Ain’t nothing but the real thing: What will happen to the luxury market? | PDD

Ain’t nothing but the real thing: What will happen to the luxury market?


on November 8 2011

PDD knows good design; we see it every day; whether it’s some flashy smartphone  on the tube, or an E-type Jag scooting down Hammersmith Grove. The problem is, that more recently it is becoming difficult identifying the real from the fake, whether product, fashion, furniture or technology.

Featured image taken from Prada Spring video 2010. Copyright: Prada/Yang Fudong

An initial example that first spawned this fascination into design fakery was posted on Twitter last week via Wallpaper Magazine. The picture was accompanied by the following  question : ‘Has anyone else seen the coloured MacBook Airs or is it just in HK?’ – We haven’t, and I’ve not seen any other reports of newly colourful MacBook Air coloured shells. In fact, – this thought was secondary after my initial assumption that it was a ‘fake’ product. Back in August the BBC reported that Chinese authorities had uncovered 22 fake Apple Stores, – all fitted and kitted out with what seemed to be the real thing, – a story that tied in nicely with this ‘new product’ in neighbouring Hong Kong.

The endemic problem of counterfeited goods – not only luxury products – in Asia has reached such a fever pitch that specific barcode-reading devices have been developed to test authenticity of exports in airports, thus limiting fake goods exportation. Fresh reports of medication counterfeiting are also flooding the UK, with Pfizer and pharmacy standards groups warning of ‘knock-off meds’.

The issue here is not really the authenticity of this shiny boxed up Apple treat – but my automatic scepticism of products that has finally tipped over into my psyche thanks to repeat offenders such as Le Corbusier’s LC2 ChairEames’ Lounge 670 and Ottoman 671 and Mies van der Rohe’s MR90 making suspicious appearances in antiques markets and eBay. Even our beloved British high street is guilty of quickly, shoddily and unabashedly ripping off the catwalk and couture – with the reported turnaround on a Kate Middleton faux-wedding dress being only 4 weeks after the wedding broadcasted on April 29th!

Of course, counterfeiting in the luxury goods sector is not a new proposition. The early 2000’s saw the near-ruin of Burberry, after their synonymous signature  check  being so copied that then Chief-Exec. Rose Marie Bravo had to enforce a limitation on the amount of check a particular customer could buy in one purchase, to take back their brand from local markets and the dreaded ‘chavs’.

Similarly Hermes is now facing the same battle as Burberry but in China. According to World Luxury Association statistics, by the end of 2009, China’s consumption of luxury goods totaled at $ 9.4 billion which has in turn led to an aspirational desire for luxury goods across classes and socio-economic backgrounds.

For some the opportunity to buy into a lifestyle via allegiance through counterfeiting has obvious benefits, namely being price. The greatest shift in counterfeiting within China is that less focus will be on exportation (although evidence suggests the counterfeit export market is still booming) – the infrastructure already in place could mean ruin for brands like Hermes and Burberry that are currently booming in the emerging economic climate.

As always with trends, the backlash will be bubbling under. The western, and particularly British fascination with crafts, making your own and even baking is maturing – could we see these anti-capitalist ventures and hobbies passing over to China’s new wealthy? Will time overtake work as the new luxury in the East as it is becoming in the West?