Byline: LAURA CRAIK;PATRICK SAWER
A MAJOR figure in French fashion said today that cheap high street copies are destroying the market for designer wear and haute couture.
Didier Grumbach, head of the body governing French fashion, says the practice of showing outfits six months in advance has encouraged the widespread copying of designer creations by stores such as Zara, Top Shop and H&M. He said it was madness to unveil spring-summer collections in October and the autumnwinter range in March and he called for an overhaul of the ready-to-wear calendar.
M Grumbach said: "It is collective suicide. We are the only industry to send out global innovations on the internet for free." Images of the fashion shows are beamed around the world, allowing high street shops and their contractors to copy the outfits and have them on sale at bargain prices within weeks.
Designers in Paris are among the most widely copied - with versions of the black peasant blouse by Tom Ford at Yves Saint Laurent, or the white trouser suit made popular by Stella McCartney which was used as inspiration by Zara.
M Grumbach suggested staging a private show for buyers and a separate media display once the designs are ready to be shipped to retailers.
But the proposal is bound to be greeted with horror by the editors of fashion magazines, who plan their pages months in advance and are among thousands of journalists who travel between New York, London, Milan and Paris for the shows.
M Grumbach said he expected resistance. He said: "Of course it is not going to change overnight. I don't know when it will change. But I can promise you it will happen."
He said mass market stores were so quick to copy catwalk looks that they often offered duplicates for sale before the original hit the racks. "That is really embarrassing. Not only do they deliver faster, but it's 10 times cheaper and eventually nobody knows who invented the product any more because the copycat delivers ahead of the inventor."