores. New York Fashion Week just ended yesterday, which means that mass market design houses are already taking their "inspiration" from these shows straight to their production lines for fall. Now that runway shows are being broadcast in real time (even on jumbotrons in Times Square), trends are being adapted by mass stores faster than ever. (You can check out the full Fashion Week coverage online at Style.com.)

A Race to Production

Buyers place their orders after the shows, and designers head off to production, which usually takes about five months. At the same time, stores like H&M, Zara and Topshop are also racing to production with their variations on the runway designs, to get their product in stores around the same time. Early March for spring (and late September for fall) is when you want to start getting serious about shopping, since that’s when all the product hits the stores.

We've noticed patterns in which mass market stores tend to follow which designers. A discerning eye can identify these sources of inspiration:

Who Knocks Off What?

For example:

Club Monaco (left) is largely inspired by Chloe (right):

H&M (left) often takes cues from Marc Jacobs (right):

For more mass market looks and their designer inspirations for Spring 2011, view our slideshow at the bottom of this post.

Shop More Efficiently

This means instead of canvassing all the mass stores when you shop, you can more efficiently head to the one or two that best capture the designer looks you tend to like. And if you find a lustworthy item on the runway and are not inclined to splurge on the real thing, watch the store that is most likely to follow, and see if you score.

Do It Well

A final note: be discerning. Even though imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, try to replicate, not duplicate the runway looks. There are good knock-offs and then there are the bad. The bad attempt to be complete copies of the original but the good take the most important elements of the design and reinterpret it. So opt for elements of what drew you in to begin with. Was it the asymmetrical straps and ruffles of the Lanvin gown or the cut out detail on that Alexander Wang dress? Use that as a starting point of what you want to look for on the market.

View Slide Show

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Lillian Lee is a buyer for Barneys New York and loves hunting for designer deals that won't fit in her tiny New York apartment.

  • Allison

    Good to know – and kind of fun to play the match up game!

  • Pat

    I would love to know who knocks off Emilio Pucci. Great stuff for a fancy occassion!

  • Anonymous

    Wow so interesting. Shabby chic!

  • Anonymous

    I really hate some of the fast fashion chains. Sorry, but Forever21 gets away with too much and what happens is they change the fabrication by 30% and then the construction is cheap and it falls apart after 10 wears. Sometimes designer brands are worth the investment because you can wear them for years without falling apart and you actually save money. Though that’s only recommended for those who can control their spending it’s almost too easy to get carried away with designer, but I would rather by a modal tee shirt for $30 than a cotton tee for $10 from Old Navy that looks nasty after 2 weeks. nnSorry I’m spoiled I worked for a fashion place that copied designs and I know about some of these other houses far too well and the policies in the fashion industry are just crazy way too many designers ripping off other designers works. To some it’s clothing and to others it’s artwork.

    • Forever 21 doesn’t get away. Companies including Diane Von Furstenberg, Anna Sui, and Anthropologie have filed over 50 lawsuits against Forever 21 over the last three years relating to copyright infringement. (Forever 21 settled the cases quietly out of court.) They know exactly what they are doing and prefer to pay millions and millions in these settlements and continue to “get inspired”.

  • Bess

    This is really helpful! I want to go shopping with Lillian now!

  • Meg

    Ironically, none of those fashions are new. I’m almost 60 & was wearing cut-off jeans when I was in my teens. Striped tee shirts have been around since the 40s or earlier. Charmeuse tanks go back at least 50 years. Katherine Hepburn looked great in men’s styles.

    What goes around, comes around. You just have to live long enough to see the styles repeat themselves. Or, take a look at photographs from when your parents were young.

  • Meg

    Ironically, none of those fashions are new. I’m almost 60 & was wearing cut-off jeans when I was in my teens. Striped tee shirts have been around since the 40s or earlier. Charmeuse tanks go back at least 50 years. Katherine Hepburn looked great in men’s styles.

    What goes around, comes around. You just have to live long enough to see the styles repeat themselves. Or, take a look at photographs from when your parents were young.

  • Meg

    Ironically, none of those fashions are new. I’m almost 60 & was wearing cut-off jeans when I was in my teens. Striped tee shirts have been around since the 40s or earlier. Charmeuse tanks go back at least 50 years. Katherine Hepburn looked great in men’s styles.

    What goes around, comes around. You just have to live long enough to see the styles repeat themselves. Or, take a look at photographs from when your parents were young.

  • Meg

    Ironically, none of those fashions are new. I’m almost 60 & was wearing cut-off jeans when I was in my teens. Striped tee shirts have been around since the 40s or earlier. Charmeuse tanks go back at least 50 years. Katherine Hepburn looked great in men’s styles.

    What goes around, comes around. You just have to live long enough to see the styles repeat themselves. Or, take a look at photographs from when your parents were young.

  • Meg

    Ironically, none of those fashions are new. I’m almost 60 & was wearing cut-off jeans when I was in my teens. Striped tee shirts have been around since the 40s or earlier. Charmeuse tanks go back at least 50 years. Katherine Hepburn looked great in men’s styles.

    What goes around, comes around. You just have to live long enough to see the styles repeat themselves. Or, take a look at photographs from when your parents were young.

  • So fun to see these matched up! F21 and H&M are great for trendy clothing that you don’t mind not wearing next season.

  • So fun to see these matched up! F21 and H&M are great for trendy clothing that you don’t mind not wearing next season.

  • So fun to see these matched up! F21 and H&M are great for trendy clothing that you don’t mind not wearing next season.

  • So fun to see these matched up! F21 and H&M are great for trendy clothing that you don’t mind not wearing next season.

  • So fun to see these matched up! F21 and H&M are great for trendy clothing that you don’t mind not wearing next season.