Counterfeits have been a thorn in the fashion industry’s toe since its very inception, and now, the thorn has become a nail. In 2019, the global counterfeit market was valued at 464 billion dollars. It grew even larger after the pandemic hit. Many people began stress-buying while they were told to stay home, and as online purchases of luxury items increased, so too did purchases of their counterfeits.
We at ÀLA.HAUSSE are in extreme opposition to counterfeiting for obvious reasons; we provide a platform for people to sell their clothing items. If counterfeiters were permitted access, it would go against everything we stand for as a company. Unfortunately, the counterfeiting issue has only become more pervasive, but fashion designers are always innovating new methods to deter counterfeiters. Here are some of the best counterfeit defenses that the fashion industry has to offer.
In the past, quality was a highly effective deterrent to counterfeiters. The quality of the material used; the quality of the craftsmanship; it was that difficult-to-capture culmination of those unique characteristics that would make a fashion item stand out, and inexorably connect it to its brand. Today, this method of brand authentication is still of course in use, but there is a greater emphasis on the logo itself, rather than the quality of the item. For a counterfeiter, a logo is much easier to duplicate than those subtle craftsmanship-related attributes, and because of this fact, many designer-name items that emphasize their logos have become easy targets for duplication.
UK fashion designer House of Sunny, for example, have adopted more intricate and complex designs in an attempt to prevent counterfeiters from copying their items. Using mixed media and cuttings from past collections, House of Sunny created a patchwork of details to add to its knitwear, and in so doing, effectively made their knitwear “un–copyable”.
“To be completely honest, I think there’s really only so much you can do,” said London-based Greek designer Dimitra Petsa in an interview with Vogue. “You can’t really patent fashion. You can only patent some aspects of the techniques you’re doing.”
Now, it is safe to say that as fashion designers become increasingly aggressive in their tactics, so too will those hoping to profit from the creative work of others. However, technological advances have afforded new abilities to both sides of the counterfeit conflict, and modern designers thankfully have some new tricks up their sleeves.
In collaboration with Microsoft and Consensys, the French luxury brand LVMH launched AURA, an authentication platform that allows its users to track the product history and proofs of authenticity for any luxury item within its database using blockchain technology (the same used for cryptocurrencies) and cloud computing services.
The process itself is simple enough to understand. New product is “recorded on the shared ledger, irreproducible and containing unique information. At the time of purchase, a consumer can use the brand’s application to receive the AURA certificate containing all product information.”
Essentially, you’re given a unique digital tag that is associated with the fashion item that you’ve purchased. The tag contains all the associated information that proves the item is real.
Another method of authentication is through the use of radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags. Brand name luxury designers like Salvatore Ferragamo have implemented such devices in their shoes and bags, making identification of counterfeits as simple as swiping a scanner.
For customs officials, RFID tags were a godsend. Thousands of designer items arrive from other countries every day, and to have a quick-and-easy method of counterfeit identification made their jobs significantly faster and easier.
Moncler, a clothing brand, uses a brand protection link on their website that provides a resource for consumers to register and verify their recently purchased item via either a QR code or an RFID tag. Such methods have proven to be fruitful, not only in verifying luxury items, but in tracking where fakes are being distributed.
An incredible, less well-known method of finding counterfeits is through image recognition. RedPoint, a brand protection company based out of New York, Beijing City, Barcelona, and Salt Lake City, developed a method by which a program goes through images of products and determines which are fake and which are authentic.
Entrupy, a similar, but more publicly-accessible product, is a portable scanning device that takes microscopic pictures to ascertain material, workmanship, the serial number, and wear/tear. After collecting this data, the images are cross-referenced with a database, and through “deep-learning” (artificial intelligence) are determined to be authentic or not.
If you’re building a brand without IP protection, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Brands today ensure that their intellectual property is protected so counterfeiters don’t take advantage of the legal system when attempting to steal their work.
Facebook (Meta) and Gucci were recently involved in a legal battle with a single counterfeiter by the name of Natalia Kokhtenko, who was running “an international online business, trafficking in illegal counterfeit goods.” She had been using both Facebook (Meta) and Instagram to conduct her illegal business.
As the two companies stated, this legal action was a “natural next step in the progression of [their] collaboration, whereby the two players could combine their respective resources and expertise to hold those who abuse Facebook and Instagram by promoting counterfeits accountable, to clearly signal that such abuse will not be tolerated, and to provide consumers with a safer and trusted social networking and shopping environment online.”
Legal action is not only effective in providing restitution for the victimized brand, it’s also effective in that other counterfeiters must now consider these severe consequences the next time they decide to engage in such activities.
Many large brands are approaching the problem from a different angle; some are even willing to change their “fast fashion” approach to business, adopting the circular model instead. If they increase the product longevity of the apparel they provide, the clothing can be resold on digital platforms like ÀLA.HAUSSE, where consumers who are unwilling to spend the full price can still acquire brand-name items without resorting to counterfeits.
As fashion designers take full advantage of every opportunity to defend their brand’s authenticity, they will continue to innovate, and they will continue to do what they can to slow down counterfeiters. Unfortunately, there will always be somebody out there willing to go just as far to counterfeit. But we can take solace in knowing that those who wish to provide a quality product are still doing so without letting counterfeiters bring them down.
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