Left, a dress from the Versace Spring/Summer '07 collection, which retailed for $1,685 when it was offered by Neiman Marcus this spring. On the right from Bebe, which sells their most expensive comparable dress for about $130. Forever 21 also sold a similar dress later in the summer.
"Before Models Can Turn Around, Knockoffs Fly'
Having worked deep within the depths of this issue (particularly in how items are manufactured for big department stores private labels), I've seen first hand how the 'copying' process goes down, and it ain't' pretty girls. New York is a mecca for companies whose sole purpose it is to dissect emerging trends and translate (aka copy/steal) them into affordable pieces carried by large mainstream stores and small alike.
The NY Times article does a great job of revealing the process behind the scenes. Oh, and however which way you feel about the issue, I couldn't leave out this fantastic quote from the copycat designer they focused on:
"She sees her work meeting the needs of the vast majority of consumers who cannot afford designer prices. “Especially the younger girls do not have so much money,” Ms. Anand said, “but they want to wear fashionable clothes.”
“They want to look fabulous,” she said. “It’s their right to look fabulous.”