An instagram page that catches celebrities wearing counterfeit or fake luxury items posted a picture of rapper Rick Ross this week walking to a private jet wearing Louis Vuitton from head to toe, while also carrying Louis Vuitton luggage. They go on to point out that the entire outfit is fake. They show what the actual Louis Vuitton pieces should look like and how Ross’s were different. They confirm that the pieces weren’t modified or custom made but were actually counterfeit.
In other news this week, ten individuals were convicted in connection with a sophisticated counterfeiting ring involving the brand Hermes. They were given prison sentences as a result. The worst part was that seven of the people convicted were Hermes employees with access to the brand’s inner workings. During a trial in June, French prosecutors pushed for jail time for the criminals. This crime ring was operating internationally and making millions of dollars by peddling high quality counterfeit Hermes handbags branded with the name and logo, with iconic designs and even using authentic materials stolen from the brand to produce the fakes.
In an article about counterfeit culture in High Snobiety writer Aleks Eror makes the surprising argument that counterfeiting isn’t all bad, saying “Indeed, it is the fashion industry itself, with its manufacturing of desire and prestige, that creates a market for knock-offs. legitimate manufacturers often refuse to acknowledge that counterfeiting actually provides them with free advertising. So when we spot someone wearing knockoffs on the street, that actually inflates the brand’s prestige because it signals to us that we’re not the only one lusting after a certain label or product, which makes it all the more appealing.”
I found all of this intriguing. The real question is why people relate a brand to their identity in the first place. The question is why does branding provide validation? Not only do people need to feel respect or acceptance by wearing a logo but people need it so bad that they are willing to go through the desperate measures of stealing, and copying branding in hopes of receiving some sort of acknowledgement from others. Yet the reality is that other people do admire those people covered in brands. We all know that having the admiration of others feels great. That is most people’s motivation for doing almost anything in life, to receive acceptance or admiration from others. That can be the reason for fame, luxury and yes brand addiction.
That’s what I’ve always loved about the high-low styling movement. It’s the combining of a high priced item (like a versace skirt) with a low priced item (like a t-shirt from a thrift store) all in one outfit. High-low styling is a statement. It says that you have such good style that you know how to put things together regardless of branding. It attempts to show a bit of ambivalence for all out branding, and thus in essence showing more confidence in financial stature or taste. Afterall there’s something sort of unknowingly insecure about a person covered in head to toe branding.
I love luxury brands, but I love fashion more than brands. Fashion is a Joie de vivre. It’s a joy of living through personal outward expression and that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with brands. It has to do with an eye for creativity and a knowing of who you are and why your uniqueness is valuable, and letting that be all the validation you need.