We all know the about the rumours. Maybe it was from your roommate who went abroad last summer, or maybe you accidentally overheard it at a rush party. While you don’t remember if it’s in New York, or Hong Kong (maybe it was Syria?), somewhere exists night markets where any type of counterfeit fashion is up for sale.
Growing up in Singapore, I’d see my classmates return from a weekend in Malaysia sporting a knockoff YSL clutch or Chanel watch, swearing they got them both for under $40.
While this is undeniably a cost efficient method of securing brand label fashion, is it ethical to purchase a product that is essentially stealing from the designer? SMU students on the boulevard share their thoughts on the morality of fake designer fashion, and whether they would ever ‘fake it till they make it’.
When asked if she was familiar with fake markets, freshman Alexa Kramer said,
“I’ve heard of them, but I would feel kind of uncomfortable buying something. I would rather buy something that looks nice but doesn’t look fake. Copying can be taken as admiration of a piece, but when it comes to a big brands it’s really obvious.”
However research by the BBC in 2016 suggests that the majority of people don’t find the difference between real and fake as strikingly obvious. Or, they simply don’t care. About 3 million consumers every year purchase counterfeit goods carrying one of the top designer labels, such as Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, or Burberry. The problem has gotten so large that Louis Vuitton created a specific team tasked with the protection of the company’s intellectual property rights. A spokesperson for the luxury brand said: “In 2010, Louis Vuitton initiated 10,673 raids and 30,171 anti-counterfeiting procedures worldwide, resulting in the seizure of thousands of counterfeit products and the breaking up of criminal networks.”
Obviously the creators and designers behind the products being copied aren’t on board. But freshman Lucy Jones disagrees with the idea that counterfeit brands are stealing from original companies.
“It’s not like Gucci or Louis Vuitton are going to go out of business because of replicas. Genuine brands can charge extreme prices and I get why people who see counterfeits as a sort of an ‘anti-consumerism’ statement would buy them.”
There’s undeniably a sense of exclusivity that comes with owning luxury items, and luxury items aren’t hard to find on SMU’s campus. When asked what he considered the main motivation for people who purchase fakes, freshman Jared Littlefield responded
“Sometimes people want to fit in. Genuine brands can charge extreme prices and I get why people who see counterfeits as a sort of an ‘anti-consumerism’ statement would buy them.”
Sophomore Ella Gorin recalled that she’s heard of the fake markets in New York City. She said,
“I get why the companies hate it and why it’s not good for them, but people can’t afford a $2000 Gucci purse and they still want one that looks like it. I guess it doesn’t bother me. I wouldn’t do it, but I don’t care if someone else does. ”
From a consumer standpoint, it doesn’t appear that SMU students have moral qualms about the purchasing of knockoffs. While product counterfeiting is legally considered consumer fraud (a product being sold purporting to be something it’s not), purchasers are well aware of what they’re paying for. A freshman who asked to remain anonymous said
“I love my fake Prada bag. Would I love it if it was $3000? Of course not. But why pay more if the only person who knows the difference is me?”