Knock-Off Fashion


Today I finally met The Magazine Man. I don’t want to get him in trouble, but for those that don’t know, Magazine Man loiterers around the Bear Pit at the bottom of Stokes Croft, selling magazines at suspiciously cheap prices to passers by.

Previously only a rumor and subject of speculation, I was skeptical as to whether or not such a man existed. M and some other friends have told me about this vendor, as they are well aware of how magazines, fashion magazines in particular, are like crack to me. At the moment I’m forced to buy various publications on rotation each month, but if I had my way I would hold subscriptions to just about every glossy going.

So, when I heard about this mythical creature selling discounted magazines I was curious to say the least. And sure enough, alongside the likes of More and Reveal, there they were; Marie Claire, Grazia, Look and Elle. But Magazine Man was not the man I had pictured in my fantasies – no top hat, no jolly expression, no shouting ‘roll up, roll up!’ or handing out balloons to small children. In his place was a scruffy, shifty eyed tramp, who was obviously not selling these magazines because he was morally outraged at their RRP.

My eyes lingered over the titles as he slid up to me to let me know his latest deals. I didn’t have any cash on me but decided to walk away anyway, unable to get my head around why I hadn’t pounced on those glossy fashion bibles. He wasn’t there when I came back after meeting S and when I mentioned my reluctance to purchase, she came out with a surprisingly truthful comment; “We buy knock-off fashion all the time” she said, “buying a cheap fashion magazine is no different from shopping for cheap fashion at Primark”.

Like most girls I know my wardrobe is 50% cheap-as-chips fashion, 50% God-bless-the-credit-card fashion

This got me thinking about knock-off fashion and it’s place in society. Knowingly buying fake designer goods is different from a splurge in shops like Primark but while not exactly a taboo any more, cheap clothes still come with a hefty price tag. Mass production, dodgy labour and production, excessive spending and increased textile waste are all a result of our desire to have the latest catwalk imitation right now.

In recent years documentaries such as Blood, Sweat and T-Shirts have highlighted how little most British consumers know about where their cheap-as-chips fashion comes from. Thanks to the spotlight on climate change retailers are starting to introduce ethically friendly policies and the recession has almost certainly been a factor in the increase of attendance at sewing workshops and vintage fairs. But there is still an obsession with catwalk copies at knock-off prices and I don’t see this changing any time soon.

So how can you look achingly on trend without breaking the bank or contributing to child labour? Simple: do your research, make do and mend instead of throwing away perfectly good clothes, shop at vintage stores/jumble sales/charity shops and have a go at making your own clothes – you might be surprised at how satisfying it is once you get past managing to thread a needle without pricking yourself to death.

For more information about ethical fashion on the high street check out the Ethical Fashion Forum and for details of Primark’s ethical trading initiative click here.



  1. May 2, 2010 / 3:49 am

    >I have been concerned with this myself. I've stopped shopping at forever 21 for this reason. It can be quite addicting getting so many clothes for the price you can buy one good quality ethically sound garment but in the end I want to consider all costs (such as poor labor and environmental practices). It's tough.

  2. May 13, 2010 / 10:05 am

    >Wow. You make some really good points, but I'm still not sure I'd be able to leave a cheap copy of Elle just sitting there…

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