Spring 2012 Fashion: Homage or Heist?
Recession is the mother of (re)invention: this season's high-street hijacks are more daring than ever.
Celine Buckens has a memorable - albeit minor - role in War Horse. On Sunday night, however, she was indisputably one of the stars of its premiere. Alongside the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the 15-year-old British actress made her red carpet debut wearing a strikingly sweet Victoria Beckham dress. The crêpe dress - armless and drop-waisted, its black panel at the top divided from the pink main section by a scalloping detail - has been one of the best-received designs from Beckham's new "Victoria" collection.
When she presented that collection in New York last September, Beckham called it "the girliest thing I've ever done", then added: "I wanted something that was a little bit more affordable but I did not want to compromise on design or quality."
Affordable? Up to a point, Lady B: that Buckens-worn gamine-dress costs £595. This is well beyond the budget of most women, let alone most 15 year olds.
So raise a cheer - if you're a 15 year old - for George at Asda. This iffy green, predominantly polyester, £16 dress is missing all of the details that make the Victoria Beckham so great (the colour, the add-on skirt detail and that elegant scalloped line at the neck). What it does have, however, is that one point of similarity - the scallop-bottomed black panel - that will allow George customers to indulge in a Victoria Beckham fashion fantasy without paying those prices.
Call it loving homage or cynical heist, but British high-street fashion has long been packed with cut-price versions of highfalutin, remortgage-inducing designer clothes. And this season, as the Telegraph's high-street scout Natasha Cowan discovered when she trawled the spring 2012 press days, there is a bumper crop. See her pick here, plus Natasha's verdicts: are they high-street heists or homages?
When mass-market fashion retailers ape high-design clothes, it can be flattering: it demonstrates that the designers' ideas have a commercial traction that will trickle down from the affluent few who can afford to buy the originals. But the line between artful, trend-led approximation and appropriation is a fine one. We understand that one particular retailer has just withdrawn two new-season designs because their lawyers advised that they were too direct a pinch.