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What Are Superfakes and Should You Buy Them?

What Are Superfakes and Should You Buy Them?

The Chanel 2.55, the Hermès Birkin, the Lady Dior  and all the different Louis Vuitton bags – it seems that luxury bags are everywhere. But are they all real? Some are, some of them not so much. And there is a relatively new market – the so-called “superfakes”.

Fake products are not a new business. In the fashion industry copies of branded products are often as old as the products themselves. As mentioned in my article about Louis Vuitton Bag Materials, the Louis Vuitton monogram canvas was actually created as early as in the late 19th century. The reason was more than just an aesthetic one: the company developed a signature pattern to prevent competitors from copying the Louis Vuitton products. In the 1990s and early 2000s, street vendors offering fake designer bags were nothing out of the ordinary in popular holiday destinations. The bags were presented on big blankets which could be wrapped up fast, if the police came by. Mostly, the fake products were not that great. It was relatively easy to spot that they were copies – mostly with spelling mistakes, low quality materials or other obvious faults.[1]

However, the “fake industry” has evolved and the copies have become “better” and often resemble the originals so closely that there are rumours that not even the brands themselves can tell them apart. These so-called “Superfakes” have become increasingly popular. Even though they are not cheap, they still cost less than the original and as it is very difficult to tell if they are fakes, online purchases via questionable websites or online groups or at physical markets are booming.

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I have done some research online and there are many threads and groups discussing how to get a superfake. It seems to be quite a process. For an investigative article in the German newspaper Die Zeit, the journalist went through the process of acquiring such a superfake. They were told to join online groups, for example on Facebook, where they were instructed about the process and platform to order the superfake from China. They then had to place an order – but not for a bag. The order had to be for other products to cover up that the shipment involved a fake bag. Once the bag was shipped, the journalist hoped that it would not be held up by customs authorities and lead to potential legal consequences. Another article I read was about the so-called “Rep-Ladies”, a group of wealthy executives, investors, even civil servants in New York City who purchase fake designer bags, even though they could afford the real bags. Whether it is to deceive others, save money or just for the sake of the hunt, this Reddit thread called “RepLadies” is still active – it is public if you want to read up on this.[2]

Why would you go through such an ordeal for a fake bag? Is it really worth buying them? And what are the consequences if you decide to purchase a superfake? Let’s take a closer look.

Why would you want to buy a fake bag in the first place?

Luxury marketing builds on exclusivity – not everyone can afford a Chanel 2.55 and not everyone can just walk into an Hermès boutique and buy a Birkin bag. Luxury products are a status symbol – by carrying a certain bag, the person may want to signal “I have made it, I can afford this expensive bag.”, and others may aspire to purchase such a bag as well. In times of social media and extreme consumerism it is not only about the “It-bag” of the year, it seems that there is constantly something newer, more expensive and it has to be shown off not only in the real world but, of course, on social media as well.

Needless to say, this is the reason why there is a current revival of logomania-trend. And probably a lot of people want to have these branded products, but they do not want to or cannot afford to spend multiple thousands of dollars. Ultimately, what is luxury marketing about? It wants you to aspire to join their exclusive club. A fake bag may be a ticket into that club without spending a lot of money. Nobody can tell on your socials (or even in real life) that it is a fake bag. But can’t they really? And why would you like to play this game? Ultimately, many people aspire designer bags less because of the design or quality – they probably want to impress or fool others. It is about social recognition. For me, this is not the right reason why I would buy a luxury product in the first place.

I have mentioned this in many of my articles, I am not a big fan of showing off logos or wear something where everyone knows which brand it is and how much it costs. I search for unique items, I appreciate craftsmanship, quality and customer service and very often, I do not need to go to the big brands for that. Maybe it is because I own a fashion label myself but I really appreciate small labels who try to create something beautiful, I appreciate it. 

Myths about Fake Bags

And this leads me to my main point: many people argue that they buy luxury bags from big brands because of the quality and craftsmanship. If you buy a fake bag, do you really get the same quality and craftsmanship? The counterarguments are often “The big brands produce in the same factories.”, “They also exploit people, they are not transparent.” “Why should I support them in making high margins while their quality decreased?”

Despite all the information available through the internet, it has become increasingly difficult to determine whether brands really practice what they preach or if they benefit from a legacy which was created decades ago. A lot of the big luxury brands do not disclose much information about their processes and supply chains. You can learn more about this in my article about the Fashion Transparency Index. We see a lot of polished content on the brands’ websites and socials but there is often little concrete information. Hence, I understand why some people say that they can buy fakes instead.

Nevertheless, if you buy a fake product, it is usually from an obscure source – online or offline. There is even less information about the practices of fake producers than. With an established brand you as a customer have some kind of recourse – there are warranties, after-sales-services, you know who you can address if you have an issue with your purchase. (Let’s not discuss the quality of these services here, that would be a different topic.) Once you buy a superfake, the risk is that it might not look like you expected it to look like once it arrives, or that it is damaged. What do you do then? Send it back to that questionable seller? The seller who makes you cover up buying a fake bag in the first place? Where can you complain?

Furthermore, there is a much bigger picture to this. According UNODC, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the OECD estimated that the value of the counterfeit goods is estimated at around USD 250 billion per year – this not only involves fashion and accessories but also pharmaceuticals, food or other products. We know nothing about the working conditions in these factories, ethical standards, or sustainability efforts. But it gets even worse: If you buy a fake product – knowingly or unknowingly – you may fund criminal organizations which not only produce and ship counterfeit products but they are often also involved in illegal activities or crimes such as money laundering, racketeering, or even slavery, child labour, human trafficking or drug or arms dealing.[3]

A popular argument by people interested in fake products is the one mentioned previously: That the big brands would produced in the same factories and they also would treat people badly. As mentioned earlier, unfortunately, buying an expensive luxury product does not necessarily guarantee that it still comes up to our expectations not only in terms of quality but also in terms of sustainability, ethics and the treatment of workers. Even though the legal landscape has been changing, there is still a lack of transparency and white-washing. Nevertheless, these big brands are registered companies, you as a consumer have an important voice and you should use it. You can take action against them or authorities can. It may be a long shot, but at least we can try. With fake producers where the consumer often does not even know where or if they are registered, or how to get in touch with them, there is even less recourse.

Counterfeit Products Are Illegal in Many Countries

In addition to the moral perspective, there is also a major legal dimension to fake products. Counterfeit products are illegal in many countries. The jurisdiction varies; in some countries there are very high fines or even imprisonment. As the legal landscape differs, you need to check what can happen if you buy fake products? What happens if you order the goods online? They may be held up in customs, they may be destroyed, you may be fined or face further legal consequences. The same applies if you purchase counterfeit products during a trip abroad. While owning these products may not immediately result in actions against you in some countries, the customs authorities may destroy the items (maybe at your cost) and there may be fines. I recommend thinking about this dimension as well when you contemplate purchasing a superfake.

Often it is not clear whether a product is real or fake – especially online but even when you are at a physical store or market, as the fake products have “improved” a lot. In general, I recommend that if you really want to buy a luxury bag, buy it from an authorized dealer. Then you do not have to worry about potential fakes and you will have the official receipt, possible warranties and after-sales-services. If you buy vintage, do your research on the product, brand and also on the respective vintage platform as well. Just one tip in general: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Why I Do not Purchase Fake Products

I do not buy fake products for the simple reason that firstly, as a business owner myself, I do not want to support anyone copying or even ripping off other people’s intellectual property. Secondly, due to my professional background, I know about the consequences of buying fake products and the potential risk of supporting crimes like slavery or human trafficking. Thirdly, I am not really into logos anyways and if I still want a certain luxury bag, I either save or buy vintage through a trustworthy channel. (Even though I have to admit, it has been quite a while since I last purchased a new luxury bag.) And coming back to the argument of the claims against brands regarding decreasing quality, bad attitude from the sales representatives, high margins and lack of transparency: Nobody forces us to buy from big brands, it is our choice! And if we choose not to play a certain game, it can also have an impact. And lastly, in general, I tend to buy from smaller labels and interesting designers who not only create beautiful products but also care about transparency and who want to change the fashion industry. There are many amazing lesser-known brands out there with really beautiful designs and amazing craftsmanship and many of them are quite transparent about their business practices. You will then know where your dollars are going to. This is my personal opinion.


Footnotes

[1] Louis Vuitton Bag Materials Explained

[2] Die Zeit 2024, Reddit 2024, The Cut 2024.

[3] UNODC 2024.


Sources

Arbeiterkammer Wien, Produktpiraterie – Gefälschte Waren, last accessed on 4 April 2024.

Consultation Juridique, Contrefaçon de sac à main : ce que dit la loi, last accessed on 4 April 2024.

Die Zeit, Kopie, Original oder andersrum?, published on 7 November 23, last accessed on 4 April 2024.

Reddit, r/RepladiesDesigner, last accessed on 4 April 2024.

The Cut, The Rich New York Women Who Love Their Fake Birkins Among a certain set, counterfeit luxury bags may be more popular than the real thing, last accessed on 4 April 2024.

UNODC, Counterfeit goods: a bargain or a costly mistake?, last accessed on 4 April 2024.

Us Border Control, The Truth Behind Counterfeits, last accessed on 4 April 2024.

Picture Source Title Image

Reddit, r/RepladiesDesigner


Disclaimer

This article is based on the personal, views, experiences and research of Elisabeth Steiger, no fees were received by the organisations and people mentioned above. The author is not a lawyer or customs expert, the video is based on publicly available information, for legal advice or further details, please consult a licensed lawyer or expert.


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