For the most part, I’m fairly immune to the lure of retail shopping. Having rarely set foot in a mall for the past year, I find myself increasingly uncomfortable in those kinds of surroundings; avoiding them is easy peasy. (Were crowds always that overwhelming, or did I just never notice before?) Outlets are similar, except it’s the navigating/parking situation that gives me major anxiety – if you’re familiar with South Edmonton Common, then you probably know what I mean. But my Achilles heel is online shopping. So easy. So convenient. Too convenient.

Too tempting.

There are several reasons why I must find the inner fortitude to resist the temptation. One, I am committed to buying my clothes secondhand and while I am willing to make the rare exception, it has to be something worthwhile. Two, I am working hard on being mindful/intentional about adding things to my closet – that whole “curated style” thing is no joke. To the extent that I allow myself to indulge my impulsivity, I prefer to focus it on thrifting, where the circumstances often require spur-of-the-moment decisions. Most of the things that tempt me online are (i) retail, (ii) fast fashion, and (iii) cute but not necessarily in line with the aesthetic I am currently pursuing.

But the struggle to resist is real, you guys. So I’m gonna work through this like the over-analyzer that I am: by writing it all out.

First up, remember that Gucci dress/coat/work of art thingamajig with cranes all over it? Zara does too.

Gucci / Zara
Gucci / Zara
Clearly, these two things are not really comparable, but for someone who’s been obsessed with crane-printed clothes for a few years (I blame Anthropologie), the Zara jacket version is really, really tempting. I appreciate the style, and I think it works with my current aesthetic. It’s black, which would normally be a plus, but perhaps should count as a negative now – what with my Soft Summer-inspired colour palette. More importantly, it’s polyester. It’s impossible to tell from the photos if we’re talking “good” polyester (unlikely), average polyester, or crap polyester. Zara wants $140 for it, which is too much for any kind of polyester.

Bottom line: I would buy this in a heartbeat if it was 100% silk at $140. At that price, it would have to be secondhand because the fabric alone would probably cost more. I would also consider paying $20 for a polyester version, also probably secondhand since I don’t see Zara discounting this coat by so much even on final sale. However, I’m not sure that I would pay more than $150 or so, no matter what the quality, because I don’t know if I would love and keep this long enough to make it worth a higher price. It’s the kind of thing that could become an all-time favourite piece … or something I purge in less than 2 years.

Next up, the Victoria Beckham collection for Target. Right off the bat, this is pretty much a no-go for me since we no longer have Target in Canada. If I wanted to get something, I would have to (a) do it without the benefit of seeing any of the pieces in person; and (b) exert myself more than usual to get it. (And quickly, since the collection is bound to sell out immediately, and end up getting hawked on eBay for a bazillion American dollars.) Having seen the preview of the whole collection on Refinery29, I’m not sure that extra effort would be worth it. However, there are a few pieces I wouldn’t mind seeing up close.

Victoria Beckham for Target
Victoria Beckham for Target

Victoria Beckham for Target
Victoria Beckham for Target
Speaking of novelty prints, I’m also a sucker for bees. Like Napoleon. And Victoria Beckham, apparently. It’s hard to tell from the stock photo, but that black shift dress is bedazzled with bees and beetles. Vicky has my number. I also appreciate that marigold yellow colour, although it’s probably not an ideal shade to wear too close to my face.

With that said, I was surprised by the aesthetic of the collection as a whole; it was not what I expected from VB, although I understand that this is supposed to be a reflection of her diffusion line. It’s a lot more twee than the image I associated with her. The other big sticking point is the quality. The Target design collabs I’m familiar with have tended to be of disappointing quality (cheap polyester-ville). Most of the VB pieces look like they would probably fall into the same (polyester) category.

Bottom line: regretfully, I’m going to sit this one out, partially by choice, partially because, well, I don’t have a choice anyway. Sigh.

Last, we come to a real dilemma. If you’ve been reading here for a while, you probably know that I have been coveting the Valentino Rockstud pumps for a few years. All the cool kids have already bought, worn, and gotten tired of them; meanwhile, I am still waiting for a stroke of luck to bring them within my reach. I mean, I love them but not $800 worth of love. Recently, A.J. linked to these incredibly similar pair available on Amazon.

Kaitlyn Pan pumps
Kaitlyn Pan pumps

According to the reviews, these dupes are as close to the real deal as you can get from shoes made in China. They’re being sold through Amazon, so that gives me a little bit of extra comfort. And I really, really wanted them.


There are a couple of “buts”. The line between knock-offs and dupes is a fine one. I think it’s fair to characterize these as dupes, since they are not being passed off as “Valentino”, but there are still (to me) some ethical implications here. I know I would feel weird wearing these – not because they don’t bear the fancy label, but because I feel like I’d be cheating in a way. I’m not an IP lawyer, so I have no idea of the legal rights involved, but as a writer, I am sensitive to the idea of people profiting from the creative work of others. The design of the Rockstud is pretty distinctive so this is not a question of different people being independently inspired by the same things. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me on this point, so I would be interested in hearing your views. Do you consider dupes to be “fair game”? Is there a line to be drawn and, if so, where?

Bottom line: ultimately, though, it comes down to more practical considerations. In Canadian dollars (only slightly more valuable than Monopoly money, it seems), these shoes would cost me $150 including shipping. That is a lot of money for shoes of untested quality from a brand with which I have no experience, and which are probably a hassle to return. I am still hopeful that I will someday find a secondhand pair of (legit) Rockstuds for under $300. With that (admittedly optimistic) hope in mind, $150 is not nearly inexpensive enough.




16 Comments on Talking Myself Out of Buying Retail

  1. Hmm, I’m on the fence about dupes. On one hand, it feels wrong to steal someone’s design and profit from it. I’d also be embarrassed to be called out on my ‘fake’ shoes. On the other hand, these designers price themselves out of the ‘regular shopper’ market, sometimes ridiculously so. Many people that love the design, would never in a million years be able to afford or justify the cost. Many high street stores tend to reflect/draw inspiration from the high fashion brands six months down the line, but some things are so distinctive it’s hard to do without being an obvious copy.

    • I think inspiration is fine, and I am all for the democratization of fashion as far as that goes. For me, it becomes trickier when it’s an exact copy of something really distinctive. I can’t think of many other shoes that are as distinctive and widely associated with a particular brand — maybe the red soles of Louboutins, or those blue satin shoes with sparkly buckles from Manolo Blahnik?

      • IP lawyer here! As you may know, there was a big trademark lawsuit in the U.S. regarding Louboutin’s red soles a few years ago. In the end, the court said they had exclusive rights to red soles on shoes that were a color other then red, but not in all-red shoes that included red soles (which is what YSL was doing, and was allowed to continue doing.)

        As an IP lawyer I steer clear of dupes. But I can understand the allure, especially for beautiful items that will likely never be in a normal person’s price range, even second-hand.

  2. I agree with you, inspiration is fine, I think that’s how fashion is ‘supposed’ to work. Like the ubiquitous Gucci mules and loafers, there are so many available options now, but they are different enough you’d never mistake them for actual Guccis. Although I have seen a Steve Madden dupe of the fur one that was borderline straight up fake. At any rate, I think there is a firm difference b/w dupe and fake. I don’t think anyone would dare call a fake designer purse a dupe. With regards to retail shopping, things cost a lot less b/c they are a lower quality, I don’t think you should expect anything better. Have you ever shopped at COS or Everlane? More expensive than Zara, but worth it in my opinion.

  3. I’ve been drooling over the Kaitlyn Pan studded pumps for over a year now but I can’t bring myself to pull the trigger. Honestly, it’s more of the fact that my lifestyle isn’t fancy enough than anything else. The Rockstuds have been out for awhile now, and $1K is just absurd, so I don’t think I would have a crisis of conscience over them being a “dupe.” My bigger concern these days would be if they are ethically produced (which they are likely not).

  4. To me, the question is whether the item does something to distinguish itself from the original. In this case I don’t think it does – from the picture that looks like the same heel height and style, same toe box, and same or very similar color to one that Valentino does. Heck – they could have even added an additional strap of studs between the toe box and heel strap…but they didn’t. So in my mind they might not be knock-offs, but they’re definitely more in the dupe/copy lane than inspired.

  5. Just curious – do you shop retail for your kids? I ask because I am a big fan of thrift/consignment and have not shopped retail for many years (with a few exceptions admittedly). However, I’m getting to the point where our baby has outgrown all his gifted clothes and now need to buy for the near future. I’ve bought from two moms on the Facebook mom groups but since I’ve started browsing retail sites, it just seems easier to buy online and have it shipped… Ah, the siren call of retail.

    • Good question. I mostly shop retail and consignment for my kids (as well as hand-me-downs from friends). For some reason, I just never got into thrifting for kids. I think once they’re old enough, I will try to get THEM to do it. Well, my daughter anyway, since she seems to be interested in clothes and so on. My son, not so much.

      I do like buying consignment for kids because the clothes are pre-selected to be in good condition (which is huge with toddler/pre-schooler/kindergarten ages because the everyday stuff does wear out pretty fast). I typically buy stuff that is practical and comfortable for them, not trendy, because I want them to be able to run around being their messy, adventurous selves. I admire moms who manage to dress their kids in cute, coordinated outfits, but I have no idea how they get the kids to cooperate.

  6. I actually think the Marigold top and the bee dress from the Victoria Beckham collection would be so cute on you if you can find someone in the US to scoop it for you!

    • Nicole has agreed to be my US “mule” in the future, but I don’t have anyone lined up right now, so I will have to pass 🙁

  7. The US Sup Ct just held that the designs on cheerleader outfits are protectable, so I think we’ll see fewer blatant fashion rip offs and more “inspired by” design.

    • Interesting! It seems like there has been a spate of footwear-related IP lawsuits lately, including some where the alleged infringer is a recognizable brand itself. I want to see how this plays out …