The practise of counterfeiting is hardly new, and as long as luxury goods have existed, there have been knockoffs. Notoriously known as the central hub for counterfeits, China is infamous for producing highly convincing (albeit hilarious) knockoffs. An estimated 86% of the world’s counterfeit goods are traced back to China, which is valued at a staggering $397 billion. A quick search on Youtube reveals no shortage of videos titled “China Fake Market” videos, where, like a game of Where’s Wally, you can spot Supreme bogos proudly hanging from stall fronts, but the trademark font is just a little bit... off? Or Gucci t-shirts with the logo emblazoned across the chest but it’s.... slightly misaligned? And of course, an honourable mention goes out to the Balenciaga Triple S, a shoe with a logo that has been rendered almost unrecognisable. On the side profile, where the brand name is supposed to be brandished, it often reads ‘Balencioga’ or, even more mind-bogglingly, ‘Fashing BALISG’.
To quote Samantha Jones from Sex and the City, “You’d never know it wasn’t real Fendi unless you look inside at the lining.” But, times have changed. Whilst Samantha’s faux Baguette was plucked by a manicured claw from the boot of a car, today, the digital evolution has supercharged the counterfeit industry — which is predicted to reach $1.9 trillion by 2022. The market of fake goods is estimated to total 3.33% of all global commerce, and the three industries most affected by it are footwear, clothing and leather accessories, accounting for 51% of the bootleg trade. While the channel of trades has evolved, counterfeits have only grown in production, thanks to the anonymity of the internet, which scammers use as a hidden veil.
When selling an item on Depop, how many of us have been accosted with borderline aggressive questions like “Where’s the receipt?” or “Is this real?”, and while it’s natural to feel indignant, their interrogations are unfortunately justifiable — today, fakes of everything exist. Alarmingly, it has become a trend, if TikTok virality is anything to go by. Many young consumers are actively purchasing counterfeits, making videos dedicated to finding convincing dupes and sharing them on the popular social media site (currently, the hashtag #Dupe has amassed 278.3 million views). Designer dupes pop up at an alarmingly fast rate — When Jacquemus released their famous Mini Chiquito, fakes flooded Depop, selling anywhere between £60 - £80 pounds. “Price is reflective of authenticity”, some sellers comment dismissively, carelessly unaware that they are actively perpetuating the counterfeit industry. Others list fraudulent items knowingly, driving up the prices and using deceptive photos to scam buyers who are innocently searching for the best deal on a pair of lucrative Jordans or the newest Prada bag. While it’s all fun and games on the surface, the truth of the matter is that the nature of such videos will inevitably contribute to deceiving unknowing customers and cause designer brands to increasingly lose credibility, fueled by damaging accusations from conned second-hand buyers.
According to a study by Statistica in 2019, counterfeit clothing is the second most affected industry hit by the illicit trade, but counterfeit shoes top the list, accounting for 22% of the fraudulent market. It’s unsurprising when you consider how popular sneakers are. A true sneakerhead knows how to spot a fake, they can tell you where the stitching runs and how the sole is set, and all the tells that prove a shoe is inauthentic, but we don’t all share the same trained eyes. That’s why for every criminal, there is a justice officer, and as the battle between counterfeits and the real deal ensues, there are just as many detectives out there making sure you get the justice you deserve. In the case of the fashion industry, it materialises in the form of authentication platforms. Popular resale websites like Vestiaire, TheRealReal and Poshmark employ experts to conduct physical examinations, identify suspicious users and flag sceptical products — which comes at a price. And if you’re unwilling to pay, unfortunately, there is still room for error and the victim list to Gukkys and Ballenciaggos will likely continue to grow. The take away lesson here is: do your research, check the fine print and stay vigilant.