Can you tell ?

Well neither could the experts (in my opinion). Several months ago I decided to scour the internet for that Acne Studio cult classic, the little sister to my leather tote I bought back in 2012. Just goes to show how dedicated I can be to an original trend piece … even they remain classics to me. Luckily I found quite a few “New/Unused” versions of this little handbag for sale on the more reputable fashion resale sites out there. The red warning lights were already flashing from this point but I felt reassured buying it from such a reputable source. My parcel did quite the little tour of Paris before I was finally able to pick it up at the post office. As soon as the miniscule parcel landed in my hands I knew there was a problem … it felt like an empty box I was rushing home with eager to unwrap. I knew full well that the Acne tote leather was thick and heavy so I couldn’t understand why the box I was carrying was as light as a feather. Of course, when I opened the box at home the disappointment struck again … and again. I was holding a fake, plastic version of that Acne Laurie crossover body bag.

To cut a long story short, I sent it back to the online resale site and received an email from them telling me that their experts deemed it “exactly as described on their site”. That part was true. It was just as described and just as photographed but it wasn’t a real Acne nor was it even leather. Perhaps I had the benefit of a direct comparison to my original store bought leather Acne tote. The original tote was thick, heavy grainy leather, the back of the leather was smooth, the large Acne logo stamp was debossed into leather in a permanent silver foil. The Laurie crossover bag was as light as a feather, smooth, the back of the so-called leather was a velour, the smaller Acne logo was debossed into leather with a silver foil that looked like it would flake away in no time at all.

Why am I writing a blog post about this? Well, because even now it bothers me that these so-called experts can’t tell the difference between leather and PVC.  It bothered me that the seller was still allowed to sell her fake on their site even after I sent it back – meaning someday someone else would make the same mistake as me and perhaps they too would notice, even worse, perhaps they wouldn’t even notice or even care.

I have since read a great many an article about the trade in fake goods … a few excerpts I will share with you before going on to make my real point in all of this.

Annual trade in fake products is worth around 2.5 percent of total global trade, or about $18 trillion, according to Piotr Stryszowski, an economist with the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The money goes to organised crime, and helps fund terrorism and the trafficking of drugs, people, sex and wildlife, as well as the lavish lifestyles of its kingpins.

“It’s the globalized illicit business of the 21st century,” says Stryszowski, who laments it’s not taken as seriously as other contraband, such as cocaine.

Consumers may see fakes as “fun” and feel clever to buy sunglasses or sneakers that look like the real thing but cost a fraction of the price.

It’s this human cost that makes counterfeit goods one of the most insidiously dangerous criminal activities in the world today.

London-based intellectual property lawyer Mary Bagnall describes scenes of horror — children chained to sewing machines; people locked in underground factories in remote corners of China — that characterize an industry so lucrative yet so low-risk that some crime gangs are getting out of the drugs and people-trafficking businesses and into fakes.

“This makes more money for organized crime with less risk for them,” she told The Associated Press, describing counterfeiting as part of a “massive global web” of criminality. “It’s difficult to communicate to consumers why it is not a victimless crime.”

“Consumers are used to the idea of fake handbags and even fashion counterfeits, (which) alone amount to some 2.6 billion pounds ($3.24 billion) worth of lost sales and I think an estimated 40,000 lost jobs annually; and that’s just in one industry,” she said.

Consumers can understand the perils of fake air bags for cars, or fake toys or electrical goods that “could explode in the face of a child,” Bagnall said. But the fake goods industry goes much further than that.

For me this battle of counterfeit identical replicas doesn’t end here, far from it. Somehow the fashion industry and bloggers alike have normalized and fuel the replication of luxury trend pieces by fast fashion giants like H & M, Zara and Mango. They have also been taken to court for directly replicating the work of small independent designers. And it doesn’t end there. Luxury trend pieces by haute couture labels have also been seen to have been stolen from lesser known brands.

Why have we normalized such a fashion chain, and isn’t buying a fake Fendi from the back of a car the same as buying replica Celine or Loewe earrings at Mango.

Mango Earrings (left, copied) Vs Loewe Earrings (right, original design)

What about those YSL earrings that were a direct replica from Dylanlex. Which just goes to show the acclaimed trendsetters are also guilty of replicating designs from smaller brands. Which begs the question: will we ever know the design origins of what we purchase? Do we/you care?

Dylanlex Earrings (left, original design) Vs YSL Earrings (right, copied)

Dawn Lawson from Herefordshire bought a fake Prada backpack for a fraction of the cost of a real one. She has no qualms about it, she says.

“I have little pity for the multinational companies that lose a minimal amount of profit. You’re surely not expecting me to believe Prada or Louis Vuitton are going to go out of business because of replicas?

“Of course they’re not. Besides, I love my bag – fake or not.”

Aren’t we all just fueling this fake industry with our constant need to consume … isn’t it time to slow down and think for a minute. I like to think I influence some of you in making better buying decisions and I like to hear your thoughts on these topics so please do leave a comment below.