A recent study suggests that as much as 10% of purchased designer goods may be counterfeit. Whether you’ve accidentally bought fake branded shoes from eBay, or you’ve picked up a pretty realistic handbag dupe on holiday, chances are you (or someone you know) has had a brush with fake designer goods at some point.

It’s super tempting to grab a fake, especially when some of them look so much like the real thing. Designer goods are, after all, out of reach for many of us. However, there are some huge downsides to buying faux designer goods, and participating in this industry can cause real harm. Here, we look at how.

Child labour

It’s easy to think of buying fake designer goods as a victimless crime. After all, designer brands make an astonishing amount of money each year: what harm will it do?

Unfortunately, one of the biggest issues with fake designer goods comes down to those making the garments themselves. With horrifying reports coming from China, India, and Thailand, it seems that conditions for garment workers are anything but ideal.

For example, in a report by Harper’s Bazaar, there are horrifying stories of dozens of child garment workers, crowded into unsafe, unsanitary warehouses, forced to make counterfeit designer goods day after day.

The truth is, the entire fashion world needs drastic improvement when it comes to the safety and wellbeing of garment workers. This is a problem that is particularly prevalent when it comes to fast fashion.

But when it comes to fake designer trainers you pick up from a market stall? There’s absolutely no way of tracing where that garment comes from, and there’s no way of holding the sellers to account when it comes to the safety of the workers.

Human trafficking.

Image credit: Ray Piedra, Pexels

Heartbreakingly, human trafficking is a huge problem: in 2021, 49.6 million people were living in modern slavery. Of those people, 27.6 million were in forced labour.

27.6 million is an unfathomably large number. I find it difficult to imagine how many people that truly is. It’s not just fake designer goods that participate in human trafficking, as we discussed. But it does play a role here, and it’s important to acknowledge this.

Who benefits?

So, who ultimately benefits from fake designer goods? Ultimately, your hard-earned money can go anywhere from drug cartels to Russian mobs. There are even links between fake designer goods and terrorists.

It’s easy to buy an item and then forget about it: once you own it, it’s unlikely that you’re thinking about where the money went!

It’s a shady, murky area, and it may be impossible to draw a link from one item to the person or organization that ultimately benefits from it. However, as consumers, we do wield some power: our purchase decisions may feel like a drop in the ocean, but they do make a difference. By avoiding fakes, we can help to reduce the demand for them.

What can we do?

Of course, you’re not obliged to do anything if you see someone selling fake designer goods. However, if you want to, you can report the seller to Trading Standards, and they can investigate. You can find your local Trading Standards office here.

When it comes to eCommerce, it’s slightly more complicated. Sellers can, of course, be located anywhere in the world, and reporting them is more difficult. If, for example, you spot someone selling fake items on eBay or Amazon, you can use their customer service team to report it.

How to avoid fakes

Image credit: Roy Lach

Many of us love a second-hand bargain (I know I do!). Unfortunately, it can be tricky to tell if your much-coveted designer item is real or fake.

There are websites and YouTube channels out there dedicated to helping you spot the difference. For example, French fashion YouTuber Justine Leconte (who has some excellent sustainable style tips) has a few videos on how to avoid fakes.

If you’re looking for specific items, I’d recommend Googling or searching on YouTube for some key signs of fakes for that brand. It can be something as small as the logo being slightly off-centre! You can always ask the seller for clearer photographs if you are unsure whether an item you’re watching is real or not.

Featured image by Harper Sunday, Pexels

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