Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Fake Bag, Fake Lifestyle

Fake Bags, Fake Lifestyle

Counterfeit bags; we have all seen them.  Some of us are guilty of owning one, or a few.  They are affordable, foolproof, eye-catching and if well made, are as gorgeous as the original design they are replicated from.  Sometimes a walk through Chinatown is all we need to convince ourselves that that replica Louis Vuitton Speedy bag is a must-buy.  It looks so beautiful, sitting there behind that glass counter with all the other Louis, Gucci, Burberry and Chanel fakes.   No one would know the truth about the bag’s authenticity; instead, people would stare and think “that girl is both successful and in style”. 

            Why is there such a high-demand for replica handbags? The threads on that thirty-dollar Gucci purse are bound to loosen with use, yet people purchase it anyways.  Pay a bit more and you could get yourself a good quality no-name bag that will last for years; but these are not as popular.  And why not?   Why are people paying for a bag that is so cheaply constructed, just because it has red and green stripes stitched onto it?  The answer is simple-- those red and green stripes give fashionable consumers what they want out of a product; status.

            Those famous green and red Gucci stripes.  They are classic and never go out of style.  People know what the stripes represent as soon as they see them.  They are as sought-after as the beige and red Burberry plaid, double Chanel C’s and quilted leather, and the signature LV monogram.  People associate these famous colours, embellishments and logos with wealth and social status.  The real versions of these designer handbags cost hundreds to thousands of dollars.  Not only are real designer handbags purchased for their outstanding, long-lasting quality, but also for that feeling of exclusivity that comes with the outrageous price spent.

            But doesn’t having an entire market for fake designer products contradict the main reason these bags are so sought-after?  Today, fake bags are so easily accessible, meaning anyone can own one.  This takes away the exclusivity of the label.  Louis Vuitton, for example, is one of the most counterfeited brands on the planet.  Take a walk to a busy intersection of the city, and it is hard to tell who’s Louis bag is real, and who’s is a knock-off.  So many people have one.   This has essentially “ruined” Louis Vuitton’s brand image.  Originally, this brand was marketed towards the wealthy and upper class—only the small number of people who could afford to splurge on high-quality designer goods were seen carrying around their product.  Now, those who can afford the real thing might lean towards purchasing a bag of a different brand because too many people have ruined Louis’ exclusivity. 

            Exclusivity is what gives designer labels their status, which is what increases their popularity and in term, makes them desirable to consumers.  Some companies take the value of exclusivity very seriously, making it obvious that they want to attract only one type of customer.  Anyone can save up a few hundred dollars, walk into a Gucci or Louis store, and walk out with a beautiful bag.  Brands such as Hermes, for example, require customers to be a regular shopper at their stores before someone can even mention buying the oh-so coveted Birkin bag.   The company knows that if the bag is too available, it won’t be as wanted.  And anyone who buys a Birkin knows that they are not purchasing just a bag—they are paying for the lifestyle that comes with the hefty price of fifteen-thousand dollars or more.  The lifestyle of social status—people staring at her as she waltzes around Yorkville, wondering, “who is she married to?” or “what does she do for a living?” or even “who are her parents?”

But alas, even the Birkin bag has been counterfeited, and now anyone can pretend to live that lavish lifestyle.

The main question is, is it right? The “fake versus real” argument has been debated many times.  While the act of creating counterfeit goods is highly illegal and unfair to the creators of popular brands, this does not stop people from purchasing fake products, and making the counterfeit market a multi-billion dollar industry.  This entire industry proves that people are not buying the product for its quality, and strictly only for the label, which resembles a lifestyle.  The counterfeit market, which feeds off of the average-consumer’s desire to live the American dream; this market fills the demand for logo bags which say “seven-hundred dollar Louis Vuitton monogrammed purse” on the outside, but say “dollar store quality” on the inside.

So before you pick up that designer replica handbag in Chinatown, think about what you are buying first.  Is it the purse you want, or is it the social status and fabulous lifestyle confided within the contents of the outer dust bag?  Will this bag really be that exclusive if you’re only paying thirty-something dollars for it?  And will it bother you to know that the “lifestyle” you’re paying for is as fake as the bag itself? 

As a fashion student myself, I do not blame people for wanting replica handbags—as shallow as it is, we all love and desire owning those famous logos.  So why not save up for a real designer bag?  There are many amazing and excellent quality brands that are affordable; Marc by Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, Longchamp, and Kate Spade for example, all have great styles available for under $300.  For even less, Zara, Topshop and American Apparel make amazing real leather bags for as little as $90.  Just because it doesn’t have a logo on it, does not mean it is not chic. Sometimes a simple leather bag is all you need to compliment a great outfit.   And who knows?  One day you might be able to afford an authentic handbag by one of your favourite top designer brands—and knowing that you own the real thing might feel even better than being part of the elite and wealthy lifestyle that these companies have created.

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