In a recent study by RedPoints 29% of people had bought an illegal fake branded handbag and 56% of respondents would consider purchasing a counterfeit handbag if the discount was enough. It states “The International Trademark Association estimates that $460 billion worth of counterfeit goods traded hands last year and most were online.” This is really concerning particularly when “purchasers believe that buying, selling, or owning fakes is a victimless crime.”*
I have a confession to make here. Back in the late 1980’s I went to the beautiful Singapore where locals would approach you and whisper “copywatch”, then lure you down some dingy laneway to look at what they had to offer. I shake my head now that I even followed them with a group of friends. There we could buy copies of Rolexes, Cartier or other famous branded watches for a song. I bought one copywatch and thought what a bargain I had found. But every time I wore that watch, I realised I was wearing a lie and questioned my reasoning behind wanting to appear like I had the real thing. Status envy is an ugly thing to recognise in yourself & I stopped wearing it.
I had already started designing back then and was becoming more aware of how insidious copying other brand’s designs were, so buying that watch was a step outside my value mindset and woke me up from my indifference.
When you design, create or invent something unique, a lot of time, expense and personal passion goes into the development of that product. The item has your handprint and love within that item. Branding a product shows it has been created with the quality and values of that brand. (see Hermès videos of their artisans at work). When someone copies it and represents it as your brand, they didn’t pay the price of developing it, they don’t care that the quality (or lack of) is an affront to the brand’s values and sourcing specifications. The counterfeiters are making money on people’s distorted view of themselves and according to Dana Thomas in her 2007 book Deluxe How Luxury Lost Its Lustre “Profits from counterfeiting are one of the three main sources of income supporting international terrorism.”
Then there is the human trafficking and slavery associated with the manufacturing of these illegal bags (and everything else that is copied). Again Dana Thomas, “workers, sometimes children have been sold into labor. They are taken to tenement factories and often locked in. There they live, work, sleep. ” (This is in reference to a sweatshop in Brooklyn USA).
What prompted my outpouring of emotion is the fact that in Australia The Modern Slavery Bill has just been passed by the House of Representatives and is being reviewed by the Senate now. Clare Press keeps me up-to-date with what is happening in the realm of fashion and her recent podcast with Baroness Lola Young about the UK’s introduction of a Modern Slavery Act in 2015 alerted me to this fact. Ridiculous as it might seem, she says there are over 40 million people enslaved right now in the world, and yes this includes Australia. That’s why we need a Modern Slavery Bill. Of course counterfeit manufacturing is only part of the modern slavery story. Clare’s podcast notes go into a lot of detail if you are interested to read more.
So buying counterfeit product is not a clever snatch at getting a bargain, whilst discrediting high end brands for charging for their name. This is not a victimless crime. If you find you are lured by a counterfeit item, ask yourself why do I want this pretence? If you really want a beautifully handcrafted handbag by a particular brand, find your sense, set that goal and save your cents.
I have come across fake products during my wardrobe clear-outs and these get cut up and thrown in the bin. If you do have one do the same. This is perhaps the one thing I think should not be donated or sold and will make it to landfill.
That’s me on my soapbox this week. Enjoy the rest of the week.