Counterfeit Fashion Goods Are On The Rise, Thanks To Pressured Wallets And Fast Fashion

Pressures on our wallets has led to 22% of shoppers knowingly buying fake fashion goods, forcing genuine luxury retailers to lose out.

The research from online second-hand luxury goods retailer Vestiaire Collective also found just 34% said they knew for sure they have never purchased fake fashion.

Mock 'designer' handbags were the most sought after item, with 31% of those who admitted buying counterfeit items saying they had picked up some replica arm candy. Sunglasses and watches were close behind on 24% each.

Of those who bought fake fashion items, 20% said the designer price tag was the main reason why they didn't buy the real thing. Another 17% claimed to have been duped, thinking they had bought a genuine item but later realising it was false.

Unsurprisingly, it was the younger generations who were more likely to buy counterfeits - those aged 25-34 racked up nearly a quarter of fake-fanciers.

The issue is a major problem for luxury brands - Gregor Jackson, partner at luxury brand consultancy gpstudio, told the Huffington Post UK the value of black market luxury goods accounted for around 10% of the value of legitimate goods.

"For many, focusing 'beyond the product' and delivering a complete retail and service experience has been the key – selling more than a product, selling a whole experience that can't be faked," he said.

"We've also seen brands focus on the way that their products are made to communicate the value they deliver – for example Tiffany's taking its customers behind the scenes through their social media. Others have made products harder to counterfeit – for example by using specific materials or creating limited editions."

Are fast fashion and mass manufacturing to blame?

Jaana Jatyri, founder of trend forecaster, told the HuffPost UK the rise in fake fashion items had been intensified by the buy now, throw away tomorrow attitude of fast fashion.

"Fast-paced fashion trends result in a consumption cycle where looks are 'only for a season', and people would rather pay as little as possible on a given item to be able to change their look frequently," she said.

"Most people wouldn't be able to easily afford designer prices, and most simply don't care if their bag is plastic. Luxury is aspirational, it was never meant to be purchased by everyone. With the media portraying designer looks as 'must-haves', the rise of a counterfeit industry is an inevitable consequence."

The mass manufacturing techniques adopted in countries like China had also made producing good-looking fakes easier, with better quality fakes hitting the high street at seriously competitive prices.

"Luxury items manufactured in the same Chinese factories as mass market items to increase margins, certainly adds another layer to this story. Many luxury brands consider counterfeiting a form of viral marketing," said Jatyri.

One homegrown luxury brand that has felt the impact of counterfeit goods is the UK's Cambridge Satchel Company. Founder Julie Dean set up her iconic bag business with just £600, and now her goods are sold all over the world.

"The Cambridge Satchel Company goes to great lengths to keep all its manufacturing in the UK, to keep their bags affordable and to fight counterfeiting and brand confusion which errods businesses and support unethical practices," she told HuffPost UK.

"The film industry has attacked piracy with intention- it's time that fashion does the same."

The rise in websites claiming to offer "discount" or "cheap" luxe goods has been one of the key drivers behind the fakes market; groups such as Mark Monitor, an online brand protection firm are leading the fight back to prohibit companies producing counterfeits, infringing copyright and cybersquatting on lucrative domain names.

Since MarkMonitor began working with Cambridge Satchel, the company has detected and carried out enforcement for more than 1,000 counterfeit product listings on exchange sites, with some listings advertising the availability of thousands of units.

The brand protection programme has detected 29 e-commerce sites selling counterfeits and 76 sites cybersquatting on the Cambridge Satchel's brand by using the brand in the domain name.

Sarah Bush, UK marketing director at Vestiaire Collective said while some people are complacent about buying ‘fake fashion’, consumers should care that the items don't match the real thing in terms of quality and craftsmanship.

"With a designer item you are investing in something which will look great and last for years to come," she said.

"Instead of buying fake items, we encourage anyone who is set on picking up a designer item to buy authenticated pre-owned fashion. Pre-owned is an affordable way to experience real luxury items, and you can even resell items at a later date.”

How to spot a fake

Vestiaire Collective's counterfeit spotting team supplied HuffPost UK with their top tips for spotting fakes:

  • Only look at reputable websites. Shop at recognisable sites - all of your well-known favourites - for straight discounts. Don't be tempted to shop sites you are unfamiliar with, especially those with 'discount' or 'cheap' in the URL.
  • Familiarise yourself with your favourite brands. Don't be shy to check out items at a brand's shop or concession in a department store. Inspect the item carefully and you'll have better instincts as to what may not be right with a product.
  • Look at the hardware. On items such as handbags, the zipper should move smoothly and the pull should be heavy in feel. All other hardware should be similarly heavy and not hollow. There shouldn't be any discolouring or signs of the metal flaking off.
  • Check the handles and look inside. The stitching should be in a straight line and the thread should be strong and not frayed or pulled. The leather should be smooth and match the bag in the way it does on the product you saw in the store. The same is true inside; if the fabric looks strange or exceedingly cheap, it's likely a fake.
  • Logo. If the logo on a handbag, shoe or garment is upside down, sideways, cut off or somehow not right, again, you are likely looking at a fraudulent product.

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