Zara: Copy and Paste. Fast Fashion.

Science is the world’s brains, art is its soul.

Maksim Gorki

Incredible that there were times when art was considered the uppermost in life. Great and eminent, placed in the center of society. The German poet and philosopher Friedrich Schiller detected that “a human being is a human being only when he plays”. It is in our nature to play: To be creative, impulsive, to be passionate. Art lifts us up to into higher spheres. It belongs in the center of society, connecting people with each other, holding things together.

When I walk through Berlin City, along the Kurfürstendamm, when I get into the subway or to university, I see what is nowadays referred to as “modern society”: Nervous people that are solicitously typing on smartphones, wearing the same “global player” labels, the same styles. In one way or another everyone looks the same. Keyword: Fast Fashion.

Now, what is the link between Fast Fashion, modern society and art? One answer could be:  Fashion is art. At least it used to be.

Let us go to Milan one of the world’s centers of fashion. And the place where today’s probably most influential fashion designer has her atelier: Muccia Prada. When that young woman absorbed leadership for the leatherwork fabricator in 1978, she revolutionized the world of fashion. By combining styles from time periods in a way that people never even imagined possible, the only 28-year-old libertine rebelled and amazed. Artistic irritation was her trademark, she entrenched a new view on fashion. She made fashion art.

Astonishingly, looking at the Milan runway of Prada and in the shelves of a Milan Zara shop, one will realize that something looks similar: The clothes. Not only Zara, but many Fast Fashion companies such as H&M or Mango, manage to bring into their shops all around the globe what only a few weeks before could have been seen on the runway exclusively.

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From Prada to Zara: Miu Miu (designed by Muccia Prada) summer collection 2010 and Zara Lookbook of May 2010

Copy fast and sell cheaply – an easy concept for success. There is no focus on creativity – on art – but only swiftness and bulk. Tempo of output and pricing of this phenomenon remind of fast food chains.

In an ideal situation, Zara only needs 14 days to bring an idea into the store shelves. It profits from the fact that there is no copy protection for designer fashion. This strategy can not only be projected on Zara, but Fast Fashion designers in general: Plagiarizing is part of the business. Even though the companies prefer to cushion this statement: Instead of copying, they “commercialize the most important runway trends”.

Zara’s “trend scouts” do not even have to visit the runway shows to get their “inspirations”. Things have become as easy as visiting online sites and panels such as to check what can be seen in New York, Paris or Milan.

With some certain amount of “basic clothes” such as T-Shirts, jackets and jeans, the rest of a season’s collection is unfixed and can be flexibly adjusted to what can be seen on the world’s runways.

In contrast to chains such as H&M or Mango, Zara profits from this concept even more due to the scarcity principle in its production of clothes. Instead of producing a large quantity per style, the Spanish chain sticks to its concept of rather producing more styles per year. Additionally, also the quantity produced within each style is limited which makes clothes more exclusive and thus somehow relates to the haute couture principle.

Due to this strategy and the sizes of those companies more than 1500 smaller shops have to close their doors every year only in Germany. However, the worst thing is that most customers do not care. There is no or at least not enough reverse trend of searching for more exclusive clothes, better quality or fairer production conditions.

Long since, the best areas in European city centers have been governed by Fast Fashion-chains – from time to time interrupted by Mc Donald’s. Those exclusive locations come with another advantage: Window shoppers see that the Prada skirt in the shop some corners away looks almost identical to the Zara one in the vitrine – costing one sixth of it.

Supply follows demand. But is this what we really want? Rushing through non-places, places that are designed on elusiveness, randomly buying clothes on dumping prices to look like five other people in the subway? Fashion is art. It can be. A way to express yourself.

Today, 200 years past Schiller, art has somehow been dethroned. Commerce is spreading and difficult to escape. One starts to feel lost in an abundance of attractions. Art can cure that feeling. It always has. We simply have to wake up from jog and apathy and start to play again. More Prada. Less Zara.