If you’ve ever ordered something online and it arrived looking completely different, you are not alone. And, this is especially true if you’ve ordered from a high-end retailer like Net-A-Porter.

“In addition to Photoshopping their models, retailers Photoshop their clothes, too,” according to Galore. “At least Net-A-Porter does.”

On March 8, “Net-A-Porter accidentally uploaded a photo of a puffy coat with retouching notes on their website,” Galore continues.

[source: Cosmo]

According to the notes, the puffy coat was too puffy; “Please slim” was written with four arrows pointing towards different problem areas on the garment.

“A few hours later, Net-A-Porter realized [its] mistake and switched out the picture, but by then it was too late.”

Net-A-Porter replaced the marked-up image with a similar one; this time, however, the notes were removed and there was no apparent retouching, according to Cosmo.

“We post images that accurately represent the garments so that customers receive the product they expect,” Net-A-Porter told Cosmo in response to the incident. “This image was uploaded to our product page in error and the notes refer exclusively to the garments.”

[source: Cosmo]

It makes you wonder, if a luxury retailer like Net-A-Porter can get away with photoshopping garments that cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, what are fast fashion retailers getting away with?

But, according to Marine Michel, a former a professional retoucher for a German luxury retailer similar to Net-A-Porter, high-end retailers use photoshop much more often than their low-end counterparts.

“[Low-end retailers] do it way less…I notice these things now when I go on [the] online shops,” Michel tells Galore.

“In the UK we have Boohoo, which is quite cheap, and it doesn’t look that retouched…Maybe a little bit of skin retouching, but [it is] very finely done. The same [is true] for H&M; it’s not that bad. But when you go to luxury retailers, then you realize how much they do it.”

So, what exactly do these high-end e-commerce sites retouch?

According to Michel, it is everything from stains to stitches to zippers.

“[Retouchers make] the clothes look a little better quality and [they make] the fabric look nicer…Sometimes you have this fabric cloth where you can immediately see through it from shitty online shops,” Michel continues.

“When the girl is wearing a dress and she has her legs slightly apart and you can see through the dress, you know [it] is a bad polyester fabric. Well, we would color it in so it would look like nice heavy material.”

“I mean the dress might cost 500 bucks, but it’s still shit quality, that doesn’t change anything. But we gotta sell it, so we gotta make it look good.”

Boohoo does not attempt to hide that this 100 percent viscose dress, embroidered with 100 percent polyester, is see-through, $28 [source: Boohoo]

Certainly, there is some level of unethical behavior at play here, but are these practices legal? I spoke with Sophia Bagienski-Mangual, sales manager of a small clothing company and Fashion Institute of Technology alumna, to uncover the truth.

“Photographers definitely touch the photos up big time,” Bagienski-Mangual says. Special, more flattering lighting also plays a large role in the images e-commerce websites use, she says, however, her company no longer advertises.

“When we did shoot some of our styles, we pinched them from the back to make them fit the models better. As far as better fabrics, it would depend on the item itself. If it were a polyester blend, we would [photograph] silk or another high-end fabric.”

As long as the retailers do not claim to sell garments made of silk or other luxury fabrics, they are in the clear. That is, the items’ descriptions on e-commerce sites must clearly state what exactly the customers receive when they order a garment, even if the images themselves do not match the fabric compositions listed.

“We knock-off styles all the time from high end lines; we just pick less expensive fabrics,” Bagienski-Mangual adds.

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Competition among fast fashion retailers has led stores like Forever 21 and Zara to increase prices without cutting back on their shady, inhumane and downright dirty design and production practices, according to The Fashion Law.

“Additionally, [thanks to] the influx and success of other similarly situated web-based retailers like Nasty Gal, Missguided and Pixie Market, the most longstanding fast fashion retailers, such as H&M, Forever 21 and Zara, are being forced to up the ante in order to attract new customers and to hang on to the ones they already have.”

This has caused fast fashion retailers to stock their shelves, both in-store and online, with higher priced goods. Stores known for their cheaply made and cheaply priced versions (i.e., copies) of runway trends now stock $70 trousers and $60 sweaters, without changing the unethical and harmful methods with which they are produced.

Adding variety to their garments in terms of price, quality and, in some cases, brand, The Fashion Law continues, helps fast fashion retailers keep up with competition. Some even stock certain pieces on Revolve.com and other non-fast fashion e-commerce websites.

Alexa Chung wearing Topshop at Topshop Unique’s Fall/Winter 2015 show [source: Who What Wear]

“Another theory centers on the fact that influencers–whether it be Alexa Chung, who has been a proponent of Topshop for years, Olivia Palermo, who is a fan of Zara or Kendall and Kylie Jenner, who have been spotted in Forever 21 and Nasty Gal garments, and have fronted their own collection for PacSun–have increased demand for street brands, thereby driving up prices,” according to The Fashion Law.

In short, it seems high fashion is not as cool or desirable as it once ways. The more young consumers see social media startlets like Kendall and Kylie Jenner shopping–and designing!–fast fashion, the more likely they are to shop fast fashion themselves. Thanks to Kendall Jenner and co., buying cheap is trendy again, and fast fashion’s accessibility ensures young people will keep consuming it.

“One major factor [in the rise of fast fashion prices] has been this real push globally by some of the fashion industry’s most influential bloggers and fashion editors, who have said to the world, ‘it’s OK to mix and match,’” says Simon Lock, owner and CEO of The Lock Group and the pioneering force behind Mercedes-Benz Australia Fashion Week.

“It’s OK to wear a Chloe top with a pair of Zara or H&M jeans. With that has come a certain amount of prestige that is then associated with these fast fashion brands and as a result, consumers are willing to pay more for it.”

Lock is not alone in believing this theory. In fact, it is an idea he has in common with Anna Wintour, esteemed Editor-in-Chief of Vogue magazine.

Bercu on the cover of Wintour’s first Vogue, November 1988 [source: Vogue]

“[Wintour’s] first-ever Vogue cover, from the November 1988 issue, featured model Michaela Bercu in a Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele-styled look of a haute couture Christian Lacroix jacket and stonewashed Guess jeans,” according to The Fashion Law.

The Christian Lacroix jacket, Wintour revealed in 2012, came with a matching skirt. But, Bercu gained a little weight prior to her photoshoot with Vogue–she had been on vacation at home in Israel–so the skirt did not fit her.

“It was so unlike the studied and elegant close-ups that were typical of Vogue’s covers back then, with tons of makeup and major jewelry. This one broke all the rules. Michaela wasn’t looking at you, and worse, she had her eyes almost closed. Her hair was blowing across her face. It looked easy, casual, a moment that had been snapped on the street, which it had been, and which was the whole point,” Wintour continued, reflecting on the issue on Vogue’s 120th anniversary.

“I had just looked at that picture and sensed the winds of change. And you can’t ask for more from a cover image than that.”

It seems Wintour was ahead of her time.

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Teen Vogue employees Lara Witt and Lauren Duca are under scrutiny after posting racially insensitive and downright hateful remarks on Twitter. On March 18, Witt (@Femmefeministe) wrote, “Also white people are evil. Whiteness is evil.”

Duca’s (@laurenduca) remarks came nearly a year earlier when she wrote, “Friendly reminder that there’s an uneven playing field, and straight, white men are generally trash,” on May 27, 2016. Both Witt and Duca have verified Twitter accounts.

[source: Twitter user @Femmefeministe]

[source: Twitter user @laurenduca]

Teen Vogue’s website lists Witt as an author and Duca as a weekend editor. While both face a ton of backlash via Twitter from Teen Vogue fans and critics alike (more on that later!), Heat Street noticed something suspect about Witt in particular. In an article titled “Feminist writer Lara Witt’s very un-woke Twitter history,” Joe Simonson points out several cases in which the Teen Vogue author spewed highly hypocritical sentiments.

“Witt is a master at this social justice warrior pastime…When she’s not writing riveting columns at publications like Teen Vogue entitled ‘What I learned from DAPL protestors as a woman of color,’ or ‘Stop weaponizing ciracial children,’ at Wear Your Voice Magazine she’s letting the internet know just how terrible everybody and everything is,” Simonson writes.

“But what about Witt herself?  Has she always acted with the same kind of purity she demands from others?”

When it comes to body shaming, a concern among feminists, Witt is guilty of it herself.

Per Heat Street, Witt tweeted, “Nothing bothers me more than ignorant people who think they’re smart. Well, that and fat people who take up [two] seats [on] the bus,” on April 12, 2011.

A little over a year later, Witt wrote, “The number of women in Philly that are in their early 20s and overweight is alarming. #America.”

Witt also took to Twitter to criticize a man’s outfit choice on a city street: “Come on, dude, it’s the city, put on some fucking shoes and decent attire. Fat, lazy American,” she wrote on May 30, 2012. She also included a snapshot of the man and his friend, which they clearly did not know was being taken.

[source: Twitter user @Femmefeministe via Heat Street]

Slut-shaming is another hot button issue about which feminists preach ad nauseam. Of course a social justice warrior and liberal like Witt would never participate in such misogynistic behavior–at least, that is what she wants her followers to believe.

On January 4, Witt tweeted, “You’re shamed for any sense of sexual agency and pleasure. I can’t tell you how many times I was called a whore when I was only 18.”

Simonson notes, “What about dangerous and violent gendered language against women? Surely someone like Lara would never slut-shame, right? It’s not like she’s specifically written articles attacking people who slut shamed Kim Kardashian.”

But, five years earlier she slut-shamed a fellow woman. “Wait, what?! #KimKardashian only got married for publicity? What groundbreaking news. I didn’t know she wasn’t an attention whore,” Witt wrote on October 31, 2011.

According to Simonson, “[Witt] at least she recognizes the problematic nature of using the word crazy, right?  She frequently writes columns centered around mental health and wellness.”

Not exactly. On September 15, 2011 she tweeted, “Hearing this woman’s bed bug issue while [on] the bus is driving me crazy.”

Lastly, Witt took to Twitter not once, but twice to bash “fat, male, slutty Jews,” according to Simonson.

“I find it despicable that some Jewish figures are decrying rockets being launched at them. Israel has the means to protect itself,” she tweeted on July 29, 2014.

In response to her own tweet, Witt also wrote, “Gaza has no way to protect itself from the very government that has kept it handicapped for years. Gaza is oppressed; Israel is a terrorist.”

But, let’s get back to backlash both Witt and Duca are currently facing on the social media platform. In a March 19 tweet highlighting both aforementioned racist remarks by the two Teen Vogue employees, an account called Tennessee (@TEN_GOP) wrote, “Hey @TeenVogue, care to comment on blatant racism from your employees?” Teen Vogue has yet to respond publicly.

@AM_Gwynn responds, “@TEN_GOP @TeenVogue Perhaps this needs the attention of a hate crime agency?” and “This should go viral. Teen Vogue prefers protecting real racists over profit and reputation? This is not acceptable.

@PrettyFru writes, “@TEN_GOP @TeenVogue I’m just about to my limit with this hypocrisy! Never be apologetic for being ANY color–it wasn’t your choice.”

@jtoufas says, “@TEN_GOP @TeenVogue, “Both of these tweets sound ignorant. Why does the color of skin mean anything?”

Lastly, @indigoblue65 writes, “@TEN_GOP @TeenVogue Shocked you’re allowing such hateful, racist people to write for such an influential [magazine] for teens!”

That’s not all, though. A simple search for Witt or Duca’s account on Twitter’s app or website yields a ton of criticism aimed directly at the young writers.

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Spring is officially here, but during March it is pretty chilly where I live in West Virginia, so I am still sporting all my favorite sweaters–including this thrifted beauty. To keep my most-worn pieces looking fresh, I absolutely love to mix-and-match different textures, especially knitwear, satin, lace and leather.

For a casual look today, I layered a beige turtleneck over a pale gray slip dress. The delicate satin and lace accents on the dress add a feminine touch to the chunky knit sweater, which made the entire outfit look effortless.

I also added black stockings for even more texture (and to stay warm). Then, I polished the ensemble off with my go-to snake print booties; the worn-in leather always kicks any outfit up a notch. To ensure focus was on my outfit, I tied my hair in a low, messy bun, and opted for minimal makeup. Finally, I accessorized with my rose gold nameplate necklace and a few decorative rings for some sparkle.

While a fluffy gray coat kept me snuggly on this day, I cannot wait for warmer temps so I can pair this ultra-femme slip dress with a badass leather jacket and fishnets.

Sweater, thrifted

Slip dress, thrifted

Booties, Free People, no longer available

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If you take a walk on any college campus, you will notice one thing for certain: a plethora of young women who tote designer handbags and trek in name-brand shoes, yet sport low-end loungewear in terms of clothing. And, it is no accident that a large percentage of young women dress this way. Their style, or lack thereof, is evidence of the garment gap: the phenomenon in which luxury clothing brands sell exponentially more accessories than actual garments.

“For me [producing every single look from the runway for retail] is absolutely necessary,” Dries Van Noten told The Talks in 2015.

Per The Fashion Law, the Belgian designer’s sentiment “sheds light on his ongoing resistance to conforming to a larger practice in the fashion industry,” i.e., “brands’ reliance on the sales of non-runway–and in many cases, non-garment–goods to derive the majority of their profits.”

There is no question that many big-name designers (think: Chanel, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Yves Saint Laurent) sell more handbags, shoes, even makeup and fragrance than they do clothing. In fact, “leather goods represent over 50 percent of the €7.9 billion that the conglomerate’s luxury division earned in revenue for the 2015 fiscal year,” while “ready-to-wear accounted for only 16 percent,” according to The Fashion Law.

“At Louis Vuitton–by far LVMH’s most valuable and recognizable brand, accounting for no less than one-third of total group sales and almost half of its profit–bags play a significant role,” The Fashion Law Continues.

“[Louis Vuitton’s] current roster of bags and related accessories includes upwards of 850 products,” while “shop-able womenswear collections consist of just over 380 products.”

To anyone with fair reasoning skills, it may seem pretty pointless, for lack of a better term, for luxury fashion brands to design clothes anymore. After all, both the amount of effort and the cost of putting together just one fashion show are extremely high. But, high fashion has never been logical or practical–quite the opposite, in fact. The Fashion Law lists two major reasons high-fashion brands continue to show garments on the runway, despite the fact they never make the transition to retail:

“The first [is] that runway garments are simply not meant to represent marketable items but instead, serve a different purpose.”

“One could argue that modern day couture and ready-to-wear shows, in many cases, are more akin to large scale marketing events for brands–for the purpose of enabling and/or maintaining lucrative licensing deals–than buying opportunities for clients.”

When you think this through, it actually makes a lot of sense in today’s society. Fashion shows once served as buying opportunities for clients, as The Fashion Law states, but today, Fashion shows are more like pseudo-events. That is, they exist purely for publicity.

Chanel Fall/Winter 2017/2018 at Paris Fashion Week, March 2017 [source: Fashionisers]

“Over-the-top shows serve as an opportunity for brands to market themselves as luxury fashion brands,” The Fashion Law continues, bringing us to the second reason.

“The second reason centers on the tactic of putting runway garments on the back-burner in favor of brands more strongly pushing runway accessories and derivatives thereof–namely, bags and sometimes, shoes, [as well as] watered down garments, as these have proven to be key sources of income for brands.”

Plainly, this means clothes just aren’t selling for most high-end designers.

“For luxury brands, it is about licensing and handbags with nearly everything else taking the form of marketing,” according to The Fashion Law.

Thanks to Paris-based brands like Saint Laurent and Vetements, “the most recent rise of ‘it’ items…are not limited to bags.” Ultimately, when it comes to Saint Laurent, you think biker jackets, not purses. And, when it comes to Vetements, you think hoodies, sweats and activewear–definitely not handbags.

“Hoodies, bomber jackets, statement jeans and other eye-catching garments have taken center stage in street style shots, in Gucci stores, in editorials and elsewhere.”

But, this is a rarity and, not to mention, an extremely new phenomenon in the fashion industry.

“Most runway pieces never get produced. They’re marketing exercises. The legacy brands aren’t in the fashion business anymore. They’re selling handbags and lipstick,” Cameron Silver, founder of Decades, the posh Los Angeles vintage clothing store, told The Daily Beast last year.

Saint Laurent Fall/Winter 2017/2018 at Paris Fashion Week, February 2017 [source: Fashionisers]

“According to a report released by Exane BNP Paribas, accessories– namely, handbags–dominate in the luxury market. They represent one of the few categories with high sales densities and full-price sell-through rates,” according to The Fashion Law.

“As of 2016, they account for almost 30 percent of the total global luxury market, up from just 18 percent in 2003.”

So, why isn’t high fashion selling?

Silver has an answer: “Luxury brands have alienated the luxury customer.”

“Bloggers and celebrities, who either borrow or get clothes free, have replaced paying customers in the hearts, minds and front rows of fashion’s nabobs,” according to The Daily Beast.

Blogger Jetset Justine carries a Neverfull by Louis Vuitton and wears sunglasses by Ray-Ban [source: jetsetjustine.com]

“Runway clothes are made for magazines or loans,” Silver continues.

“Customers are low on the totem pole and they’re starting to rebel. It started in the mid-’90s with the red carpet and celebrities. Who wants to pay $250,000 for a couture dress they’ve seen loaned to some actress six months earlier?”

But, it’s not only couture that is failing to sell. Fast fashion has also taken its toll on ready-to-wear sales.

“Thanks to the Internet, [ready-to-wear] is also now instantly over-exposed,” writes The Daily Beast.

“By the time it’s in stores, it looks tired,” says Silver.

“The quirkiness of luxury, the artisanal experience, has largely been lost.”

Bloggers Chiara Ferragni and Aimee Song, among others, sit front row at Tommy Hilfiger’s Fall 2015 fashion show [source: runwaynewsroom.tommy.com]

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