Fashion Week: It’s Complicated


New York Fashion Week kicked off this past Thursday, and with it some complicated topics graphic designers are very familiar with:

Design Plagiarism

High fashion brand Saint Laurent is showcasing a dress with graphic lipstick prints that retails for $3,490 – but looks a lot like a dress from Forever 21’s 2013 collection that sold for $23. Saint Laurent is most likely safe from being sued for copyright infringement because copyright law prohibits the protection of a design if it can only be depicted in a limited number of ways— tubes of lipstick may fall into this category. However, it doesn’t protect them from being called out for it.

Social Awareness

As New York Fashion Week Live reports, “one of the great ironies of fashion is the disconnect between the beauty of the products, and the way the materials are often sourced.” Consumers are increasingly demanding more humane treatment of animals and people, as well as the use of more eco-friendly materials. Fashion designers are responding and young designers like Max Gengos, are embracing the concept of “responsible luxury” when deciding on which materials to use and the conditions in which their products are produced.


We live in a culture of disposability. This extends to “fast fashion,” where cheap garments are produced quickly to keep up with trends. America buys 20 billion garments a year, 1 item per person per week. This results in 12.7 million tons of clothing thrown away each year. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that textile waste occupies nearly 5% of all landfill space and 85% of textile waste is not recycled. Ultimately this leads to overtime, overcrowding, and unsafe conditions for overseas workers employed to keep up with the demand.


Cultural Influence

Celebrities like Emma Watson and fashion designer Stella McCartney are speaking out in campaigns like this recent one for British Vogue on Fashion and Gender Equality, demanding empowerment for women and a better message for women of all ages and sizes, allowing them to feel good about who they are.

As we enjoy the glamor of New York Fashion Week, we may also do well to consider the complicated relationships surrounding beauty and image.


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