Several months ago, Rosel wrote a fascinating post about getting pressured into carrying a counterfeit Louis Vuitton handbag. Her rather insistent aunts bought it for her, and essentially forced it on her. She did what I think most of us would’ve done in that situation: Succumbed to their wishes, carried the bag a couple of times to be polite, and then stashed it.
She then dropped me a note to ask for my thoughts on designer fakes and ask how women should react to social pressure to buy and wear/carry designer goods.
As a 10-year-old, I felt pressured to wear as much Esprit as possible to gain acceptance from my catty peers. But I’ve never felt pressure to purchase or display branded designer goods as an adult from my friends, peers, family, or anyone else. So I’m not really equipped to dish out advice, per se, but I’m happy to present my experiences and opinions.
On the pressure to buy and wear designer
Highly branded goods of any type make me suspicious. I am fiercely loyal to many clothing, shoe, and accessory brands but virtually never wear items that bear enormous logos, company names, or catchphrases. I know that branded items can convey cachet and/or broadcast information about the owner’s interests or skills, and many people feel perfectly comfortable wearing logo-ed garments. But in my opinion, anything with a big logo on worn by a human being immediately becomes a very valuable piece of walking, living advertising for the manufacturer. So I can’t help but feel that when I wear logo-laden items I am actually paying a company to become a champion of its brand. Not something I feel comfortable doing.
Furthermore, I feel that some people allow branded designer items to stand in for taste and personal preference: If it’s expensive and recognizable enough, you don’t have to love it and it doesn’t have to be pretty. It’s impressive, and that is sufficient. Obviously that isn’t always the case. Countless people buy designer goods because they love them, can afford them, and are proud to carry them. But, again, it’s just not something I feel comfortable doing myself. I will occasionally buy expensive things with my hard-earned dough, but I don’t like to display my choices and privileges through logos or branding.
Handbags are a particularly touchy issue for me. Despite their long and venerable history, Louis Vuitton logo handbags just make me cringe, and I can honestly say that if someone offered me one as a gift, I’d refuse it. I’d be too embarrassed to carry it. Don’t believe me? I bought a very simple, logo-free, leather Coach bag once, and I couldn’t even bear to have that telltale hang-tag on it. I removed it before I’d even left the store. To each her own, of course – as someone who has worked in marketing for more than 12 years, I understand the symbiotic relationship that branding plays and I don’t judge. But I do hope that those who feel compelled to bear and wear branded goods have their own reasons for doing so.
On designer-inspired items and outright knockoffs
I’m definitely guilty of buying a couple of pairs of Steve Madden and Jeffrey Campbell shoes that were “inspired” by hot designer versions and have somehow been able to justify my actions. None of those shoes bore counterfeit logos and all of them include variations on the original design. Not entirely above board, but not entirely sketchy, either.
However, before I bought my Alexander McQueen skull scarf in New York, I bought a fake off eBay. I thought there was a chance I was getting the real deal for a bargain, but deep down I knew I’d thrown my $19 at a knockoff. It arrived, I opened it, and immediately I knew I would never wear it. It wasn’t “inspired,” it was just fake: A nasty polyester instead of silk, the print and logo almost identical but not quite, fraudulence coming off it in waves.
My feeling is that the world of fashion is brimming with trends, and when companies take an idea and tweak it slightly to make it their own they aren’t committing a terrible crime. But I believe that attempting to pass off a fake for a real is bad karma for manufacturer, vendor, and customer. Especially where logos and branding are involved. Buy vintage designer that you can afford or buy non-designer that you love. There are better ways to be stylish than to spend on outright knockoffs.
On dealing with designer-related peer pressure
Again, I’ve never run with a group of friends who implied that I should step up my game by carrying or wearing designer, and my family couldn’t care less about labels. So while I’d love to advise anyone dealing with a pushy peer group to just be strong and tell them all to mind their own business, I’m not sure I can. No one with your best interests at heart is going to pressure you to buy something you can’t afford, or, alternately, pressure you to buy a counterfeit item to “fit in.” But that can be hard to remember when it’s a valued friend doing the pushing. Having never been in a group who applied such pressure, I’m not sure how difficult it would be to resist.
Perhaps some of you could shed some light. Have you ever felt pressured to buy and display designer goods? Or to carry knockoffs if you can’t afford the real thing? How did you react? Any advice for folks dealing with this situation themselves? What are your thoughts on pieces that were “inspired by” designer items? Are they less sketchy than actual, logo-ed knockoffs? Or are they both just bad news? What are your thoughts on heavily logo-ed and branded goods in general?