‘Knockoffs’ which have been an ‘unacceptable’ yet common phenomenon in the global apparel trade, has come a long way from earlier being observed exclusively on upscale brands like Prada and Gucci, to being available with counterfeiters with tags of even low priced brands such as Victoria Secrets and GAP…
Both a turbulent economy and the growth of e-commerce have flooded the market with low-end knockoffs, a rising concern for not only high-fashion brands and designers but also for fast fashion retailers. Driven by the changing buying habits of consumers who are today comfortable wearing a knockoff to save a buck or two without compromising on the tag has encouraged counterfeits to become a big business. For example, an authentic pair of Victoria’s Secret underwear which is priced at a reasonable amount of $ 7.50 and up can now be easily found for as low a price as $ 2, with if not the best, but still standard quality. Available are also fake versions of shirts, pants and footwear by brands such as GAP, Dickies and Vans on streets, which is both new and shocking for retailers.
Although copying a designer’s print is illegal, other forms of imitation, including copying a piece’s overall elements or colour, are still considered legal. This is one of the prime reasons why fast fashion originally became such a success story of today, as the runways are instantly copied within weeks and not months after the release of a new show online, leading to mass-market copycatting, which is now a business retail module in itself. Copycat clothes that arrive in the high street – sometimes even before the designs that inspired them have left the designers in a fix as they are not ‘illegal’ in the true sense, but eliminate the need of the genuine article. The trend has now seeped down to even lower priced brands.
According to reports, observed over the time is the fact that today cheaper items make more money for counterfeiters than their luxury cousins because it’s easier to sell large quantities of the lower-priced items.
Another reason for greater sale of low-priced ‘fakes’ is that where market knockoffs of luxury goods are still of poor quality and likely to disappoint the consumer in terms of tailoring or the quality of material used, counterfeiting for lower-end brands is being termed as a business expansion strategy for many, with recession leading to more people trading down. Few orders and less business has recently led to a lot of capacity left open in factories in China and other parts of Asia to manufacture products for counterfeiters, as a way to fill in their capacities, achieving the same quality as that of the original product. Since the producers get the same price for manufacturing, there is no let-up on quality.
E-tail has further pushed this practice by eluding authorities by cutting out the middlemen and selling directly to shoppers. The most ambitious counterfeiting websites have taken to copying photos and trademarks and registering dozens of domain names similar to the brand’s official website, which has led to a successful duping of the shopper. One of the most news making examples for the same in 2011 was of Chanel filling a suit in September against 399 websites allegedly selling knockoff sunglasses, wallets, jewellery and other goods bearing the luxury retailer’s name.
Though big business houses, mostly high-end designers are able to pay a hefty price to fight a lawsuit, to save both their business and brand value, smaller brands and designers are yet to figure out how to find a solution to this growing business practice. A solution to create public awareness to the nuisance was recently initiated as part of the ‘You Can’t Fake Fashion’ campaign, where more than 75 designers have teamed up to raise awareness against counterfeit items and to celebrate original design by creating a line of tote bags that bear the slogan ‘You Can’t Fake Fashion’. Sporting $ 200 price tags, the collection is a joint effort between the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) and eBay. For budget buyers available at an exclusive price of $ 45 each are four styles of canvas totes, which were sold out within 48 hours during the program’s inaugural collection last season.