Fake products making headlines

Isaac Mostovicz writes...

Counterfeit goods are a major problem for luxury brands. They remove the exclusivity that luxury brands carefully cultivate and in many cases take the place of goods that affluent people would otherwise purchase. It feels like a victimless crime to purchasers–they might think that with these these goods so in demand and these companies so rich, a single purchase won’t make a difference. But enough people around the world are thinking this way that it is affecting the bottom lines of luxury companies. Authenticity is changing from necessary to optional, and two items in the media this month highlighted this fact.

The first is an article in the UK’s Independent about the fakery related to luxury goods, enhanced physical appearance (via surgery, botox or Photoshop), and ‘reality’ television. For decades celebrities have had a symbiotic relationship with fashion houses–the houses provide clothing and jewelry to make celebrities look beautiful on the red carpet, and the celebrities in turn mention who made their dresses, earrings and other ephemera. But recently a few celebrities (Renee Zellwegger, Courtney Love and Britney Spears are named in the article) have been photographed with counterfeit handbags or dresses, sending the message to the public that it isn’t just legitimate to purchase counterfeit goods, it’s glamorous too. Read the article here.

Earlier this month the BBC Radio 4 consumer affairs program You and Yours ran a similar story, about how the Italian government is cracking down on counterfeit goods. The government believes such goods are costing the country nearly $10 million a year, so it’s taking action by putting tougher customs controls in place and going after wholesalers and importers (rather than the street vendors at the bottom of the chain). You can listen to the whole interview with Silvio Paschi from Indicam, an Italian industry group against counterfeiting, here.

What can turn the tide to make authenticity absolutely necessary again? It’s a similar proposition to keeping luxury brands exclusive as they expand their masstige lines–luxury companies need get the message across that the luxury they offer is incomparable and inexorable–people need to know that the experience and prestige that true luxury offers can’t be matched anywhere.

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