Price of Fashion

Let me introduce you to my new love – my Coach bag.

Coach Bag

Isn’t it lovely? I have been eyeing this bag (and saving my pennies) for quite some time. Luckily, the stars aligned, by way of a legitimate flashsale, for me to be able to purchase the real deal authentic bag at a lower price point.

I also have a confession – many years back, I purchased a knock-off handbag during my first visit to NYC as a teenager. When I purchased it, did I know better? Yes. My gut told me that rifling through an oversized cotton laundry bag a few blocks off Fifth Avenue was not the way designers intended their products to be sold. Am I proud of it? Absolutely not. I just wanted a bag that had the appearance of a designer logo. While to the untrained eye this purchase did appear to be genuine, I always felt guilty carrying it and knowing it gave the impression of being something it was not. While this does not excuse my past actions, I was taught when you know better, then you do better. This is my way of helping my readers know better.

We’ve all heard the stories. Your friends, or you, travel to one of the big cities – NYC, Chicago or L.A. You come home with a near close to perfect bag that if you squint and turn your head to the side looks just like the most recent Louis Vuitton, CHANEL, Prada or Gucci. Instead it is the most recent Prado, Channel or Guchi all for the bargain of around $30 to $50 a bag. You justify your purchase by saying, “I’m not really depriving the company of a sale because I could not afford or would not ever purchase a bag at that price.” You carry the bag with only your close friends being the wiser and sleep soundly each night knowing you made a smart shopping decision for your budget.

So, what’s the problem and why should you care? Your counterfeit (knock-off) purchase in the very near future in NYC may end up costing you more than your bargain of $50 and might land you in jail. Councilperson Margaret Chin of New York has issued a proposal that would make purchasing counterfeit bags illegal along with a $1,000 fine and perhaps spending time in jail. Chin’s current proposal is similar to one she advocated for back in 2011. The laws currently only make it illegal to sell knock-off purchase; however, there are no laws that dissuade purchasers of these products.

The theory behind the proposed law is based in economics tied to the concept of supply and demand. The thought behind making the purchase illegal is that if the demand was not there for the knock-off then those persons that deal in counterfeit fashion would exist to a lesser degree. A critique of a law that targets purchasers is that society could end up giving a hefty fine or jail time to a person who might not know that buying a knock-off from a vendor off the street is a crime. Since New York is the capital of fashion for the United States, if this law is to pass, you can believe other cities will follow suit.

I tend to agree that the law would have a deterrent effect on the market. You can better believe that my actions would have been deterred if the teenage gal from Alabama knew, at the time of her first visit to NYC, there was a chance she could wind up in jail just for buying a purse. Further, I think most people know that buying goods in an alleyway from under a sheet covered grocery cart is not the way designer goods are intended to be delivered.

What I did not realize at the time of my purchase is that knock-offs are intimately tied to crime. The counterfeit fashion industry is a black-market industry that employs workers in less than desirable working conditions and oftentimes includes child labor. The purchase of counterfeit products supports the exploitation of tax dollars. This black-market business undermines, misuses and exploits someone’s created intellectual property rights from the design of the bag to the trademarked logos that appear with the goods. Earlier this year, Vogue and the Los Angeles Times wrote about the seizing of nearly 1,500 Hermès bags valued around $14.1 million. In the Los Angeles Times article a spokesperson for the company pointed out how purchasing these knock-offs is not a victimless purchase.

I encourage you to live a genuine a life, respect intellectual property rights and practice discipline by saving to make those big purchases. I will definitely keep an eye on this proposed bill and let you know of the outcome. If you find out before I do or have some thoughts on this, please take part in the Comments section below.

For more information on the bill proposed in New York, check out the article written in the Huffington Post. Peace of mind that comes from living authentically is something that is always in fashion and never goes out of style.

Take part in the conversation and stay tuned in.

9 thoughts on “Price of Fashion

  1. Ryanne, You make a great point; This really is someones intellectual property. No one would think about picking up something in someones home and walking out with it; but at the same time people say, “here’s a copy of this new song, or make me a copy of the new movie You just purchased. People for the most part will do the right thing. There has really been a failure of making people awear of how artist, writers, and computer softwear developers get paid.

  2. Ryanne, This is a great post. I truly believe that people do not understand the full market effects of purchasing counterfeit items. The law of supply and demand definitely drive this market in NY, especially in NY with the number of tourists that Chinatown as the number one destination on their list. I would also say that counterfeit items are also driving tourism in China, Thailand, Malaysia, London and the list could go on. Councilperson Chin’s proposed bill is interesting, I’ll have to wait to see how this plays out. Thank you!!

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