20080811-cheapchic

Cheap Chic: Do Knockoffs Actually Hurt Designers’ sales?

Customers care more about affordability than designers. Photo Phototom

You have seen the feature in most fashion magazines with titles like Splurge vs. Steal and Lust or Bust, typically a column that illustrates a designer “look” next to a cheaper, sometimes really cheap, knockoff.

Take a look at most fashion buyers. We are stuck in retail fashion agony. We know the price of goods and HATE to pay retail for them and yet we also crave the designer labels. Personally, I try to justify a high-ticket item by the number of times I’ll wear it. If I buy a pair of $600 Jimmy’s it’s a PayLess bargain at $3.33 each time I wear them if I wear them 2000 times!

The designers of course are not so happy to be featured next to a copy for a fraction of the price. In fact, they are down right MAD, and are taking action against the knockoff companies.

The Council of Fashion Designers of America is leading the way with a lobbying campaign in Washington for new anti-copying laws. Some designers like Diane Von Furstenberg and Zac Posen have been traveling to Washington to speak in favor of copyright protection. They would be similar to the ones that protect books and music from being illegal obtained.

But really who are they kidding? How do you trademark pants, or (wink) a wrap dress.

The Real Question

The important question is: do knockoffs really hurt designer’s sales?

I did a quick poll at my new favorite “designer inspired” store Club Monaco. I was looking at a skirt that was identical to a Prada skirt I had seen a month ago. As a customer neared the rack of skirts I was looking at I would turn to them and ask, “Doesn’t this look just like the Prada one?” Two of the five people polled didn’t know who Prada was. One customer said it looked like a skirt at H&M she saw, while another said she saw it at Target. The last just ran away from me like I was crazy.

That right there proves my point. Consumers don’t buy knockoffs because they feel they are “fooling” anyone in believing they wear designer clothing. They buy it because they like the style and it’s affordable. More than half the time they don’t know it has been knocked off from a designer simply because they don’t shop designer brands.

Of course there is the “Chinatown” group…they are only fooling themselves. In fact we must unite and set some universal LAW that any retailer, fashion student, industry type caught with a fake designer bag….inspired ok…but FAKE should be black balled from the industry.

Good business is the best art

Designers should learn a lesson from Isaac Mizrahi. He knocks himself off. Brilliant!

He sells to both Bergdorf Goodman and to Target. Both retailers are the paramount retailer of their niche market. WWD book of lists states that only 2% of the U.S. population would pay more than $100 for a pair of jeans, with the most popular price point being $29.99.

Considering that, most $300 jeans cost around $12 to make…who is ripping whom off?

But my favorite thing to complain about is when a designer knocks off other designers. I love it when they are “inspired” from some long dead fashionista it becomes an Homage to them. Ugh!

Despite of all this, there will always be a market for designers brands and price points. In fact the luxury business has never been better with increased sales in the U.S. and new markets in India, China and Latin America opening up. Designer labels have a place in society because they make us feel good and make us believe that we fit in.

They inspire us and they open the door for amazing fabrications and skilled craftsmanship. They are the touchstones of the business and the fashion set will always look and pay for that.

Andy Warhol once said, “Good business is the best art.”

What do you think of knock-offs? Do they hurt designers’ sales? Share your thoughts in the comments!