Now that we can see it, we can start believing that those famous “high street” brands are on their way to New Zealand.  Fit out of the Zara store in Sylvia Park started this week, and H&M is on its way too – also in Sylvia Park.

So-called ‘fast fashion’ has been a phenomenon offshore for ages – and Zara is an acknowledged master of the art.  A Prada coat is shown for the first time at Milan Fashion Week, and then – not many weeks later – a version of it is for sale in Zara in London, and anywhere else in the world where it’s sensible to sell coats. There are others who work to the same business model, and to massive commercial success.   

Copyright law generally allows for an "inspiration" based business model, but not a "direct copying" based model - and the fast fashion players work hard to stay on the right side of this line.  

Prada (and all the others) probably don’t mind this stuff going on anyway, on the basis that imitation is the ultimate form of flattery.  And those in the market for that Prada coat will probably still buy the real thing, and not be that fazed by the “Oxford Street army” – for all sorts of reasons.

Other than these new market entrants adding more (and very real) competition for New Zealand fashion buyers’ attention and money, New Zealand’s local designers are unlikely to see their designs gracing the international high streets, thanks to the fast fashion players now being here.  The sheer size and scale of the Zara production and distribution machine is such that what turns up in Sylvia Park in the spring is likely to be, necessarily, the same range that is being sold in Zara stores elsewhere in the world, inspired by what has already come down the European and American runways, not what is coming out of NZ Fashion Week or that’s already in our local boutiques.

Shopping, and in big malls, is a favourite Kiwi pastime. The arrival of the offshore retail giants won’t lessen that.  So this is great news for all those who benefit from a busy shopping mall.  What remains to be seen though, and we will be watching with some interest, is the impact that these new arrivals have on the existing New Zealand fashion industry. Will they prompt others in the same price bracket to up their design / quality game? Will it prompt greater price competition at that level? Will they prove too much for the existing suppliers, or will they actually open up another sub-tier in the fashion buying market – and so release a different buyer with fresh funds? Perhaps some of all of the above will eventuate.

What is certain though, is that parking at Sylvia Park from about October onwards will be even more of a competitive sport than it is at the moment.  So get there by 9.