Designer fashions may change with each passing season, but one trend that has remained constant in recent years has been counterfeiting. With many consumers desiring luxury goods at more affordable prices, counterfeiters have been able to exploit the significant price difference between high-end brands and their cheaper imitations. For luxury brands who have long histories of producing super premium quality goods, this market for fakes has not been a direct challenge to their consumer base as inferior quality merchandise is unlikely to divert sales. Recently, however, their reputations and profitability have come under threat from a new danger: super fakes in the luxury goods sector.
A recent report from the OECD and EUIPO suggested that the global market for counterfeits has grown once again, particularly at the expense of brands who specialize in footwear, clothing and leather goods. Those three product categories account for 51% of imported fake goods, meaning a value somewhere in the region of $259billion. At the heart of this trade in illicit goods are the high-end luxury goods brands who suffer disproportionately from being copied.
Although the report doesn’t focus explicitly on the quality of counterfeit goods, the figures are derived from actual seizures of imported goods rather than merchandise manufactured domestically in EU or US markets. As most of the higher-end counterfeits of luxury brands are made and shipped from APAC region countries, the relationship between super fakes and this increased trade are demonstrable.
What are Super Fakes?
The industry term “super fake” characterizes the almost-perfect replicas of sought-after goods, and was first spotted in the media as far back as 2013. Many counterfeit products are placed on a ranking system that differentiates high-quality fakes from low-quality ones, and for frequently targeted products like replica watches and fake handbags, the grading system is almost identical. The scale typically goes from the lowest grade, A (an easily identifiable fake), up to authentic grade, which is as close to real as they can possibly come, with four levels in between. Worryingly, super fakes don’t even rank at the top of the grading system, and instead sit in the middle with a AAA grade even though experts have trouble identifying them. Though knock-off products have been around for centuries, the quality of replica goods has increased significantly over the last few years, most likely due to the production of both imitation items and genuine items coming from the same geographic region.
What is Being Done to Stop Super Fakes?
At Pointer, we protect our luxury fashion clients from super fakes through a mixture of in-depth product awareness and technological solutions. Outside of the brand protection industry too though, there are numerous initiatives and resources aimed at assisting consumers directly.
If consumers are looking for inspiration on how they can identify a super fake from a legitimate brand name item, they don’t have to look further than Rebag, a website dedicated to the sale of second-hand luxury bags. Rebag abides by a detailed checklist for determining whether or not a product is counterfeit, and if after investigating the bag they still can’t determine whether or not it’s authentic, they pass the product along to one of their experts. Super fakes aren’t just limited to handbags though, so if you’re struggling to determine if an item is counterfeit or not, you can apply Rebag’s seven distinguishing signs to the product in question. They are:
1- Material. No matter how similar the fake product is to the authentic one, they will never be able to use the exact same material since it is what typically drives up production costs and thus is not a profitable move for the manufacturers to invest in high-quality materials only to sell for low-quality prices. On top of this, many luxury brands use exclusive material that is made only available for their products, making access to the materials even more difficult.
2- Handles and straps. Both the placement and the material needs to be checked to ensure the bag comes from the authentic retailer.
3- Stitching. Every brand has its own unique manufacturers, which means they have their distinctive ways of creating the products, too. Stitching can be a telling sign of a counterfeit since hand-stitching and machine-stitching provide visibly different results.
4- Hardware. The hardware attached to the bags (ie. zippers, decals, hooks) is checked to ensure they are the same kind as the authentic product. Typically, the weight, size, color, and material can tip off the examiner of a knock-off bag.
5- Branding. This domain entails more than just checking to see if the brand name is spelled correctly or that the logo is exactly the same. It also has to do with the placement of the brand or logo, dependant on the style or design of the original bag.
6- The interior. Often times, the manufacturers don’t pay enough attention to the interior of the bags, which can be a giveaway for a counterfeit. Rebag ensures that the interior is of the appropriate structure, material and of equal quality to the exterior.
7- Overall craftsmanship. As has been said, super fakes are generally made with superior craftsmanship, making their detection incredibly difficult. Be sure to always inspect the details.
Why Online Sales Have Driven Super Fakes
Unfortunately, what makes catching super fakes even more difficult is the fact that they are primarily sold online. Whether that’s eBay, Alibaba, or social media platforms, it’s tricky to identify the fraudulent items through images alone, especially considering the experts often need all five senses in order to identify a counterfeit product. Many online shoppers see a super fake and believe they’re buying an authentic, second-hand item and would be surprised to learn that their purchase is not genuine.
The low cost of labor and manufacturing, combined with the high consumer demand, mean mega profits for the producers, which bolsters their incentive to produce even more convincing fake goods. Financially, this trade is already generating major revenue on the black market; the Global Brand Counterfeiting Report estimated that luxury brands had lost a reported $30.3 billion in 2017 due to internet sales of counterfeit goods. Many vendors go so far as to create fully-functional websites with pictures and logos stolen from the authentic brand’s website. This has resulted in consumers being swarmed with options for purchasing super fake luxury items online. One study by the Better Business Bureau revealed that one-in-four people who shop online have at some point been tricked into buying a counterfeit item, while other shoppers are clearly on a mission to find the best quality fakes. With the rise of super fakes, this statistic is only expected to grow, which is why brands should feel accountable for their intellectual property. By taking charge of their rights, brands can fight back against counterfeiters and have a positive effect on the online market. Plus, in doing so, brands would ensure their consumers are less exposed to knock-off items, minimizing the opportunity for counterfeit vendors to reach online shoppers.
If you’re looking to join the fight against counterfeiting, we have a solution for you. We invite you to check out our website to learn more about how we can help you protect your intellectual property and eliminate online crime. You shouldn’t have to fight counterfeiting alone, which is why Pointer’s got you covered.