Kim Kardashian West is calling out fast fashion brands for their luxury knockoffs, but high-end brands remain reticent on social channels.

The reality star stepped out in a vintage Thierry Mugler dress from Spring/Summer ‘98 for the fifth Annual Hollywood Beauty Awards on Monday, following in the footsteps of Cardi B, who wore a 1995 Mugler to the Grammy’s red carpet. Within 24 hours, a copycat version of Kardashian’s dress was available on Fashion Nova, where shoppers could pre-order it for $49.99.

Kim K

Speculation immediately arose whether Kardashian was taking a tip from Cardi B and partnering with the fast fashion retailer, which is known for rapidly releasing cheaper versions of celebrity looks. Last November, the Bronx rapper teamed up with Fashion Nova to release her first clothing collection.

Kardashian, however, took to social media to refute the claims, proclaiming that it was “devastating to see these fashion companies rip off designs that have taken the blood, sweat and tears of true designers who have put their all into their own original ideas.” Quick to respond to the scandal, Fashion Nova released a statement across its social platforms, garnering over 115k interactions on Instagram alone.

Kim K

This isn’t the first time Kim K has called out out fast fashion brands. Only a week ago, the star posted a photo of an original Kanye West creation, asking brands to wait until she wore the dress in real life before retailing a mass market knock-off. This highlights the digital nativity and supply chain efficiency with which fast fashion retailers operate.

Luxury brands are falling behind these digitally native upstarts on a variety of digital dimensions, including marketing communications. Concerned with tailoring elaborate high-brow responses, luxury players have been slow to respond on social channels. Two days after the scandal, Mugler has yet to respond.

When high-end brands end up in hot water, digital savvy is key to addressing the situation. Gucci, which holds a coveted Genius rank in Gartner L2’s Digital IQ Index: Fashion Global, was recently criticized over the balacava knit sweater from its Winter 2018 collection. The polo neck jumper features a red outlining around a mouth cut-out, and users on social media were quick to accuse the brand of proliferating blackface imagery. The brand promptly responded to the backlash by pulling the sweater from circulation and announcing a diversity initiative across social media. That Instagram post ranked among the brand’s top-performing posts in February.

In this fast-paced digital environment, luxury brands need to monitor social media to understand consumer sentiment and enter the conversation when necessary. Social media channels are key for audience engagement, and leaders use them to maintain goodwill, or, in the case of controversial situations, restore it. 

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