We’ve all heard of it and we’ve been warned about it – currently the streetwear and sneaker markets are swarmed with fakes. What traditionally only occurred to designer labels such as Burberry, Chanel and Gucci is now happening to streetwear labels too. Incidents as such seem to be inevitable as these apparels gradually grow to mass appeal.
To long-standing hot brands like Supreme and Stussy, knock-offs have been a pain in the neck since the noughties. There are plenty of indicators spotted in our market now that denote just how out of hand the situation has snowballed. In April 2018 OFF-WHITE filed lawsuits against over 150 online replica retailers. Immediately a month after the onset, adidas’ CEO said 10% of the brand’s products in Asia were fakes. Just this week it was revealed that Supreme has “opened” a new department store in Shenzhen, China – yes the whole store is a counterfeit.
The surge of rip-offs can possibly be explained by the skyrocketing prices of streetwear apparel and sneakers in the resale market. As streetwear and sneakers go from strength to strength, brands begin releasing limited edition products that are worth a lot of money. Re-sellers would stock up on these sought after goods and sell it to fans who fail to cop from official sources (quite frankly these drops are like gold dust) at astronomical prices. Most retailers make a fortune out of this practice.
Inevitably some malicious merchants began replicating these products and sold them as if they were authentic. Essentially a fraud, these culprits are difficult to hunt down, as some of the knock-offs available now are surprisingly high quality and it is often hard for untrained eyes to spot the odd one out. This put many consumers in a very vulnerable position.
In 2004, one particular manufacturer replicated a tech jacket with a rubberised lining from Stone Island. Many people had fallen into the trap but only those with respectable knowledge saw pass the fakes, which never had a rubberised lining. Then there was a surge of the famous fake Raso Gommato with a yellow stripe running down the inside of the placket, something which the Italian brand had never officially released. Another major difference between the reals and fakes very often lies within the brand logos.
The impact of counterfeits on brands are massive, so much to a point that they decide to take legal actions and hire a team of specialists in attempt to combat crimes. But is this the whole picture regarding fashion rip-offs? Could there be a more positive side to the story?
If we take a step back, fake streetwear can sometimes bring about some positive results – they can be an easy alternative for the larger population and a handy promotion tool for the brands. Prices can sometimes be a good indicator of whether the product is genuine. If a Supreme box logo hoodie has a price tag of merely £30 then it is more than likely fake. Fashionistas who can afford steep prices probably won’t even turn their heads, and those who go for this? Chances are they expect that to be a rip-off anyway. Counterfeits in turn open a new gateway for more people to enjoy the satisfaction of wearing designer brands without paying top dollars. That could translate into brands’ escalating popularity. So potentially there could be an advantage, yet this is still a hypothetical discussion.
All in all counterfeits are unlawful because they have infringed the intellectual copyright law and it is an act of disrespect to the original creators. However as copyright protection laws vary in different countries, some of these fake sellers will never have to bear the consequence of creating replicas. For example, in China, individuals can acquire the trademark right of any brands if they are the first to file an application. The actual Supreme brand has not yet registered in China which is why the Supreme store in Shenzhen is not risking anything. There is little the NYC streetwear brand can do about it. What a bummer.