Forever...31

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

I know it doesn't seem very "public broadcast-y," but I'm a clotheshorse. I devour magazines, I plan outfits in advance, I'm a dedicated Fug reader, and I save almost every piece of clothing — from the silver pants I wore to clubs in the early '90s, to my prom dresses (one rubber, one sequined, and one I thought was so Ginger Rogers), to my very first — and last! — business suit. I am constantly hunting — my long suffering loved one asked me once when I thought I would be done, and I told him never (his face fell — some malls are just not built for men). The thing is, I work for public radio, which is more about love then money... I'm simply not going to be able buy those divine red-soled Louboutins, or anything Ms. Stefani's showing at L.A.M.B.. So what's a girl to do? Head for those bright lights — florescent lights — of H&M, Delia's, Topshop (well... online at least), and my personal favorite: Forever 21. The clothes are cheap — in price and construction — but they can take a trend and spit it out for fifteen bucks faster than Gwen can sue 'em for stealing it. And that, ladies and gents, is our topic today. Knock-offs. Fashion is for everyone — it's a right, a privilege, and in my opinion, a sign of good citizenship — but who wants to spend fifteen grand on a bag (it's a sin, for one thing)? So, how does a pattern, a bag, a dress, a trend, make it from the runways to the mall so darn fast? What do you owe the designer who came up with the trend? And if you knew what went into the making of that sweet trapeze dress ... would you forgo it entirely?

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Also forever 31...
I would not buy a knock off. For me it's important to have the image that is broadcast to the world be an authentic reflection of who I am. I am extremely into fashion, I will spend 200 dollars on a pair of jeans, 300 on a pair of shoes, but I am not rich and I cannot afford the authentic Prada bag and I don't want to pretend that I can. To me, displaying a knockoff bag or pair of sunglasses is silly and insecure. I guess it's more about the brand name to me - I would buy a knockoff of Reese Witherspoons'Oscar dress, but it's not about labels. Is that a double standard?

Sent by Cee Cee | 3:14 PM | 9-5-2007

I would buy a counterfeit clothing item because I simply do not follow any fashion trends and do not know what the trendy lable names are or what their items look like.

I could find myself in a store looking at an item which appeals to me and purchase it without realizing it is supposed to be a knockoff.

Luckily for me I buy most my clothing items through online catalogues (from REI and LL Bean) to local thrift stores.

I suppose my lack of fashion savy means I am seldom buying a copycat/counterfeit but certainly other people are as clueless as I when they purchase theirs?

Sent by Amy | 3:18 PM | 9-5-2007

Having lived in China between 2003-2006 as an expat in Shekou, Shenzhen in Guangdong province I find many do not see the true problem, that of governmental regulation. The truth that anyone understands who has lived in China is that if the government wanted to stop the trade it could be shut down overnight.

However all that happens is the sporadic "crack-downs" for political reasons to show ostensibly the west that the govenment is tackling the problem but often they only target those that have not paid protection money or are not as well connected in the Communist Party. This I must say can be said of many of the commercial scandals currently rocking Chinese manufacturing.

To change this there would need to be major structural and social change, virtually impossible, so perhaps we should all get comfortable with the idea of capitalism at work in China!

Sent by Meredith | 3:19 PM | 9-5-2007

I liked the caller who thought it was crazy to spend so much just for a name. I love church rumage sales and thrift shops where you can find a 600.00 purse for 10.00. Thats right! Look for the designers in the donation box. I and my two sisters were shopping an outlet mall this past weekend. There you could get Michael Kors. Probably misspelled, for half the normal price. Still 100.00's! Not my price. And I happened to remember the purse I got at a church sale. I politely put the jacket back on the rack and said I would wait till it was found in my favorite shopping local.

Sent by cindy hammontree | 3:34 PM | 9-5-2007

Would I buy a knock-off? Not a chance! The redeeming feature of any 'name brand' product is the quality which is lost if the product is a knock-off.

Besides, if I knowingly purchased a knockoff product that would make me just as much a thief as the factory who stole the pattern of the knockoff! Would it not?

Sent by C. Ozenich | 3:40 PM | 9-5-2007

Design is thought and art. There should be no distinction between plagerisms of intellectual properties.

Sent by Brigitte Klement | 3:41 PM | 9-5-2007

How could someone, who appears to be an advocate for the fasions industry, talk about knock offs using child labor/slave labor etc as if "legitimate" companies don't? Has this book been supported by the fasion industry?

Sent by Harry | 3:45 PM | 9-5-2007

Thank you for your show.
I wonder how much of the $157 billion dollars luxury fashion occur outside the fashionistas districts of southern California and NY (read Manhattan and the Hamptons)?
I believe we all need a hobby, but cloths go in and out of fashion, tear, wear and are perishable. Fashion conscious people seem to largely be into following, hopping on and off bandwagons, socially and politically, with the whims of their masters. How can this feel good? When life is over are you going to remember the coco chanel coture you wore or the relationships and good you did while alive?
Jeff Meyers
Lincoln Park Michigan

Sent by Jeffrey D. Meyers | 3:46 PM | 9-5-2007

The fashion industry is superfluous and dare I say detrimental to society. What does it matter if a bag bears a corporate logo or not as long as you are purchasing it of your own free will, even if you know it might be a knock off (and if you don't who is really all the wiser?), this is what a market economy is supposed to be like. If anything is unethical about this issue it is that our legislators are wasting valuable taxpayer time and money working with the fashion industry on new copyright type laws.

Sent by Ben Kozicki | 3:47 PM | 9-5-2007

What about the snob appeal of luxury items? Designers' customers are not buying knock-offs. Designers fear, instead, is that they will lose sales because the copies have become so good that thier label no longer means "Hey, everyone look at me! Sspent four figures on this little purse!"

Sent by Tammy | 3:59 PM | 9-5-2007

i saw the documentary last night and it was amazingly eye opening...

good for those women and men to stand up and realize their power as working in America. I wish more Americans would stand up to the companies taking all of our health insurance and other benefits away from working americans

great work!!! I hope this documentary wins many awards

Sent by pam lindsay | 3:59 PM | 9-5-2007

My job is to take $120 garments and create similar garments which are available at department stores for a mere $19.99. I do not believe the same customer who buy one of our garments would ever consider purchasing the more expensive name brand, and vice versa.

I can understand how buying knockoffs could be considered immoral; however, after being exposed to this industry and finding out how much it really costs to actually produce the garments, I see the hiked-up prices of many name-brands as being even more so. For the most part, people are just paying for a label.

Sent by michelle | 4:01 PM | 9-5-2007

I agree with your caller who said they would not buy either the designer or fake. I try to make all my clothing purchases fair trade. If I'm going to spend more money for clothing, it will be for clothing that is certified to be made under fair labor practices.The U.S. department of labor says that more than 50% of clothing manufacturers in the U.S. are sweatshops. Made In The USA gives you no piece of mind unless you like knowing that there,s a 50% chance that the item was made in a US sweatshop. I don't need to wear someone else,s name on my clothing to feel of value. I take pride in the fact that my dollars are going where my values are.

Sent by gina b | 4:09 PM | 9-5-2007

I would not buy a knockoff. If you are going to buy a designer item, it should be for the quality of that item, not just the label. A lot of designer item's are handmade, made with high quality materials, and will last you a lifetime. If you want a knockoff just for the label or the look of it, you might as well just write the designer's name on your old shoes, clothes, bags, whatever-and save yourself the money you would pay for a knockoff.

Sent by Cassandra | 4:19 PM | 9-5-2007

In my teens and 20's I put so much of what I wore into my self worth. My career choice of the time was Buyer for a local dept. store. Vain best describes me. A local Paris Hilton or "Sex in the City". Don't miss much of that time. Yes, fashion is not a good moral producer. I learner about knock offs then. One department would buy the designer and another would buy the name brand knock offs and still another would buy the even cheaper knock offs. Knock Off was a common word for me during that time. Classic, made well in America is what I try to buy now. Then I would spend my whole pay check on one blouse. Now the only designer labels I get are my sisters hand me downs or a rumage sale.

Sent by cindy hammontree | 5:03 PM | 9-5-2007

The first caller to the show today said it best. Though she was virtually ignored by the host and guest, she pointed out the shallowness and superficiality of a culture in which people spend their money on meaningless material possessions. It's just clothes and accessories, most of which you don't need. Why not spend your money on something worthwhile?

Sent by Karen | 5:03 PM | 9-5-2007

The customer who will spend 500$ on a designer piece is not nessesarily the same customer who will buy the knockoff at the mall.

What is occuring maybe a form of de facto market segmentation, where by the same idea is selling at two dramaticly different price pionts.

The industry knows this.Why else would you see an uptic in top name designers making lower price secondary lines?

Sent by CR Nelson | 5:41 PM | 9-5-2007

Counterfeiting is illegal. It's stealing the hard work of another person's career. Buying, selling or owning a counterfeit item is illegal. It's bad, and it's living your life on the dark side! Completely living a lie. If you use a fake, then YOU are a fake and your life is fake! I HATE FAKES!

Sent by jimswife | 4:12 AM | 9-6-2007

Thank you for this story, I am actually an anti-moneylaundering specialist and was not aware that my purchases on canal street could lead to terrorist funding. No more knock offs for me. As I get older, I'm 27, my perspective has evolved that labels aren't important however sometimes the high end products are sometimes very well made and last longer than mid-lower end brands and I see some of these pricey items as an investment. For example my $200 prescription gucci glasses have stayed in tact for 3 years rather than my other $40 costco glasses that didn't last more than 2 years and I wore them much less. Regardless, I like this story for raising my consciousness.

Sent by Gabby | 10:39 AM | 9-6-2007

As a designer and insructor of fashion design, the topic of knock-offs is personal. Despite my art being stolen and sold for a disgusting price, I have witnessed how hard our new young designers are struggling to create an image and a look that is being stolen right out from under them by huge corporate retailers looking to profit off their hard work. We all get very excited about child labor and deplorable working conditions, but what about the new young talented designer who spends their life savings to fund 1 collection they get to show on the biggest stage in fashion-NYC Fashion Week; only to see their designs being offered in Forever 21 within 4 weeks. This designer has spent most likely 90-100 hours a week for 6-8 months and we support their demise because it is our right as a consumer. The only things knock-offs do is create a false image. By buying these items, which are not profitable in the long-run, you are lying about who you are and what your image is. You are telling everyone, I can't afford the real thing, nor do I want to save my money and invest in the real thing long-term, because I only care about what is on the outside right now. This shallow approach to create a stylistic self-image is pathetic and humiliating to the people who know you and the people who know the difference between a DVF authentic and a cheap Forever 21 knock-off. If you want to look great, creat a positive self-image based on the quality of your clothing, not the name on the label. Maybe, we should stop this destructive cycle of high product turn-over consumerism, and not have to buy 30 pairs of cheap jeans, 50 $10 tops, 35 pairs of cheap shoes; and focus on owning 2-3 nice pairs of jeans that will last you 15 years, 4 high quality versatile tops, 2-3 expensive well-made shoes (trust me ladies your feet will thank you). In addition to fighting for the new break-out designers, let push this copyright topic for ourselves and stop voraciously consuming all we can get our hands on. A few good sights pushing the copyright issue are counterfeitchic.com and arts-of-fashion.org. Check them out they are really informative.

Sent by Charles Freeman | 6:17 PM | 9-10-2007

Whether you would buy a counterfit or not, alot of people dont realize that the way trends work is filtering down. Those handbags at walmart are filtered down shapes and colors that are influenced by those handbags that do cost thousands of dollars. Those high end designers are crafting beautiful, well crafted bags. Just like someone would pay millions for a Picasso, some would prefer wear their investment.

Please excuse the quick, messy (and probably mispelled) comment, I'm in class right now..

Sent by caleigh | 3:03 PM | 10-8-2007

I have purchased knock offs before...but It only lead me to buy the real thing...I guess you can call it getting your feet wet???

Sent by Paris D. | 1:34 AM | 10-26-2007

Defining Knock offs...
Having been in the fashion industry for yrs and seeing our company create knock off of designer dresses so it could be offered to more consumers than the elite was exciting. To have the look and feel of a Calvin Klein dress but knowing you spent a fraction of the cost. What bothers me is when the design copies every aspect including the trademark symbol/label. I have also found great off brand cosmetic, hair and skin care products with the same smell, and active ingredients. Being in the industry I know the huge market up and 80% of that is marketing. A recent product in the market is Advage similiar to Prevage anti wrinkle treatment. It seems less of a concern when it is something that is not trying to label itself as the expensive brand just using as a comparable product.

Sent by M Castel | 10:14 AM | 1-14-2008