I really enjoyed the reading “Bag Man” this week, and I also am very interested in this topic of counterfeit goods in, especially in the fashion and apparel industries. Surrounding the industry in New York especially there are a few arbitrary terms that get thrown around quite a bit- fakes, knock-offs, and counterfeits. Some people will throw these terms around interchangeably when they are not in fact the same thing. I guess a “fake” and a “counterfeit” could in fact be considered the same thing, but this is a different phenomenon then a knock-off.
Everyone knows why counterfeits are bad, and the article touched on a lot of these issues. Anyone can go to Canal Street and buy a counterfeit Louis Vuitton behind a sketchy unmarked door and pay no more than forty bucks for it. But as the consumer for that $40 bag, you become responsible for endorsing the harsh labor conditions in which it was made. You are also putting (too much) cash into the pocket of the person who sold it to you, which will more likely than not be used to fund organized crime or drug trafficking. By purchasing that $40 bag you become the evil sidekick to the most ominous villain to the fashion industry- the counterfeit.
Looking at the other end of the spectrum, I think the idea of “knock-offs” act as a stimulus for the fashion and apparel industry; they push the fashion cycle onward while providing the continuous need for creativity and innovation by influential design houses all over the world. Stores and brands that specialize in knock-offs like H&M, Forever21, and Steve Madden, help move trends not only across the country, but also around the globe. They allow the average consumer to purchase runway inspired looks for less at a time when price matters more than ever. With the way the economy has been over past few years (and the way it will inevitably continue to be for some time) knock-offs are ironically the fashion industry’s saving grace.
Do I think it is okay to blatantly copy someone else’s design or idea? No. Do I think it is okay to be inspired by someone else’s design or idea? Absolutely. There is a fine line between the two and I think that is where the bulk of controversy surrounding this issue starts. It took me a while before I fully understand the implications of my actions concerning the apparel industry. I know that by supporting knock-offs in the fashion industry I am in no way condoning legitimate piracy or the manufacturing and selling of counterfeit goods, nor the harsh proceedings that are associated with them, like sweatshops or slave labor, in some cases. Instead, I remember that knock-offs are imperative to the industry to keep fashion alive and running as we know it, and that is something I support 100%.