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On the High Street: The Battle of the Knock-Offs

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So fashion season is well and truly upon us. Journalists, PRs and models alike have dusted off their heels, halved their calorie intake and buckled up for a marathon of shows, parties and presentations. As the London Autumn/Winter collections come to a close, the dust settles on Somerset House and the critics return to their desks to furiously scribble down their musings, the pressure is on a different team of designers. Those on the high street, who are now busy knocking off the London collections as fast as you can say, "actually, it's just from Topshop."

The British high street has long harboured questionable copyright morals. Today, perusing Zara is like walking around Liberty in some strange parallel universe where everything looks the same but is about a tenth of the price. J-brand-esque ankle-zip jeans for £30 anyone? Or how about a nice Stella McCartney-style tote bag? There are even some Margiela-aping asymmetric skirts if you're feeling adventurous.

It's what makes designer/high street collaborations so humorous. The high street has been in a very one-sided collaboration for years - ripping off designers' creative talent, and thanking its lucky stars that only the super-rich can justify those incredible price points. You can't help but wonder why Mary Katrantzou would design a range for Topshop when it has been knocking off her designs all year, selling printed T-shirts and graphic floral trousers. Sweet noble Mary, does she not see the dark forces at work here?

Still, who am I to complain? The amazing copycat abilities of the high street are what keep the majority of us looking half-decent all year round. Its homage to Celine is what got us all into chic camel coats, and its love affair with Acne has provided me with a very wearable pair of heeled black ankle boots. £60, if you're asking. Bargain.

So in true fashion industry spirit - let's put the ethics aside and look at the clothes. What will be the star trends from this season that will, with the speed of the deadliest virus, filter their way from runway to Alexa Chung to Topshop to Only Way Is Essex stars to the masses. What item will permeate all of our wardrobes? What will be the Burberry aviator jacket or Stella sheer polka-dot dress of this season?

Well print was big news on the London runway, partly due to its vogue amongst the coolest young designers, Peter Pilotto, Louise Gray and the like. Even the less hip labels jumped on the bandwagon. Middleton-favourite Issa offered up a print-heavy showing, with dresses featuring patterns of Russian Dolls and St Basil's Cathedral - very 'gap yah', and thus perfectly in tune with their posh-totty client base. The best knock-offs are sure to come from Whistles and Warehouse - look for oriental-inspired print blouses and bright floral dresses.

But be aware fair shoppers, this is where the high street can make a good trend go bad. Sporting a bad print on an ill-fitting item is like wearing a sandwich board saying "Primark sale bin". The most important rule is stay away from printed body con. Print and lycra - the most evil sartorial union ever created, and one that the high street continues to push at us with ever increasing gusto. No-one looks good when prints are made of such cheap, thin fabrics that they stretch out of shape when worn, giving the wearer a deformed floral vision emblazoned across their buttocks or breasts, resembling a giant warped tattoo on a pregnant woman's belly. Classy.

Texture was equally huge on the catwalks, from leather at Christopher Kane and Todd Lynn, to fur almost everywhere, including Mulberry and Temperley. Poor PETA. This will please Zara who love nothing more than churning out a nice pair of pleather jeans or a faux-suede jacket - the kind of items that look half decent immediately after purchase but loose their expensive façade after a few wears, or the second it rains when black dye begins running down your legs.

The trick of the trade is weeding out the trends that are impossible to translate from catwalk to pavement. Fashion osmosis is a risky business; there are those looks will never warrant a place in our closet. The kind that should stay in the dark place that is the catwalk venue, draped on the body of an emaciated 14-year-old. Take Meadham Kirchhoff's entire collection, full of glitter and tartan - do we love it on the runway? Of course. Would it look great on any of us after being re-created by New Look? Certainly not.

Then there are trends that we can only hope will go global. Imagine if Roksanda Ilincic's understated tailored trouser surpassed leggings in popularity. Or if Peter Jensen's modest shifts replaced the racks and racks of lurid thigh-skimmers stacked in Primark. A girl can dream.

So be savvy ladies. No matter how much you loved the original collection, step away from the crazy reproductions, anything see-through, sequined, or flammable-looking. Instead hunt for the master forgeries - the perfectly copied Jonathan Saunders jacket, or the timeless Burberry-style pencil skirt. Times are hard and we all have to tighten our (knock-off) belts. Play your credit cards right and you'll be able to get all your favourite designer looks for next to nothing.

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