Fake it to make it

Counterfeited and pirated fashion goods accounted for up to 2.5 percent of world trade. This, according to the latest report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and the European Union’s Intellectual Property Office, estimated approximately $461 billion (€320 billion). Is it possible to stop illegal sales?

An unidentified vendor display fake designer bags and belts for sale near the Spanish steps in Rome on January 4, 2012. Handbags are displayed on a white sheet to make them easy to wrap up. The bags can be bought for 30 to 50 euros each. AFP PHOTO / GABRIEL BOUYS (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)

An unidentified vendor display fake designer bags and belts for sale near the Spanish steps in Rome on January 4, 2012. Handbags are displayed on a white sheet to make them easy to wrap up. The bags can be bought for 30 to 50 euros each. (Photo credit: GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)

When I visited Paris some time ago I witnessed a very strange scene. Imagine sitting on a grass enjoying your lunch next to Sacre Coeur in Montmartre, when a group of tall 20-something guys comes by and lays out fake Louis Vuitton bags on the ground not very far away from you. Some tourists stop by, pick up the bags and guys thoroughly explain how well the bags are made, how incredible their French design is and how you will never be able to find the same ones anywhere else for the same price. ‘Are those real?’ – ‘Oui, mademoiselle, oui!’. Half an hour goes by, a few bags are sold and just when the next customer stops by, the guys start packing everything up and run away as fast as they can. They have a special technique for packing: the piece of cloth on which they laid out the accessories is actually a large transformer bag with a rope that they pull making packing even quicker. I turn around and see the police looking for exactly those types or criminals. I’m sure I am not the only one who has witnessed a similar incident, and not just in Paris, but anywhere in the world.

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The report by OECD estimated that up to five per cent of all items imported into the EU in 2013 were counterfeit, representing a value of more than €85 billion, and that’s just in Europe. It is no surprise that the majority of counterfeit goods originated from China – with around 63 per cent of global seizures stemming from the mainland as well as Hong Kong. Turkey, Singapore, Thailand and India are also responsible for the production of large quantities of fake goods.

The trade in fake products has also worsened in the past decade, with a previous OECD study in 2008 estimating it at up to 1.9 percent of world imports or $200 billion. The OECD stated that there has been a post-financial crisis revival in trade, with ‘the emergence of globalized value chains and booming e-commerce as reasons for the rise in pirated goods trade since 2008’. In fact, according to European Commission, the number of cases of counterfeits detected in postal shipments in the EU rose by 300% just between 2009 and 2010.

CHINA - DECEMBER 05: Counterfeit Louis Vuitton bags waited for customers in a counterfeit goods' store that was raided by Hong Kong customs in Hong Kong, China, on December 2, 2005. (Photo by Lucas Schifres/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Counterfeit Louis Vuitton bags waited for customers in a counterfeit goods’ store that was raided by Hong Kong customs in Hong Kong, China, on December 2, 2005. (Photo by Lucas Schifres/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

So which brands in particular are the fakers targeting? The report does not provide specifics, such as brand names or companies, however gives a brief geographical overview. Apparently, the majority of faked labels are American making up around 20% of sales, followed by the Italian (14%) and French (12%) percent. Who would have thought that fake Nike shoes would oust fake Chanel and Louis Vuitton bags?

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Footwear, leather goods, such as bags and purses, as well as clothing are the most frequently seized items in the ‘fake fashion’ market. The greater impact of counterfeiting was noticed in rich countries, exactly where the highly desirable fashion bags, clothes and shoes are originally designed, produced and sold for high prices. For example, in 2013 European Union was importing up to 5 percent of fakes, or as much as $116 billion.

‘The trade continues despite several major luxury conglomerates such as Kering and LVMH initiating lawsuits against online platforms such as eBay for being slow to stamp out the sale of fake goods through their portals’.

– Business of Fashion

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10 years in prison – this is the top penalty for selling counterfeit goods in the UK and the US. Interestingly enough, 34% of people say they are certain they have never purchased imitation goods.

But how do you know if what you’ve bought is the real deal? Here is our little guide on ‘How to spot fake fashion’ for you.

Stitching

Check stitching around labels, seems and pockets. Stitching should be straight, of equal length and have no fraying. Authentic high-end items will usually have more stitches per inch that counterfeit ones.

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Leather

Designer goods will generally use real leather. Real leather will have an irregular texture whereas fake leather will have a consistent pattern of pores. Real leather will also have a subtle leather scent. Fake, however, would have a stronger chemical smell.

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Fastenings

Zips should move smoothly and all hardware should feel heavy and be the same colour. Most high-end designers use matte hardware, whereas counterfeiters use lower quality hardware that has a glossy gold finish. It’s best to find out what metal polish is used in the authentic model you’re after and compare.

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Buttons

Make sure buttons are securely attached and have the designer logo if appropriate. Fake clothing will lack the detail that is given to genuine goods.

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Logo

Logos should be perfect. Make sure you familiarize yourself with the original logo, or even bring it up on your mobile phone and compare to the logo you see on the item – anything slightly ajar should instantly ring the alarm bells. Most designer handbags will feature a metal logo, so be wary of anything made of plastic. Stitched on logos have the same number of stitches on opposite sides.

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Fabric

Designer labels would usually use finer quality material, both on the outside and lining of the item.

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Spelling

Make sure the spelling and language is correct on labels, tags and authenticity cards. Comments such as ‘100% genuine’ often mean the opposite and should raise alarm bells.

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Prices

If the price is too good to be true, it probably is. Outrageously low prices are often sure signs of a fake. If in doubt, make sure to compare the price to the original price on the brand’s website and definitely do not purchase anything ‘designer’ from the street next to major touristic destinations. This is illegal not only for the person selling the items, but for you as well.

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Packaging

Attention to detail goes beyond the actual product when it comes to designer goods. Branded dust bags, tissue paper, boxes and shopping bags are usually used and are often of high quality.

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Contact details

If buying online, it’s a legal requirement for commercial websites to have your full contact details. Check for a postal address, company registration number and VAT number. Avoid any websites that specify ‘discount’ or ‘bargain’ in their names.

Shop right

Whatever designer item you are after, if you are spending the money, you’ll want it to be real. The best way to avoid fake fashion is to shop at reputable places. Some counterfeiters are extremely good, so it’s best to be on the safe side.

Know your rights

If you unknowingly purchase fake designer goods online, you have 7 days to return the goods with a full refund through the Distance Sellers Act. For added buyer protection, it is best to pay using PayPal or credit card.


Text: Irina Gorskaia

Photographs: Vogue, Business of Fashion, Getty Images

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