January 7, 2010

Counterfeits Etc

In WWD this week, there was an article about the research of an M.I.T. professor, Renee Richardson Gosline, on the issue of counterfeiting. Gosline, who actually used to be a Brand Management Associate at LVMH Moet Hennessey Louis Vuitton and has a PHD from Harvard Business School, found that a good percentage of consumers who buy counterfeit products eventually end up buying the real thing.

I find this research fascinating, because on the one hand this conclusion absolutely makes sense, since the people who are out there buying fakes are also the ones more likely to care about brand recognition and prestige. Therefore, if they find the counterfeit item to be poorly made or insufficiently authentic to others (or themselves), then it makes sense that they will later on splurge on the original.

On the other hand, I wonder whether it's actually financially so possible for so many people to actually PAY for whatever luxury items at the retail price. There is a big difference between a $15 Canal street purchase and a $1500 bag that comes inside its own logo'd cloth bag, inside a crisp logo'd shopping bag with the beautiful rope handles. Even if one came to the conclusion that buying counterfeit items fools no one and is unethical for a host of creative and economic reasons, that's a lot of money.

Furthermore, I have personally seen hundreds of shoppers buy and wear counterfeit items absolutely without irony or true awareness of the original, particularly while traveling in Southeast Asia. Having the counterfeit, in some ways, IS the status symbol in those cases...because at least it cost more to purchase than a plain (no logo) comparable. There is no pretense involved.

Above, a counterfeit and a genuine accessory paired together - a visual from my MA project. Below, a passage on authenticity and the reproduction from the same project, just as some food for thought...(all quotes from Walter Benjamin)

In principle, all artworks have “always been reproducible,” the important difference is that now they are mechanically rather than manually reproduced. Faster and more affordable to produce, a “technical reproduction can put the copy of the original into situations which would be out of reach for the original itself,” changing the way that one interacts with artwork. Ultimately, Benjamin believes that even a perfect reproduction of an artwork lacks what he describes as “its presence in time and space.” Accordingly, what “withers” is “the aura of the work of art,” or its authority.

Have you ever bought a counterfeit item? If yes, how do you feel about the purchase now?


Wendy said...

I have never bought a counterfeit item and never (intentionally) will. I would rather scale down my aspirations, yet still purchase well made quality items.

J.S.D. said...

I like your blog


Marcus said...

I totally agree with your standpoint on counterfeits. in high school when i was just beginning to follow fashion I knew this one friend who was fairly well off but would have her mom buy her "grade aaa" knockoffs from china in between her authentic purchases to make it look like she was constantly buying new luxury bags and slgs. quite fascinating psychology behind it really...

i enjoyed reading this T!

Susan said...

In my high school days, I bought counterfeits but now my thinking is if I cant afford the real thing then I won't have it .... Just as Wendy said, I prefer quality before labels

fashion in theory said...

Thanks for the comments everyone! I agree with you, especially these days when there are lots of bargains online and at sample sales - why waste money on a counterfeit item that is going to last for a month before it falls apart?