Fashion and style are words that are strongly associated with authenticity and quality. We all want our clothes to be good, at least as good as it gets; nobody is intentionally searching for bad clothes when they’re going shopping (unless you think that being “uncool” is “cool”, but that’s another discussion).
However, in a world so dominated by the search for true style, there is an enormous market that is based on offering exactly the opposite. Knock-offs or rip-offs are brands or pieces created by a brand; that feature a renowned brand’s logo and name, but with a bigger or smaller change. They use the same fonts, colors and similar designs to imitate a famous brand, but to still maintain a slight difference so that they don’t get sued for stealing copyrighted designs or names. This is how Prada turns to Proda, Gucci turns to Guggi and Louis Vuitton can turn to Louk Vuikkon.
Why wear knock-offs?
US TV series 30 Rock had a wonderful scene in which, after Jenna Maroney, interpreted by Jane Krakowski, discovered that the brand that represents her best is a website named off-brandheelz.com appears in a commercial for their site. What is great about the narrative construction of this scene is that it really expresses the philosophy of knock-offs.
It is said that imitation is the biggest form of flattery, but is it really?
What lies behind the wish some people have to wear knock-offs?
The cultural explanation for this is that some brands have become synonymous with luxury, style and wealth and are globally recognizable. You don’t need to wear Dolce and Gabbana or Gucci and you don’t even need to know their latest collection to know their names, fonts and logos and that people who wear pieces created by these brands are powerful, rich and elegant. Therefore, if you associate yourself with any of these brands, you express the fact that you adhere to those values and you might even make some people believe that you really are rich, elegant and sophisticated.
The problem is that most people who buy knockoffs don’t know that you can have great style even without owning high-end clothes. Moreover, wearing designer clothes does not mean that you are automatically beautiful. Unfortunately, we’ve seen cases where people dressed up in designer clothes looked very cheap. This is where the 30 Rock clip is genius: “…and Jessica Simpson”. The lesson we can all learn from this simple line is that not everything that is “designer” is of high quality.
Knockoffs represent a big disconnect between form and substance. This is where the 30 Rock clip is genius again: If Dolce and Gabbana and Prada are associated with a close-to-perfect lifestyle, Dolce and Banana and Prader are associated with “running from your parole officer” and “breaking into your mom’s house to steal her cable box”.
Moreover, knockoffs are the expression of a disconnect between real elegance and pretend elegance. We’re not saying that people who wear authentic Dolce and Gabbana clothes can’t break in their parent’s house to steal, but that’s not what the brand’s philosophy is associated with.
This is a sad phenomenon, people believing that if they own something with a fancy label or something with a label that is similar to a fancy label, they themselves are going to be more sophisticated.
Sophistication comes from the mind and this is why on AC, we always promote “creating your own style” rather than “here’s what to wear” articles. Even though we love to review the latest collections, we also like to make recommendations of smaller brands, artisan’s shops and even Etsy shops that offer great products. Quality can come from anywhere; it is narrow of someone to think that you can’t find quality in a brand that is not present on the Champs-Élysées. Having style comes from within; your attitude is just as important as the clothes you wear.
Reactions to knock-offs
When talking to people about knockoffs, one of the most frequent questions people ask is why don’t the big brands do something to stop these knockoff pieces? If the world is full of fakes, is a Chanel bag still worth it? The truth is that some designers do care: For example, Michael Kors offers clothes that are similar to his high-end clothes to be sold at accessible prices. Of course, the fabric is not same, and the overall quality is not the same as that of a runway piece, but it’s the best you can get for the price and still make sure that it comes from an original source. In the end, designs in themselves are not copyrighted, but the trademarks are. As for replica Chanel bags sold throughout the world…? Most fashion houses don’t worry about those because they know that the people who buy authentic pieces are not going to buy a replica bag and think it’s authentic and vice-versa: people who buy fake “designer” clothes are probably not going to shop at a high-end store.
Knock-offs vs. replicas
Of course, in theory, the existence of knockoffs and especially of replicas (fake products sold at almost the same price as authentic pieces) can cause high-end brands economic losses and this is why some brands do try to stop this phenomenon from happening. Several years ago, the Fondation de la Haute Horologie (FHH short), which is a consortium of Swiss brands, created a campaign called “Fake Watches Are For Fake People”. Using a slogan that was supposed to make people feel bad about purchasing replica watches, they were trying to convince people to buy real pieces instead of knockoffs. The FHH made theatrical demonstrations where they publicly had a steamroller go over a lot of unauthentic watches.
Even though such efforts are carried throughout the world, they don’t have the impact you would expect. It is true that losing money and seeing your brand ripped-off is frustrating, but in reality some brands have come to understand that the people who buy knock-offs are not the people who buy the real pieces.
The real issue lies when knock-offs turn into replicas, meaning a fake product sold as an authentic piece at the price of the real piece. This is what is really costing big brands their money. This is why we always recommend that if you want to buy a designer piece, whether it is a watch or a piece of clothing, always make sure that you purchase it from an authorized dealer and not from anywhere else.
It’s strange, isn’t it, the world of knockoffs? On the one hand, seeing your brand imitated means that you have made it: it is a sign that there are lots of people who associate you with high aspirations. On the other hand, it’s every creative’s nightmare to see his work stolen, plagiarized or transformed without it being a tribute or reference.
Fraquoh and Franchomme
P.S. What do you make of knockoffs? Do you ever find yourself wearing one? Share your thoughts, questions or feedback on the article in the comments below! For more style advice, fashion tips and cultural insights, you can subscribe to Attire Club via e-mail or follow us on Facebook or Twitter!