It’s easy to get blindsided by a bargain, especially when it has to do with designer or designer-looking fashion. Our resident finance expert Haley Sacks, aka Mrs. Dow Jones, is back to expose the dark side of fashion dupes.
It’s 2023. Inflation is making it hard to afford basic necessities. And somehow those influencers you follow have Loewe jeans. And a Prada tank. And a Chanel bag. And Dior sunglasses.
Do they have a hefty dividend stock portfolio that funds their designer shopping addiction, or could it all…be fake?
Designer dupes are nothing new. Remember in Season 3 of Sex and the City when Samantha buys a fake Fendi bag on the girls’ trip to Los Angeles? Or on Broad City how Ilana and her mom go on a whole adventure to get fake bags?
People have done it for ages. My own mom got me a fake Goyard in high school; her friend Peggy had a connect! (It looked great, but sadly the strap broke immediately!) But back then you had to get your fakes in person. You made a day of it. Peggy brought snacks! Now, all people have to do is message someone on WhatsApp and they’re shipped over from China. (When you’re saving on 90 percent of the costs, people are willing to pay for international shipping.)
In researching this article, I got connected with one of these Chinese vendors. For research. His name? The Cobbler. And boy, did he have loot. Any dream item I could think of, he had a version for less than $100 that could ship out immediately. I was meant to be doing research, but suddenly I was foaming at the mouth, imagining a life dripping in designerwear. Something that seemed so unrealistic financially was now at arm’s length. I understood why everyone was obsessed with buying fake bags. It was an incredible feeling!
However, as I added his info into PayPal for a “Fendi” baguette, I heard the old adage in my head, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” So I paused my transaction and decided to do a little sleuthing into the production of these.
As it turns out, all the glamor I was looking forward to with my fake Fendi was being delivered with toxic materials/chemicals via child labor and theft.
Let’s start with the kids. Yep, children are making these replicated goods. Most dupes are shipped from countries with lax labor laws, hence the long shipping times and ability to price them so low while still making a profit. So, by buying fake, you’re directly supporting the exploitation of children and other vulnerable workers.
Also, it should come as no surprise that the workplace practices are brutal. There are many dangerous chemicals in their production, and they can harm you, too! The American Apparel & Footwear Association conducted a study testing the chemicals in 47 counterfeit items and found a whopping 36 percent of them had high levels of chemicals that are considered major health concerns in the U.S. Arsenic, lead, phthalates, and cadmium were all present; these chemicals can cause liver and kidney issues, lead to cancer, and even cause birth defects if absorbed by a pregnant woman. A single accessory showed 600 times over the exposure limit of cadmium, a toxic heavy metal used for coloring.
Oh, and to make things worse, they’re straight up stealing designs from design teams at fashion houses. This completely undermines the hard work and creativity of the original designers and stifles innovation. Over time, this discourages designers from producing unique designs because they are people waiting to steal them.
So while the allure of affordable fashion dupes is incredibly tempting and almost sucked me in, as consumers it’s crucial to look behind the curtain and recognize why this industry is thriving and why the goods are so inexpensive. It’s an unregulated market full of unethical practices that exploit the most vulnerable people in society, use harsh chemicals that are otherwise illegal, and steal from the people who created them in the first place.
Plus, you often get addicted to buying dupes and end up spending as much on multiple fake bags as you would on one real one. I had a friend who had fakes in every color of the Bottega Veneta Jodie tote and ended up spending as much as one real one on all the dupes. And as a financial pop star, I live by the phrase “Don’t go broke trying to look rich.” It’s low integrity to wear fake designer; you’re presenting a false version of yourself to the world. Part of wearing a designer good is the pride in being able to afford it. You’re skipping a step and getting immediate satisfaction but no value or real pride. Instead, you have blood and chemicals on your hands.
My take? If you decide you want a luxury item, make a plan for it! Look at your monthly budget and see where you can cut costs and put some cash away to treat yourself. Then, when you’re ready to buy, go to the store and get the whole experience! Take all the free Perrier or Champagne at the Dior showroom. Have the salesperson tell you all about why your bag is so special. Enjoy the experience of buying a luxury item, instead of buying it on a counterfeit website and waiting weeks for it to come, and not even knowing how long it’ll last once you have it. I bought myself my first Chanel bag in Paris last year and it was the most fun afternoon ever. I love the bag, and I love the memory.
Then, take care of your item; if you tire of it, bring it to a verified reseller. Chances are you’ll make a pretty penny for an authentic luxury item. But don’t think you can take your fake and try to trick them. Resellers are trained to know what’s real, and what isn’t.
Or just buy something funky and vintage that no one else will have. Who says something has to be designer to be chic? We need to remember that style transcends labels and price tags. You don’t need to have high-luxury items to be the best-dressed person in the room. You need confidence, and I can tell you from experience that buying everything you think is “cool” will not deliver in that arena. Stay ethical…and rich, ladies!