Article by Frank Cierpial
Contrefaçon in French, means « counterfeit items » in English. Yes, in Paris you can find museums for the authentic and the unauthentic, but the atmosphere is totally different. We go to art museums for the same reason that we go « window shopping » on Rue de Faubourg Saint Honore. We go to marvel at something; either we marvel at great craftsmanship and tradition or a piece of art from the Middle Ages, but the Paris counterfeit museum is for a wake up call. It is a call to awareness of the shocking truth about counterfeit products and why you must avoid them at all costs. Some of these products can even damage your health!
For some, Fashion is self expression and the living incarnation of European tradition and the designers who changed the world. But, for others fashion is no more than a label and social status. There are even two major marketing strategies built around these two consumer behaviors especially with accessories. People walk around with counterfeit products every day and it is justified in many ways. The most common justification is « I want a Dior bag, I love the brand, but I just cannot afford one ». The most horrible excuse that I heard was « Gucci…what’s Gucci? All I wanted was a $20 bag ». No matter the excuse, buying counterfeit items is illegal and insulting. It is insulting to the designer, the brand, the art of fashion, and the people who work hard to make and distribute these products. But more than just being insulting, by purchasing counterfeit bags, you are contributing to child labor and human trafficking.
Harper’s Bazaar reported that it is 7% of world trade and worth $600 Billion. It is also reported that counterfeit products have killed more than 750,000 American jobs. Bob Arno who is a skilled Pick Pocket who has used his talents to teach travelers how to secure their money. On his website, he reviews a book by a writer named Roberto Saviano who wrote a book called Gomorrah. Gomorrah connects counterfeit luxury items with the mafia in Naples known as the Camorra family. That is why the police will put you in prison in Italy if you buy counterfeit items.
The Counterfeit Museum in Paris displays all that and goes even deeper into the illegal market. They have authentic products and fake products from every industry including, Fashion, Cosmetics, Chainsaws, Mops, Toys, Laundry Detergent and just about anything that you can think of. They normally put them side by side with the real ones so you can compare and contrast. I saw Armani, Dior, Longchamp, Louboutin, and Vuitton, but it is the cosmetics that shocked me. The tour guide took us over to a Jean Paul Gaultier fragrance, one was a colored liquid and the other was not. She told us that the clear liquid was the fake one and at the time it was the same color liquid, but it lost its color and asked us why. The answer shocked me. It lost its color, because it is 50% water and the chemicals in it are toxic. They can kill you.
There is also a section for fake medication, which is not really a problem in the West. It is a bigger problem in Africa where the AIDS epidemic is rampant and desperate people will pay anything to get better. They are fighting for their lives and getting fake medication that will cure AIDS as quickly as M&M’s. After the visit, I had to ask her a few questions and she was knowledgeable and professional. Just to be clear, I did not quote her. These are summaries of what she told me and what I would like to add.
Who are the people that make counterfeit items?
People who make counterfeit items work alone or they have factories in China full of kids that can range from 8 to 14 years old enslaved, making counterfeit items. Counterfeit luxury items do come from China from the most part.
Where are counterfeit items distributed?
Counterfeit items are of course distributed on the streets of any big city. This can be Rome, Paris, or New York. However, counterfeit items are mostly distributed on the internet.
What should I do if I received one by mistake?
If you are not very savvy in fashion, this can happen, but it is rare. Some fakes are so good that it is almost impossible to tell the difference between the fake and the real item. You have to observe and know what to look for. If you do however receive a fake bag, there are things that can be done. The money that you spent on the bag is unfortunately gone and the brand is absolutely not responsible. They will not refund you or give you another bag. The best thing to do if this happens is to leave it with the brand so they can have it destroyed. Many brands offer that service. It is better that we get them out of circulation. If you received it as a gift and you found out, you should let the person know so they know not to buy anything from that vendor ever again be it online or not.
People who buy counterfeit products are generally not bad people. They are just people who want to be perceived as more wealthy than they are with a Chanel bag, but the problem is that they have no idea how serious it actually is with child labor, human trafficking, the mafia, and god knows what else. It could be Al-Qaeda. It could be ISIS trying to make money to obtain Nuclear Weapons. The Black Market is called the Black Market because it is hidden. You do not know where your money is going and that is not being an informed consumer. So, when you are confronted with a fake Chanel bag and the price is too good, look inside your heart, think back to this article, and really ask yourself: Is it worth it?