Just an illusion

The autumn collections are pretty much in full flow on the high street, cue the usual hoo-hah about the budget brands copying designers. Today’s Evening Standard has an impressive array of pictures from the new Peacocks collection along with a handy ready-reckoner of its equivalent designer ‘inspirations’. And pretty good it looks too. There for starters is a cute approximation of Balenciaga’s blazer – possibly the definitive piece of the season – a steal at £18. There too is a dead ringer for Christopher Kane’s leather skating skirt – again a mere £18. And look! A doppleganger for Matthew Williamson’s beaded silk shift dress – only £16!

The high street and value sector are extremely good at producing samples and visuals that almost make you gasp out loud. But as we all know, fashion is but an illusion. Those pictures are frequently styled by Vogue-quality stylists who are experts at pinning and accessorising, not to mention big name hair stylists and make-up artists and top-level photographers. In fact, those megabuck campaigns that make cheap catwalk copies look a million dollars are the bread and butter jobs that enable photographers to do the Vogue and Harpers shoots that otherwise pay very modest fees.

And the clothes on the models? These are the top-notch one off samples that are shown to the press several months before they hit the store. They are beautifully finished and often in far superior fabrics than you eventually find dangling off the rail in your local high street. And wanna know something else? Sometimes these key pieces don’t even make it to the shop floor. I kid you not, some stores are worse than others but many high street brands habitually produce a hot piece, proudly photograph it and show it to the press in the full knowledge it will never see the light of day. Why? Because it gets them column inches and that’s good enough. They also know that in your fruitless search for that piece, you’ll find yourself settling for an alternative once in the shop. Money in the till, mission accomplished!

The moral of this story is keep your wits about you and don’t get caught up in the hype. Sure it’s great to find a near-exact copy of your favourite Dior dress in your local cheapy shop but remember once all the glamour and gloss has been stripped away, you’re looking at one of several thousand identical dresses. The glossy campaigns do their job to keep the dream alive but in the end a £20 dress is still a £20 polyester dress, not a £700 silk Matthew Williamson one.

Pic: Matthew Williamson/www.vogue.co.uk