The Halston fall 2008 cocktail dress.

Thanks to the Internet, runway shots are now available for all the world to see just minutes after a model’s last turn. One result of this phenomenon: A flurry of low-priced copies reach stores weeks before the real thing. In February designer e-tailer Net-a-porter.com devised a way to prevent such piracy. The site’s founder, Natalie Massenet, collaborated with Halston to offer two dresses from the fall 2008 collection just 24 hours after the show. “They had their cake and have been eating it for a while,” Massenet told WWD of couture copycats. “We’re now saying, ‘We work with the brand to reclaim their ability to sell their product first.’” Fashion junkies embraced the idea. Within 45 minutes of their online debut, the $1,495 shirtdresses were sold out, and by the next day, 85 percent of the $1,795 jersey drape cocktail dresses had been snatched up too.

photo: Talaya Centeno