Consider this your Fashion Week Prologue: You know we love to spot fakes. You could say it's a trademark. And we'll be sitting by the runways this week, hawk-eyed and eager, memorizing every pattern in case it shows up at Urban Outfitters in October. But our obsession with "Aha! Gotcha! That's from Anna Sui!" has us annoyed, and asking a question: Isn't there a mass brand that influences runways, the same way that catwalks dictate H&M's next move? Well, there was, and it was Biba. From 1964 -1975, the brand hijacked London's fashion scene, selling $12 dresses as if they were Muse bags. At first, they sold mostly copies - an early hit dress looked like something from a Brigitte Bardot magazine spread. But gradually things settled into their own style, if you could ever refer to Biba anything as "settled." Biba's signature prints and shapes weren't coming from catwalks, they spilled from old art, album covers, acid trips, and doodles, plus that yearning that every girl has - "I wish this dress existed" and "I imagine this coat..." until they made it themselves. Biba's clothes may have been cheap - and they were; they would have been Forever 21 prices now - but their influence was rich and long. Everyone from Gucci to Chloe and Marc has sampled the trends that they started. Their influence even prevailed over the heartbreakingly icky revival collections attempted last year - to be sold at runway prices, to add to the anguish. Now Biba's flimsy vintage dresses are coveted - and also impossible to find, since most have fallen apart. Remember, these dresses were $10. In the coming days, you'll see piles of clothes and packs of models. But each outfit is really a lens that designers want you to look through in order to see their universe, and the rules and passions that govern it. Whatever Karl puts on Gemma is just a prism, refracting Chanel's ideas and shapes around the room - and, he hopes, around the world. Right now, these are the clothes with the power to shape and shake us. But we dare a mass brand - Bebe, French Connection, come on... - to start the trends again, instead of just co-opting them. If done correctly, a company could make more money than LVMH, and start a shopping revolution based on style and function, not logos. Yeah, we know we're idealists, but since when was fashion grounded in reality? Until then, we'll see you in the third row (or the eighth, if we're talking about Marc Jacobs).
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