Knock It Off Already!

If you are in the Indianapolis fashion scene, one of the vital conversations that many of us engage in is about having respect. Respect for our work, respect for our designs, respect for our city. We want to be seen as legitimate artists, as a strong fashion source and as a force to be reckoned with. We want to be appreciated, but, in order to do this we must truly appreciate the work of the industry leaders.

While walking through Chinatown in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia, I was overwhelmed by the rows and booths of counterfeit goods. I was transported back to Canal Street in New York City, corner kiosks in Washington D.C. and market stalls in Mumbai, India. In my travels, I am constantly surrounded by people promising me good deals on luxury and name brand items.

As a matter of fact, I found a Louis Vuitton I had been coveting in Kuala Lampur. You know the one, the bright red patent leather bowler.  My arm has been craving this amazing piece and the knock off was so well constructed that I actually had to count the stitches on the zipper pull to tell it was a fake. The logo was centered and even, the liner was correct, the dust cover was of quality and there was no cheesy plastic LV Logo on a string attached to the bag. As I was holding this purse, hoping it was in fact a rare, true item, my travel partner said to me, “Just buy the bag, who cares? No one will know.”

While this may be true, many people would never know, the simple fact that it is a counterfeit completely disrespects the industry that I work in and spend day and night trying to make a mark in. I am a firm believer that any self respecting designer, stylist, fashion photographer, fashion writer, blogger or true lover of the hardwork and dedication that goes into the creation process should respect themselves by respecting their work and boycott knock offs. Seriously.

If you were to run into Valentino or Gucci in the street, would you step on their shoes and laugh? If you saw Donatella Versace, would you spit in her face and tell her you hate her work? If your answer is no, has it occurred to you that the purchase of counterfeit goods simply tells your industry, your co-workers and anyone else who may know that you have no respect for your work or those who have laid the foundations to fashion. I also believe this is a direct reason as to why Le Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture currently only licenses 13 houses as Couture house, down from 52 only a few decades ago.

Furthermore, new legislation has taken place protecting the fashion industry and we should all be ecstatic about this. If you get caught buying fake goods in New York City, you could face a $1000 fine and jail time. If you’re caught selling them in New York City, Milan, Rome, Paris or London (to name a few) you may get hit with fines up to $25,000 per piece and extensive jail time. The American Council of Fashion Designers has also banded together to work with the Senate in regards to copyright laws protecting designs for an initial 3 year period.

If you support the legislation to protect your designs and turn around and purchase goods you know are a knock off or counterfeit, why should your hard work encounter any protection? Think about it.

Would you buy something if you knew it would take away your job? Would you swipe your credit card for a cheaper, fake item if you knew your child may be taken away from you and forced to work in a sweat shop? I hope not, but every purchase of knock offs and counterfeits not only damages a $250 million a year American industry (that we can’t afford to damage in the current economy), most of the shops producing knock offs consist of slave labor with children and your purchase directly supports human trafficking.

Remember during the Superbowl when Indianapolis made three human trafficking related arrests? We were all so proud to share that information and give the strategic team a virtual high five. Many people who reposted or retweeted to show their appreciation have possibly put more people into slave labor via trafficking, simply by purchasing counterfeit goods.

So what I have to say is this. If you want us to be taken seriously then bond together and show respect for yourself and those who led the way. Is there really pride in carrying an item that is supposed to represent the utmost of luxury, century long tradition and strict standards that is instead made out of fake leather, shoddy stitching and supportive of illegal practices? No, there really isn’t. While you think you may look good for the one or two days the fake bag holds up on your arm, truth is by the third carrying the stitches will fray, the paint will peel and no one will be convinced that you actually purchased a true piece.

Luxury items are meant to be coveted, treasured and appreciated. They are collector items, they are to be admired, they are to be gone over with a fine tooth comb to inspect the construction, the quality of craftsmanship and support the history of beauty.

So please Indianapolis, PLEASE, respect yourself, respect your art and knock it off already!

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