Save the knock-out Hearst view, the line of tables holding fake Louis Vuitton bags and the woman navigating websites that peddle faux designer goods on her iPad, there wasn’t anything amusing about Harper’s Bazaar’s Sixth Annual Anticounterfeiting Summit today. Counterfeiting, it turns out, can be a pretty scary thing.
Conference panelists this year represented businesses outside the fashion industry that also struggle with counterfeiting, such as fragrance and film. The overall message was one not a new one to Fashionista readers: Counterfeiting is bad news, and not just because is involves knocking off someone’s creative work.
One, it funds terrorism. (The 2004 Madrid bombings were funded in part by the sales of counterfeit TV shows and movies, Bazaar Publisher Valerie Salembier noted). Two, it hurts creative businesses’ rank and file workers. (It isn’t Will Smith who takes a hit when movies are ripped off, director Steven Soderbergh said. It’s John Smith, the grip.) And three, it can be dangerous–and pretty gross. (L’Oreal’s Carol Hamilton assured us that we did not want to know what is in fake perfumes but that it isn’t something we’d want to put on our skin.)
Obviously the solution to the worldwide counterfeiting problem wasn’t solved over a long lunch, even if Bazaar did provide wine. But the panelists and the fashionable attendees who questioned them–the audience was largely made up of those on the business side of fashion–seemed to agree that nothing will change without companies doing a much better job of informing the public of the harm counterfeit goods cause.
The most interesting exchange of the day was between Bazaar EIC Glenda Bailey, who was sitting in the audience, and Soderbergh. Bailey stressed that changing people’s perception about fakes must be done through powerful ad campaigns to educate consumers. “I am so fascinated that people are not taking more initiatives in their own area,” she said. No one, she pointed out, could make a better ad for how counterfeits hurt Hollywood than Soderbergh, she pressed.
Soderbergh agreed that getting the hungry masses on the anti-counterfeiting bandwagon is integral, but said that Hollywood suffering just isn’t an argument people care about. People have no sympathy for luxury goods, either, Bailey countered.
Maybe Bailey planted a seed in the mind of the man that brought us Ocean’s 11. We picture a frozen scene from the hyper-commercial Sex and the City 2, with a freeze frame telling us exactly how many people in Hollywood and fashion were involved in costuming and filming a single frame, and how many jobs will disappear in both industries should counterfeiting not be curbed.