In this day and age of vanity and the pursuit of the “haute” image, it is inevitable that designer pieces that are coveted by the public, will be copied and sold. Let’s face it, designer goods are expensive; there’s no way around it. Hence the existence of an extremely lucrative industry devoted solely to counterfeited designer items. We have all seen or know people that buy these designer knock-offs and not react to it. Although it seems harmless to buy a $100 replica of an original $1000 piece, this not only devalues the branding of the designer, but it aides in the continuation of the “black market” that works closely with this illegal industry. The International Chamber of Commerce estimates that 7% of global trade involves counterfeit goods, or US$600-billion a year alone on the distribution of bootleg designer apparel and has spawned an estimated $512 billion in lost sales worldwide. In Canada alone, the fashion and retail industries lose millions of dollars every year.
Businesses and their employees are not the only victims in the crime of counterfeiting. The fake designer market works directly with international crime syndicates that are involved in a wide array of unimaginable crimes: gang warfare, human trafficking, and child labour. Counterfeiting is also linked to money laundering activities that fund terrorist organizations. Because of this counterfeiting industry, designers and brands are cracking down with an iron fist on bootlegging. LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy which owns Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Fendi, Marc Jacobs, Thomas Pink, Givenchy…among many more) alone spends millions upon millions of dollars yearly on anti-counterfeiting, and has a dedicated team that handles this issue.
Due to technological advances, it is becoming harder and harder to distinguish an original from a fake. But with a keen eye, and an understanding of why designer pieces are priced the way they are, you can prevent yourself from purchasing a piece that could potentially further the global recession, and most importantly, save you from embarrassment.
if it’s too good to be true, it probably is
The best way to spot a designer fake is by the pricing of the pieces. All designer clothing fakes have low prices in comparison to genuine designer clothing. The reasonings behind the high price point for genuine designer pieces are the simple notions of quality of material and exclusivity. Most genuine pieces will utilize authentic fabrics (such as wool, satin, fur, leather etc.), and as such, the price will reflect that usage. 99% of the time, the replicas would utilize “look-alike” materials to mimic the original fabric, and hence the much “lower cost”. For instance, Lanvin utilizes authentic silk spun from highly coveted silk worms for some of their pieces in the fall/winter 2009-2010 collection. Because of the actual cost of material (the silk), production of the piece (silk is an extremely fragile material to sew) and labour put into the production of the pieces (in the case of silk, most pieces would have all been hand-sewn), the retail cost is at a higher price-point. Whereas a knock-off would normally utilize a cheaper reproduction of silk (normally polyester or cheap nylon) to replicate the original. The craftsmanship would not be present nor would the quality of the piece…hence the “lower” cost.
The exclusivity of the pieces also come into play with pricing of designer goods. In order to create an atmosphere of “luxury”, one has to price it accordingly. If priced at a much lower cost, it would then be accessible to everyone, and thus destroying the image and craftsmanship of the piece. Most designers do not want their pieces to be had by all as this would make them seem “mass marketed”. A great comparison would be in the sneaker world. Most sneaker-heads shudder at the thought that the shoes they just bought will be worn by everyone and their grandmother. It is that notion of thinking that not everyone will have it, that makes the piece special and unique. Louis Vuitton and Hermès are the epitomes of this philosophy as they never put any of their merchandise on sale. And hence why these two names are synonymous with the word luxury. It is exclusive only to a few who have the means to afford their pieces.
Now, having said all that, there are occurrences when the price is at a substantial reduction. The majority of times is when there is a sale at the boutique (their spring-summer sale/fall-winter sale to make room for the new collection that is coming in), it’s a an outlet or if it’s on consignment. We will delve into those areas later. Check around and find out what the cost of the piece is in various retailers. That way, you know what the average price is. But the easiest rule of thumb: If it’s too good to be true, it mostly likely is.
know the source
For designer pieces, they are always sold through authorized dealers, websites and at designer boutiques/department stores. Always know your source as this is one of the most distinguishing differences between an original and a fake. The reasoning for designers for the controlled distribution of their pieces, is the reoccurring notions of reputation and branding. For them to create an atmosphere of luxury and exclusivity, they have to ensure that the environment that the clients shop in, correlate with the brand’s “world”. It also deters their pieces from appearing “mass marketed” and maintains and heightens the perception of luxury relating to their products. That is why retailers such as Holt Renfrew, The Bay, Saks Fifth Avenue etc are referred to as “reputable” retailers of luxury goods, as they have had a long and lasting relationship with the designers directly. This is the reasoning why fakes are most often sold either on the street corners, or in the back of vans as they are not licensed or given permission to sell and offer these designer pieces to the consumer (because the pieces were not produced by the designers themselves).
With the case of websites such as net-a-porter.com, eluxury.com and etc. These sites have been licensed by the designers and brand themselves to sell their products. The sites’ shipment comes directly from the designers distribution centre, and obviously the pricing is similar to the pricing in the actual boutiques. Whereas the websites offering fake merchandise are not licensed, nor is the shipment coming from the designer’s distribution centre.
Simply know your retailers and their reputation of offerings, that way, the chances of purchasing bootleg is substantially lower. When on the designer or brand’s website, ensure to check the list of authorized retailers in your area. 9 times out of 10, the website will list all the retailers that carry their merchandise. That is the only sure-fire way of shopping at a reputable shop. If the retailer is not listed, alarm flags should already be popping up.
details details details
As we have previously written, the detailing of a designer piece distinguishes itself from one that is “mass marketed”. Craftsmanship, labour and originality all play into the exclusive and expensive factors of luxury goods. For example, designer items often feature logos on all metal pieces, including zippers, latches, and buckles. To this, check for imprinted logos on all metal details. In addition, flimsy closures denote forgery.
Another designer detailing is in the lining of the piece. Designer items are lined with high-quality materials whereas thin, poorly constructed lining and construction of fakes that show fraying or poor stitching are indicative of counterfeit. As mentioned, counterfeit goods are mass produced, making their quality of construction much lower than authentic designer counterparts. Always inspect seams, both inside and out, for any sign of sloppiness.
If you look closely at the detailing of an original and compare it with that of a fake, the fine details are noticeable…right down to the stitching.
Designers take pride in the packaging of their products, using tissue paper, authenticity cards, care information, high-quality boxes, and high-end shopping bags. An item wrapped in plastic, or put in a flimsy plastic dust bag, is probably a fake.
The packaging is a way for brands and designers to separate themselves from the “mass marketed” products and offers the consumer the feeling of exclusivity.
ebay – kijiji – craigslist
In the cases of such websites, in order to 110% guarantee the authenticity of the piece, it is best to avoid them. The majority of times, the items listed are fake. And furthermore, one cannot physically inspect the item before purchasing. For all you know, the “seller” stole an image of an original and used it as their own.
It furthers the mentioned tip of “knowing your source”. Because one does not know the seller (the “source”), it is not guaranteed that the item in question is authentic. They are not technically “authorized” from the brand to (re) sell the item at, sometimes, a much lower cost.
To date, there are pending complaints and law suits against eBay and similar sites from designers. The brands are stating that eBay is not authorized to sell their products, and furthermore, eBay is allowing counterfeit items to be sold on their site.
do your homework
Know what designs are currently available from a given designer. Learn the colours and patterns offered. Know which retailers are authorized to carry the designers’ pieces, and the unique detailing of each brand.
Be informed about what you’re purchasing and in the end, you will be more consumer savvy.