7 ways designers are battling against fast fashion

Designers duke it out with fast fashion

Models walk the runway during Nicole Miller at MBFW Fall 2014 in New York.
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

After years of being knocked off by fast-fashion retailers such as H&M and Inditex's Zara, designers are finally wising up.

The fall fashions shown on the New York runways focused on texture, detailing and structure, creating trends that will be difficult for lower-priced competitors to duplicate at a cheaper cost.

"[Designers'] frustration level has reached a high enough level where they're going to do things more dramatically to make it more difficult [to duplicate], and frankly it's about time," said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at The NPD Group advisory firm.

Cohen said that it's easy for retailers to rip off trends such as colors and prints, but it becomes trickier when designers start mixing fabrics and creating more elaborate, expensive pieces.

"The ability to translate and replicate intricate beading, craftwork, shine and quilting can be done with master precision now," said Sheila Aimette, vice president of North American content for trend forecaster WGSN. "Where fast fashion can't translate the look is with true luxe materials, which is what this season is all about."

Though Cohen said he has no doubt that fast fashion will continue its efforts to replicate what is seen on the runway—for a price tag that's hundreds or thousands of dollars cheaper—it should keep some items off-limits.

Click through to see how the fashion set is making its products more difficult to duplicate.

By CNBC's Krystina Gustafson
Posted 14 Feb. 2014


A model walks the runway during Monique Lhuillier fashion show at MBFW Fall 2014 in New York.
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

In order to create a garment with a stiffer look, the material needs to be thicker. That requires a larger quantity of a high-quality fabric, said Vincent Quan, associate professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Here, a look from Monique Lhuillier.

Dramatic detailing

Details on a Badgley Mischka dress backstage during fashion week in New York.
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

Whether they are large gold buttons or buckles, creating an oversize accent piece makes it harder on fast-fashion retailers. The larger an inexpensive accent is, the more obvious that it's cheaply made, The NPD Group's Cohen said. Here, detailing from the Badgley Mischka runway.

Broad shoulders with narrow waistlines

A model walks the runway in the Oscar De La Renta fashion show.
Edward James | Getty Images

Such a dramatic shape, as seen at the Oscar de la Renta show, is hard to build without structuring the fabric. That means the piece needs to be made from high-quality materials, Cohen said.


Models walk the runway during the Carmen Marc Valvo fashion show in New York.
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

It also comes down to the fabric's quality when creating a draping effect, as seen here at the Carmen Marc Valvo show. "Good fabric drapes, cheap fabric clings," Cohen said.


A model wears a black fur coat on the runway at the Jill Stuart fashion show.
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

Although there are a number of retailers who use faux fur on their coats and apparel, real fur has a different feel to it, Quan said. "It just doesn't flow naturally on the hands," he said. Here, a coat from Jill Stuart's collection.

Chunky sweaters

A model walks the runway at the Michael Kors fashion show in New York.
Catwalking | Getty Images

Because of the depth of texture involved in creating a bulky sweater, they are costly for fast-fashion retailers to copy even when done in cheap yarns, Cohen said. Here, a look from Michael Kors.


A model walks the runway at the Son Jung Wan fashion show in New York.
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

The "terrific" detailing seen in the season's trims is something that likely won't appear on fast-fashion shelves.

"I don't think necessarily they're too concerned with all of the better trims that are appearing," Quan said. "There's a sweet spot that the Zaras and H&Ms of the world operate under." That means they are unlikely to sacrifice their margins on trims.

Here, a look from Son Jung Wan.

More from New York Fashion Week

A model relaxes backstage before the Milly By Michelle Smith fashion show at MBFW Fall 2014 in New York.
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

These weren't the only trends seen on the runways this season. For a complete look at what will be on shelves this fall, click here.