Don’t Fake It

by Kezia on November 19, 2008

Have you ever bought a fake “It” bag, designer watch or any other faux luxury item? I have. These are the bogus items I’ve bought or bartered for: fake Gucci strap watch (mid-90s, Canal Street, NYC); fake Rolex (late 90s, Canal Street); faux Chanel chain link purse (early 00, garage sale); a fake Louis Vuitton clutch (clothing swap a few years ago). Oh, and I once unwittingly bought a pair of fake Citizens of Humanity jeans on eBay. Thanks to several anti-counterfeiting campaigns and exposes, including Harper’s Bazaar “Fakes are Never in Fashion,” I’ve learned the error of my ways. I’ll never fake it again.
But what is exactly behind those counterfeit and pirated goods? A new ad campaign, led in part by the International Anticounterfeiting Coalition, that is sweeping this country is tying such items to child labor, drug trafficking, organized crime and terrorism.

The Fake Trade is Bad, Bad News

So why is it bad to buy fake (or counterfeited) goods? Well, according to the International Anticounterfeiting Coalition, fakes can be tied to child labor and exploitation, drug and people trafficking, organized crime and terrorism.

The coalition gives five good reasons why you should never fake it:
1. Counterfeiting is illegal and purchasing counterfeit products supports illegal activity.
2. Counterfeiters do not pay taxes meaning less money for your city’s schools, hospitals, parks and other social programs.
3. Counterfeiters do not pay their employees fair wages or benefits, have poor working conditions, and often use forced child labor.
4. The profits from counterfeiting have been linked to funding organized crime, drug trafficking and terrorist activity.
5. When you purchase a fake, you become part of the cycle of counterfeiting and your money directly support these things you would never want to support.
That takes the fun out of a fabulous faux Marc Jacobs bag, doesn’t it?

Welcome to our Fake World

It’s not just handbags and jewelry that’s being faked. The flourishing counterfeit market includes things like brake pads, airplane parts (um, yikes), electric cords and equipment and pharmaceuticals and health care supplies. Basically, if it’s being made, it’s also being faked. In a sense, the potential danger associated with less visible counterfeited products makes the fake trade a health issue.

Weapons of Mass Consumption

In a brand obsessed, consumption-driven world, is it any surprise that product counterfeiting has skyrocketed in the last two decades? For many, shopping and acquiring has become a religion of sorts. And it’s easy to use shopping as a quick-fix — a quick, viable way to feel good. Since consumerism is so thoroughly integrated into our society, it’s no wonder that people fail to see connect themselves to the consequences of purchasing fakes.

There’s a great essay on the Fashion Lawyer Blog that breaks down the legal and moral implications of counterfeiting. The author wonders if the fake trade could be killed if we, as a society, could reign in our rampant consumerism. I totally agree. What do you think?

The Global Impact

  • $600 Billion- estimated annual sales in counterfeit products worldwide
  • 10%- estimated percentage of fakes among all goods produced worldwide every year


Further Reading:

Ethical Style: A Victimless Crime
Business of Fashion: Counterfeit Culture

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Retro Chick November 19, 2008 at 4:50 am

It’s a shame that people who pride themselves on buying fair trade, free range and organic in their food shopping just can’t see the damage that their wardrobe could be doing!

I think the only fake I own is a burberry bag, but my Mum bought me that years ago! I’d rather steer clear of labels completely than buy fakes.

grechen November 19, 2008 at 5:33 am

great analysis! i’ve always been of the mind that if i want something, i save money to buy it (the real thing), but i think in our society now, it’s all about who has the most “stuff” so the more you can buy with your money, the better. but it’s not. fakes are bad. thanks for re-iterating that :-)

Prêt à Porter P November 19, 2008 at 5:44 am

i bought a “real” fake louis vuitton luggage once before i knew better. and you know im glad i did, because the hardware broke off after a month, the painting was crooked, and i could see that it was a waste of money. and fakes are nothing to pass on. im glad that silly little thing isnt in my life anymore.

jennine November 19, 2008 at 5:51 am

oh my… i’ve only bought a fake twice, once in tijuana….

the other time was right before i started following designers, i purchased a bag from this place on pine and kearny.. that carried lots of fakes. i didn’t really think of it as a fake, but it turned out to be a copy of the fendi spy bag. it smelled like a hefty cinch sack and i hated it. i spent $80 (impulse buy) and they wouldn’t take it back, so i felt i had to use it. a week later the handle fell off. which made it look less like a spybag, but people kept asking about it. ‘oh what a cute bag, that’s such a nice bag’

i felt terrible. i’ll never buy from one of those shady stores again, and after reading this, my experience is not the only reason…

songy November 19, 2008 at 6:12 am

I don’t buy fakes any more. I instead go for knock-off bags that are of much much better quality. No fake logos just similar design made with high quality leather. That’s what I love… and affordable.

Minjae November 19, 2008 at 7:16 am

I also made the confession last year how I did own a few fakes but since then purged my closet of them. Now I just save up and buy a handful of good purchases a year that will last me for a long time. People keep saying, “Oh no one will know,” but I know a fake when I see one, and you wouldn’t catch me w/one anymore! ;)

Charm November 19, 2008 at 1:24 pm

Maybe they’ll start counterfeiting people. Fake brother? No problem!

Prêt à Porter P November 19, 2008 at 3:08 pm

im like songy, id rather get a similar bag but without the logo. if i find out it has the fake logo, it’s a total turnoff. i dont want my bag claiming to be something that its not.

Market Publique November 19, 2008 at 3:29 pm

The only fake thing I would ever wear are eyelashes.

I don’t understand why people purchase fake designer items. Not only is it almost always obvious and embarrasing(Chanel bag not made out of leather? please, who do they think they’re fooling?), it’s bad for everyone, for the reasons stated above by jennine and for the designers who spent time and research in making these items (Foley & Corinna, anyone?)

I don’t like knockoffs either. When I can’t afford something designer, I search for a similar vintage piece. As a (web) designer, it feels awful when people just copy your crap.

Eyeliah November 19, 2008 at 5:32 pm

I have a fake (I’m sure) Gucci waist belt that I bought at a thrift store, come to think of it, It’s never been featured on my site! *gasps

Sonja November 20, 2008 at 1:12 pm

Lots of really good points, Kezia. Really puts a whole new spin on this. I had no idea it was such a gigantic industry. Thanks for all the great info!

Cammielle November 20, 2008 at 10:19 pm

I hate it when I see fakes. I wonder if those 12 year old girls everywhere with fake Chanels really think they’re fooling anyone? I can tell a fake as soon I can see one. I overheard a girl gushing over her friends Louis Vuitton the other day and the girl with it was eating it up. The pattern was wrong and I could tell right away. Honestly I think that is so embarrassing.

Kezia November 21, 2008 at 10:55 am

@jennine: i remember that bag! @marketpublique- i agree with most of your points, however, i’ll admit i’ve bought knockoffs before. i can see how they can be considered a grey area.
The thing is, in our status-driven, consumer culture WE (I’m using the collective we here) supply the demand. 12 year old girls wouldn’t be obsessing over fake louis vuittons, etc. if they weren’t being marketed a “lifestyle” that deifies labels and clothing.

deryik November 22, 2008 at 8:26 am

well yea, fakes are bad. but then, how on earth a bag costs tens of thousands of dollars, and more importantly- why? do the labourers earn the most, or the brand? ive seen this guy, making perfect fakes of brand bags (nope, i didnt buy one). he even got in touch with italy to get the original zippers, leather etc from the producers, of course illegally. his bags cost like 5% of the original… and he still makes profit. i think “power to possess” is the one and only “it” thing for centuries. and it has a lot to do with creation of fakes. i mean, his customers used to bring him catalogues for every season! consumerism as u well said, and hunger for power.

and sometimes real stuff doesnt mean fair trade. do all brands guarantee us “no child labour” all thru the production process, from the textile to the zipper? adidas:

and nike:

were the originals and they still abused child labour. good old “minimize cost- maximize profit” principle is the issue here. i think its such a shame that we still need “fair trade” signs on products.

Iheartfashion November 22, 2008 at 5:09 pm

I’d much rather buy an anonymous, well made bag than a logo-covered imitation anyway, if the child labor and drug traficking weren’t enough to dissuade me from buying a fake!

Bronwyn November 22, 2008 at 10:59 pm

I own a fake Cartier watch. I didn’t realize that’s what it was at the tine - I didn’t have my close-up glasses on and just thought it was a pretty little cheap watch. This was in a street stall in Bangkok. I’ve worn that watch for 2 years non-stop now, and it goes really well. I can’t see the difference between it and any of the other cheap watches on the stalls, so I refuse to feel guilty just because it has a minute “Cartier” on its face.

capitolagirl November 23, 2008 at 10:22 am

I don’t buy or own fakes. Aside from not understanding the whole appeal of buying a fake product, I’m totally against child labor, human trafficking, as well as against copying any designers work. There are a few real designer labels that I have on my wish list, but I’d only buy them direct from a legitimate retail outlet-and they wouldn’t be items that have a flashy logo on it. For most of what I wear, I tend to buy well made products from indies and emerging designers, and prefer supporting indies over labels because I love originality, uniqueness, and quality.

huongface November 23, 2008 at 1:17 pm

thank you for sharing this. buying fakes is not something anyone should do. I’ve seen documentary on child labor and it makes me sad but then again how many folks buying fakes know these things. It is necessary to share with people this, I will definitely be.

lisa November 23, 2008 at 5:25 pm

Great post reminding everyone of the serious problems with buying fakes. Aside from all the illegal activities that counterfeiting supports, I don’t think I could bring myself to wear fakes-it’s just embarassing. I’d rather have something which I know is well-made and special and the genuine article. When you wear the real thing, you feel different and carry yourself differently.

Laura November 24, 2008 at 6:56 pm

A good alternative to buying through and through fake goods (such as the “Prada” and “Gucci” sold on blankets at tourist spots in Italy among thousands of other locations) is to invest in a “knock-off piece” such as a pair of mock Marc Jacobs booties at f21 or Steve Madden. This is a far better alternative because it gets you something similar to designer goods (although it can never replace them) for a LOT less. A little research before buying fakes can save a lot of pain and unfairness.

Good post Kezia, thanks for spreading the awareness.

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