Could counterfeit goods actually lead consumers to purchase the real deal?
While M.I.T. Sloan School of Management professor Renee Richardson Gosline does not condone the illegal activity in any way, she said more than 40 percent of participants in a recent study eventually purchased authentic merchandise, due partially to the inferiority of fakes. Aside from determining counterfeit goods are not substitutes for the real thing, she said the fakes are sometimes viewed as “low-risk trial” purchases but, once compared with the actual branded product, consumers realize they do not measure up.
“People originally think the counterfeit will be a substitute for the real thing but they find out the real thing is better,” Gosline said of her two-and-a-half-year survey, “Rethinking Brand Contamination: How Consumers Maintain Distinction When Symbolic Boundaries Are Breached.”
But Gosline said one of the greatest risks of counterfeit goods is their potential to alienate legitimate consumers.
Executives at Chanel and Versace declined to comment on Gosline’s survey. More at Burberry and Tiffany & Co. were unavailable for comment. Prada and Louis Vuitton did not respond with comment.
While Gosline has not been contacted by any luxury brands about her research, she has spoken with a few organizations and groups that specialize in curbing counterfeiting. Luxury brands, she believes, would be wise to join forces and share information so they don’t feel they are fighting counterfeiting on their own. They could also offer specialized expertise about their brand’s authentic traits to consumers at the point of purchase, she said.
It would also be in their best interest to leverage social media to their advantage. Shoppers are often swayed by their friends’ opinions, whether they are buying authentic goods or fakes, she said. “Online vigilante consumer groups” also carry a lot of weight with shoppers, she said. They are quick to make fun of people who wear fake designer merchandise, citing the Facebook group “Darling I Can Tell by the Rest of Your Outfit Your Louis Vuitton is Fake.”
Study participants who were shown images of real and counterfeit good against a blank backdrop were less confident in guessing the item’s authenticity than those who were shown real and fake goods on an actual person, the difference being that the wearer’s entire outfit helped study participants determine whose designer products were actually real, Gosline said. “They judge not by the logo but by how the brand fits into the whole look,” she said. “If you have a look that fits, you might be able to get away with having something counterfeit.”
Gosline said she came up with the idea for her study after being invited to a “purse party,” a Tupperware-type gathering where counterfeit handbags are sold. She was struck by how brazen people were in bragging about their fake goods, which seemed to defeat the purpose for buying it in the first place.
“Why would you tell everybody in your social network — your friends, neighbors, colleagues? I was astounded these fakes weren’t [seen as] substitutes for the real thing,” she said.
In the last fiscal year, there were 14,841 intellectual property rights seizures with a domestic value of $260.7 million, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. China was the leading trading partner for IPR seizures, accounting for 79 percent of the total value seized.
In November, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Office of Special Enforcement closed 31 stores on Canal Street in Chinatown for selling counterfeit designer goods posing as Gucci, Tiffany, Chanel, Coach, Juicy Couture and others.
Tavis Johnson, vice president and director of legal affairs and policy for the International Anticounterfeiting Coalition, said counterfeiting has become so encompassing that even razor blades, toothpaste and shampoo are knocked off. “The product sector has exploded in the past five to 10 years,” he said. “It used to be a problem limited to high-end, luxury goods.”
Having not yet read Gosline’s study, he nonetheless said of the idea that consumers who bought counterfeits eventually acquired the real product, “I would definitely find it a bit suspect.”
Counterfeiters are becoming increasingly quick to copy items worn by celebrities on the red carpet or around Hollywood, he said. Clothing has become more of a problem with counterfeiting. “It used to be it was only the very exclusive labels with high dollar values. Now it’s everything.” Johnson said.
Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Gucci are among the luxury labels that continue to be victimized by street-front vendors who set up collapsible tables with fake merchandise, he said.
While some people contend “the only thing worse than counterfeiting is not being counterfeited,” Johnson remains stalwart in his anticounterfeiting strategies. He pointed to an public service campaign that first bowed in New York last fall and warns consumers of the perils of counterfeiting. Government officials have said there are links between counterfeiting and other major crimes, as well as proof that money generated by the sale of counterfeit goods have been used to fund terrorism.
After being briefed about the recent study, Joseph Gioconda, whose New York law firm has fought counterfeiting cases on behalf of Hermès, Hugo Boss and other well-known companies, said, “My experience has been that consumers who have purchased counterfeit goods, whether knowingly or unknowingly, always ultimately realized the inferiority of the counterfeit product. However, in doing so, they may have put themselves at an unnecessary risk. For example, counterfeit pharmaceuticals, electronics, sunglasses, shoes and sporting goods can put the consumer in real physical danger.
@tradesy is turning the concept of a showroom upside down with its new space in Santa Monica. Here, the company plans to hold events, art exhibits and a showcase rare fashion pieces like this Louis Vuitton boxing set. Get all the details on Tradesy’s first showroom on WWD.com. #wwdnews
Spotted last night at the @erdem x @hm launch event: Kate Bosworth, Rashida Jones, Kirsten Dunst and Selma Blair. The party, which took place in LA, also marked the opening of their pop-up shop. “I was interested in creating a collection that wasn’t in any way disposable. It was about pieces you’d create and keep forever, things that have a permanence to it,” designer Erdem Moralioglu said. #wwdeye (📷: Katie Jones)
Renee Zellweger in yellow in 2001 and again in 2017. Chosen as one of the 12 @pantone Leading Spring Colors (and dubbed “Meadowlark”), it only makes sense that the bright hue stands the test of time and is making a resurgence this season, seen already on stars like @blakelively and @gigihadid. (📷: Donato Sardello & @rexfeatures) #wwdfashion #tbt
Dior’s 70th anniversary celebration continues with a new exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. “Christian Dior,” which is scheduled to run through March 18, takes a look at the founders tenure from 1947 to 1057 and feature 40 designs. Pictured here is an evening gown from the Ailée, fall 1948-49 haute couture collection. #wwdfashion (📷: Brian Boyle)
As one of the most recognizable models in the world, Christy Turlington Burns has an insider’s view of the fashion industry and the allegations of sexual harassment swirling around it. “I can say that harassment and mistreatment have always been widely known and tolerated in the industry. The industry is surrounded by predators who thrive on the constant rejection and loneliness so many of us have experiences at some point in our careers,” Turlington told WWD, along with her suggestions for how the modeling world should protect younger women and men. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: Tony Palmieri) #wwdnews
@asics America has tapped a new brand ambassador: famed DJ/record producer @steveaoki. This initiative is intended to set the tone for the new brand identity and philosophy and will include partnerships with influencers and in-store and off-line activations that will continue into next year. This is Asics’ most significant marketing effort in two decades, and is expected to attract younger consumers to the brand. #wwdfashion
24-year-old Jean Prounis is redefining the rules of jewelry. Formerly a studio assistant to Jemima Kirke and a design apprentice at Ghuran, she focuses on handcrafted subtleties and ancient goldsmithing techniques. “There was a really sterile feel in the environment and I wanted to have jewelry with character that shapes how you wear it everyday,” Prounis said. Each piece is hand made in New York, either by Prounis or three other jewelers in the district. #wwdfashion
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews