Wednesday 21 April 2021
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The politics of Designer Labels

Screen Shot 2017-04-21 at 10.26.17 AMWhat does a designer labelled purse say about you? For anyone to invest the kind of money they do in a Louis Vuitton bag, the intention is to distinguish themselves. In a certain sense, it is a stamp of arrival or perceived success. But we live in a time when it is increasingly more difficult to distinguish between that which is real and which is fake. Social media plays into it and we appear successful because we are a society fixated with one`s outward appearance. So our bags, shoes and clothes become an extension of who we are.

In the eyes of someone who doesn’t know the difference between a fake Céline Handbag and a rip-off, they may appear identical. But for an expert or someone who takes the time to know the difference, it is actually quite easy to spot a fake one. Designers of such calibre do not spare any cost in the making of these designer goodies. An original Céline handbag goes for $3600, that is over N$40 000. Real Céline bags are made with only the highest quality material. You can actually tell its high quality by touching the bag. The real one is more square-like and has a solid shape. Other things to look out for is the fact that the interior lining of a fake Céline bag has additional leather on the edges, while the real one does not. Also, the hardware used for the cross-body is usually very shinny on a replica.

Does your Rolex watch feel suspiciously lightweight? A real Rolex is made from real metal and is therefore a bit heavy. They come in a fine jewellery box, a mount to hold the watch and small cloth to clean it, all of which bear the official name. The back should be made of a smooth metal with no marks.  It should not have a clear back case that allows you to see the inside of the watch because this is a clear indication that it is a fake. And finally, look for the crown at six o`clock

Designers work incredibly hard at coming up with creative designs. However it is not just designs that get stolen. It goes with everything, even intellectual property. An article was written in 2014 on the issue. It read, “COUNTERFEIT goods worth N$14,5 million were confiscated by Windhoek police recently during a three-day operation code named ‘Wipe Out’, which targeted certain shops and individuals.” In countries with adequate legislation, counterfeit products is a crime.

For anyone who bought a Louis Vuitton bag, it feels a bit defeatist when you look at the number of fake bags, belts, shoes and clothing available in Namibia. Tabitha Nangolo, a born diva who appreciates a good handbag had this to say, “I bought my latest Louis Vuitton the last time I was on a business trip. I had seen it on my favourite celebrity and couldn’t wait to own my own. I was very disappointed when I saw it being sold in a Chinese shop in town.”

The companies who own these labels invested billions in branding and reputation management. Companies like Louis Vuitton are one of the most counterfeited brands in the world due to the recognition as the ultimate status symbol. Luxury goods are made with a market in mind. These products are made for the people in society who were brave enough to work hard to afford the nicer things in life. An egalitarian society will never exist. The reason why people buy designer labels is for the quality and the fact that they are a limited edition. So these brands will not be very appealing to the average designer buyer if every 3rd women has the same bag. One that they bought at a much cheaper price.

A worrying trend in Namibia is noticable amongst our young girls who insist on wearing  MAC make up. What does the future hold for a girl who is defined by her lipstick brand.   And then you find women in society who flaunt their Louis Vuitton handbags but use public transport. What does this say about our society? Has it gotten so bad that image is more important than actual success? A N$30 000 bag is enough to buy you a car or deposit for another. People are obsessed with looking arrived and trendy. The satisfaction of wearing MAC on your lips should come after countless Chinese orange-flavoured lip glosses. You will end going to other extremes to be unique because you were wearing MAC at 18. Our young girls are being pressured to put themselves in compromising situations and dangerous relationships to keep up with the image that society has painted.

A clearly profitable business in Namibia are the individuals who travel to China to buy fake designer labelled goods and resell them for profit. The fact is that it is impossible to sell the real Versace bag for N$800. I spoke to Rosalia Petrus (not her real name), a 4th year Medical student studying in China who is also in the business. She says, “You can get a fake Gucci bag for as little as 20. It is a very profitable business because my friends in Namibia are willing to buy the bag for more than N$1000. Shipping is also not that expensive if you get a lot of orders and send them all at once. And if I save the money I profited from the business, I can even afford a return ticket.”

China seems to be the manufacturing and business hub for counterfeited goods. People even say counterfeited goods are better than the original and go on to explain how both the original and copy are made in one factory. Someone in China will make a copy of your design before you even market your brand. Chinese companies spy on new designs online. They find out how they are made, copy it, and sell them. What is saddening is that no one seems to be doing anything about it.

Why do people buy designer labels? It is believed that people buy designer labels because of social status. This is because the designer brands are endorsed and worn by beautiful, top models in the fashion, film and sport industry.  Designer brands become very appealing to most people because of their quality. Moreover, designer brands always have the newest designs. Regular clothing stores take months to get new designs for their clothing lines.

Designer labels are world renowned, prestigious brands. They will always have their market. People who buy designer labels know exactly where to go and it seems they are getting more and more cautious as the replicas are on the increase.

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