Inexpensive Fashion: ¡Viva!

by on December 19, 2012 at 7:20 am in Economics | Permalink

The Economist recently reported that

A GIANT photo of a model in tiny underwear is in danger of causing car-crashes on a busy intersection in Mexico City. The billboard announces the arrival of H&M, a Swedish fashion retailer, which opened its first Latin American store in Mexico City on November 1st. A fortnight earlier Forever 21, an American chain, celebrated its debut in the country. That followed the first opening of a Mexican store by Gap, another American clothing giant, in September. The new entrants promise high fashion at low prices: even more distracting than those skimpy H&M briefs is their miniature pricetag of 69 pesos ($5.30).

A catalyst to this beneficent development was Mexico’s recent reduction of apparel tariffs, but the driving force has been the steady march of fast fashion giants like H&M, Zara, and Forever 21, whose designs imitate the ever-changing trends established within fashion’s higher segments. Vilified by some of fashion’s upper crust, these copycats do more than merely copy. They adapt designs in ways that serve economic functions. As I’ve written elsewhere:

Copyists enable the industry to meet the range of consumer preferences by segmenting the market… When design copyists compete to imitate and adapt design originators, they also discover manufacturing and distribution shortcuts that help reduce unit costs. By removing a seam here or there, using less costly fabric, inventing an electronic inventory system, and so forth, fashion copyists reduce their own costs and can offer designs to consumers in even lower-priced market segments. It is only in recent decades that people of even modest purchasing power began to have access to fashionable, tasteful looks. “Queen Elizabeth owned silk stockings,” Joseph Schumpeter famously observed. “The capitalist achievement does not typically consist in providing more silk stockings for queens but in bringing them within the reach of factory girls in return for steadily decreasing amounts of effort.” Similarly, Frédéric Bastiat expressed wonder at the market’s ability to feed Paris without a central plan. The same holds for the spontaneous order of the fashion world. Paris gets clothed as well, good sir.

¡Vivan las imitaciones! [corrected EJL]

1 Jan December 19, 2012 at 7:22 am

Where’s the photo?

2 kb December 19, 2012 at 8:33 am
3 prior_approval December 19, 2012 at 11:55 am

Sorry, that is Italy – and that is not ‘tiny underwear,’ at least compared to what I saw in Italy last summer.

4 emase December 19, 2012 at 4:08 pm

I don’t see any problem with that! If people crash it is their fault for not paying attention. The photo might be a bit revealing however you shouldn’t be oooing and ahhhing over a picture while your driving. If you have problems with acne no fear!! Check out my acne blog 🙂

5 Julian December 19, 2012 at 8:00 am

should read “¡Vivan las imitaciónes!

6 Julian December 19, 2012 at 8:01 am

actually, “¡Vivan las imitaciones!”

7 Ed Lopez December 19, 2012 at 8:17 am

Mil gracias.

8 RPLong December 19, 2012 at 8:36 am

That second quote expresses my exact thoughts upon having enjoyed the shopping experience in Beijing. Some of that stuff isn’t great quality, but a high percentage of it is EXACTLY the same as the designer stuff. I love imitation merchandise. Why ever buy the real thing anymore?

9 Michael December 19, 2012 at 8:44 am

Why stop at fashion? Surely a great number of industries could benefit from “copyists” who figure out cheaper and quicker ways to bring goods designed by other people to market without having to pay or credit the original designers. Right?

10 Andrew' December 19, 2012 at 8:55 am

Yes. Of course. The hard part is the utilitarian question. If only the government were remotely qualified to answer it.

11 Urso December 19, 2012 at 9:37 am

I get that this is supposed to be sarcastic, but it’s actually exactly right. Ripping off is a good thing. Car companies have ripped off design features from other car companies for decades; Toyota ripping off American designs in the 70s, and making them cheaper, is one of the great success stories in automotive history. It has, in the long run, benefitted literally everyone who drives.

In this specific case, it’s pretty absurd to assume that Ralph Lauren is losing sales to Forever 21. There isn’t a soul in the world who is seriously debating between the $200 Ralph Lauren sweater and the $19.99 F21 knockoff that looks kinda-sorta like it.

12 RPLong December 19, 2012 at 9:38 am

You got it. Scrap all copyright and intellectual property protection.

13 prior_approval December 19, 2012 at 11:58 am

The fashion industry has been notably lacking in all the benefits of ‘copyright and intellectual property protection.’

And the fashion industry is notable for its constant innovation – though one might hesitate to quote that ever so beloved correlation is not causation bon mot – since in this case, the lack of such protection is obviously the spur for innovation, and not its hindrance.

14 gwern December 19, 2012 at 11:29 am

Cars crashing is quite the negative externality.

15 doctorpat December 20, 2012 at 12:00 am

If they are that easily distracted they were going to crash anyway. Best they do it in the middle of the city where speeds a low and hospitals are close.

16 Peter Schaeffer December 19, 2012 at 2:01 pm

If only neoliberalism was actually producing economic development in Mexico… OK, forget about that. Satisfying cosmopolitan tastes is vastly more important.

17 Ricardo December 20, 2012 at 8:59 am

Quite a non sequitur. Mexico is developing and is at about the same level of GDP per capita (PPP-adjusted) as Malaysia — that’s solid middle-income territory. H&M is a middle class store: the brand does not carry enough status to appeal to elites but it is expensive enough that an area needs a fair number of young, middle class consumers to make the store profitable.

18 Sam December 19, 2012 at 4:09 pm

Interesting post

19 Custom Beats By Dre December 27, 2012 at 1:37 pm

Here is what Loads of people have been experiencing in the present day , and thus even as it seems to be nice , it is gotta be highly-priced . Generally people with “extra” funds coordinate their heels with their gear , these days I have been watching everyone match their Beats By Dre Cordless headsets with their boots or shoes not to mention attire . Example of this : this is how a wardrobe is usually like , I realize mine is . 1 black color and red-colored pair of shoes/Jordan’s , 4-5 blacks pants with red stripe , and 6-7 black and crimson t-shirts , the similar coordination with about 5-6 more style and color coordination’s ( white colored and red , blue and bright white , black-colored and white-colored , black and silver , etc . . . ) ! Lets state your wardrobe entails top five dissimilar color coordination’s , you could potentially then pay money for 5 various totally different set of beats by dre hi fi cordless headphones to match up those color well-matched wardrobes . Example : you can actually then required to decide to buy pairs of white and red , blue and white , black and white , black and silver , and black and red , Beats by Dre Headphones to ensure you are perfectly color synchronized .

Browse through https ://www .electrawear .com For the most exclusive and economical Custom Monster Beats By Dre Studio Cordless headsets !

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: