I spent the last two weeks traveling around Morocco and Spain, and unsurprisingly, I saw a lot of fake handbags. Sure, as a New York City resident, I see boatloads of fakes every year. This was different.
In Morocco I was simply taken aback by the vast inventory--faux LV slippers are de rigueur for locals--particularly for a country with very little advertising on its roadways and through its cities. (Even in Marrakesh, the most "western" city I visited, you don't see a ton of signage.) Unlike western nations like the US or eastern countries like Japan (or even China) there just isn't any luxury advertising. Somehow, this hasn't stopped the masses from obsessing over a logo.
But it was in Spain that I began to truly question my conclusions on mass counterfeiting. As a result of the research and reporting I've done on the topic over the years, I've always believed that those who can afford a designer bag would not bother to buy a counterfeit bag. So while it may damage a luxury brand's image in the long run to be sprinkled along Canal Street, it isn't directly affecting the bottom line.
Unfortunately, there was one bit of reporting I had missed out on: field research. I've never walked slowly down Canal Street, watching customers make purchases. I've never bothered to park near one of those blankets piled high with "Chanel" bags in midtown.
That was, until yesterday, while I was waiting to board my plane home from Barcelona to JFK. I had noticed plenty of fake handbag dealers on the Passeig de Gràcia--Barcelona's chilled out answer to Fifth Avenue--but now I was hearing a confession from one of their customers. A well-heeled American woman in her mid-40s began bragging loudly about how she had scored a deal on a CH by Carolina Herrera tote. (CH, by the way, is Herrera's bridge line--it's very, very popular in Spain.) "This was $585 at the department store--I got mine for $30," she said to her travel companions.
As I boarded the plane, noticing that the woman was comfortably seated in business class, I began to wonder, "Does she even realize it's fake?" While I'd like to believe yes--that she simply doesn't care because she's not concerned with quality or breaking the law--I couldn't help remembering the way she bragged about the purchase. She wanted to believe that it was real.
And that's the biggest problem with counterfeit goods. As much as those of us covering the fashion industry would love to think that we've done a good enough job educating people on the difference between real and fake--and why it matters--we haven't. So don't expect Advertures in Copyright to go away any time soon.