This past week there has been a lot of conversation about counterfeiting in the fashion industry. High Snobiety writer Aleks Eror wrote the article “Is Counterfeiting Actually Good for Fashion?” and in response, The Fashion Law had quite a few critiques.
In his article, Eror proposes that counterfeiting can be good for brands in two major ways. He outlines that counterfeiting can be a method of advertisement for manufacturers, as knock-offs have become more and more convincing. So, even though brands value prestige, having consumers desire their product, by seeing their peers wearing it, provides a brand with more exposure.
Eror also proposes that counterfeit goods can act as “gateway” purchases that cause a consumer’s desire for the product to grow. Based on the research he cites from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, these gateway purchases actually cause consumers to become attached to the real brands. Taking these two aspects into account, counterfeit goods may actually help labels boost their profit.
The Fashion Law brings up two major critiques that really leave us stuck on how to address this question. The article specifically calls into question the manner in which Eror differentiates between “knock-off” and “counterfeit” items. While the former is a copy and not an illegal use of trademarks, the latter requires the use of another brand’s trademarks.
The article also brings forth the fact that exclusivity and desirability are intertwined. So, when it comes to advertising, brands will not necessarily be relying on counterfeit products to help them advertise, as that would not maintain the exclusivity of their products. The Fashion Law article highlights how the largest issue for brands may not be a loss in profit due to a flooding of the industry with imitations, but rather the damage to the brand’s trademark rights.
An example of this is the brand fatigue that Louis Vuitton experienced a few years ago, which caused the iconic brand to revamp its look. The flooding of imitations in the market caused the brand’s exclusivity to diminish and it had to find a way to make its logo less commonplace. This phenomenon is called trademark dilution, and this concept is what The Fashion Law hypothesizes that brands are afraid of. Brands that spend decades, or even over a century creating luxury branding would opt to keep their exclusivity over the short-term benefits that Eror discusses in his article.
So what do we think?
Well, this is a tough call. We can see where the threat of counterfeits might be beneficial to force brands to explore new technologies to prevent imitations. It might also create more innovation in the fashion industry, as the high end brands try to stay one step ahead of their fast fashion counterparts that make imitations of their products. We also cannot ignore the other serious implications of counterfeiting that may rely on unethical practices to produce cheap alternatives.
Trademark dilution, however is an undeniable consequence of counterfeiting that we do not think brands will choose in order to gain more exposure and increase advertising from imitations.
What do you think about how counterfeiting affects the fashion industry?