Luxury has long been desired but not always affordable to possess. So what do you do if you want a Louis Vuitton bag, Gucci slides or Balenciaga boots? Do you buy a knockoff or do you save up money to own the real deal?
A large majority of people are looking to counterfeit items to live out their expensive tastes or flaunt their status, while on a budget. A recent study revealed that more than 50,000 accounts on Instagram promote and sell counterfeits, a large 171 percent increase from it’s 2016 report. A total of 65 million posts on Instagram and 1.6 million stories a month show that counterfeit items are being searched, produced and purchased. Which makes me think, if everyone is doing it – how bad or unethical is it really to buy counterfeit items? Turns out, the answer is not all that black and white.
What Is a Counterfeit Item?
Most people use knockoff and counterfeit interchangeably, when in reality they slightly differ. Fashion is interesting in that the aesthetics of a design cannot be copyrighted but slogan, logos and company names can be. Counterfeits items have copies of the brands labels or trademark symbols. They are made to closely resemble the original product to trick people into thinking it’s the real deal. A knockoff item, doesn’t posses the original brand’s mark or exact design.
In simple terms, knockoff items are fast fashion pieces that have been inspired by the runway; whereas counterfeits are the fake Louis Vuitton bags you see locals selling at the beach when on holiday.
How Do You Know It’s Fake?
With a bit of common sense, if something looks fake – it most likely is. Gucci products that sell for thousands of dollars, seen elsewhere for $150, is in fact a fake. Sometimes, counterfeit vendors will sell items of high value, making you think it really could be the real product. This is when deciphering between a fake and the real product becomes tricky. You’ll need to look at the seams, logo and design to tell.
The counterfeit industry pulls in $1.2 trillion annually, but has side effects that aren’t always obvious. It poses great risk for the economy, law, health and safety of communities.
- Lose of Revenue
With each fake item you purchase, a luxury brand loses revenue, with loss of profits and jobs over time. According to the 2018 Global Brand Counterfeiting Report, luxury fashion brands lose about $30.3 billion worth of sales to fakes online.
- Bad Reputation
Majority of luxury fashion brands believe preserving the ancestral traditions and practices of the brand is essential to their success and copying of their craftsmanship damages their reputation. When you buy a counterfeit item that is typically made of lesser quality materials and in faster timelines, items can easily break and wear quickly. Consumers who confuse fake products with the real thing, often take to social media and condemn the brand for a poor product, damaging the reputation of the luxury brand – leading to reduced sales and a bad impression.
- Potential Labor Rights
Counterfeit items are made illegally and therefore do not have to adhere to all the regulations that legal items of clothing and accessories go through. For example, if something is made “cruelty free,” there’s no way to know if it wasn’t tested on animals. Or if something is “faux free,” it very well could have fur in it. There is also no one controlling the quality of the items, which could lead to increased amounts of chemicals or allergens: Gucci shoes that you’ve ordered could arrive at your door having been sprayed with a dye that gives you a rash.
- Contributing to Organized Crime
Counterfeit sales have been known to fund terrorism and other criminal activity.
So, How Bad Is It If I Buy Fake Products?
Imitation could be seen as flattery – a vendor likes an item so much that they clone it. However, stealing someone’s product design or buying a fake is illegal. Personally, I have slim to no pity for these high fashion brands claiming to lose minimal profit. I don’t think they can expect us to believe this is actually hurting them but I do recognize that buying, selling or manufacturing counterfeit items is illegal and should therefore be unethical.