In the realm of the (un)real


I was attempting the american version of what we italians call “the struscio” (a slow walk with no direction with a friend on a crowded main street) here in Seattle, when we decided to take a look at the stuff on sale at a well know second hand clothing store. I was going through some unexpensive sweaters and then i saw sitting in a corner by itself something that looked like a Louis Vuitton monogram top handle handbag. Price: 35 dollars. Ready to go. Everything was there, the marked leather tag claiming the “made in Paris” status, the monogram (at least it was it and not some of the hilarious variations on it) and anything else. I admitted that I didn’t have the tools to recognize a replica from the original and I’m willing to look deeper into that. I wanted to ask the girls but i believed they didn’t know either so i convinced myself that you own an original and you sell it you are either desperate for money, you’re crazy, or just very rich. So i realized the obvious. Yes, of course its a fake.  What was I thinking? Every fashionista wannabe apparenlty owns a Vuitton Bag. The Vuitton monogram can probably compete in the “replica war” only with the Lagerfield’s double C Chanel logo. An army of high-heeled ladies with the status bag dangling from their hands. Some of them can afford the real thing, some of them can’t. But no one will stop them and try to spot the difference. They play “I’m some one that I’m not” game. Maybe it’s what at the end of the day fashion is all about, a game of masks, a game of identities. But i do believe that in the case of these attempted luxury items is just the sad masquerade of the regular people aiming to be vip and get some kind of glamorous aura and attentions standing out as special in the crowd. But the more interesting question that this lousy Vuitton was arising (by the way, behind the counter there was a Chloe bag  marked for 650 bucks so it does make sense) was another. Replica production is clearly different from plagiarism. I can’t live with both, i just can’t stand creativity-theft, but if designer replica handbags – as also claimed by journalist Roberto Saviano in the book “Gomorrah” in his analysis of the market of the fake – use the same materials, the same details, the same designs, what justify the price difference in some cases (Prada, Hermes, Gucci..) of thousands of dollars? Can be the approval of the Maison enough? Is it the advertising? The distribution channel? On each one of the designer handbags replica websites you can put your hands on -let’s say- a Louis Vuitton Monogram Vernis for 185$ that has “the look, color and feel of the authentic”. Some of you could say that is not that far from burning a copy of a record from the original of a friend or buy it from a street vendor, or photocopying books but i believe that there’s something that makes the market of the designer knock-offs more interesting. In purchasing a fashion item as a prosthesis of your body that is just a copy of something that you can’t really afford, there’s something else involved: you’re trying to buy your ticket for a world of luxury and exclusiveness you don’t belong to. Portraiting a glamour that money reserve to few privileged people. It’s the extreme democratisation of luxury goods. You can choose to be part of it or not. What pushes people that can afford the “real thing” to choose that instead of a replica? Or viceversa? My friend Alessandra, while we were still staring at the 35 dollars Vuitton bag analyzing all the possible Warholian questions on what is real and what is fake in the golden age of reproduction, suggested that maybe, in the end, it’s knowing that what you’re getting is the original to make the difference and, last but not least, the “overall experience” of going to the exclusive store, being part of the brand transmitted values it’s a pleasure of the senses, a moment frozen in time in which you’re buying something special and everlasting for yourself, something that you don’t actually need but that you (really) want. Rich people though can actually defeat this pleasure too. When everything is affordable and accessible, a luxury good looses its power so much that real or fake can not really make the difference on the image the famous person is sending out to the world.

We left the Vuitton bag there. I’m sure someone will find her a loving home.

“Someone once sent Louis Vuitton the cover of a British magazine featuring Victoria Beckham with a Vuitton Bag that was patently fake, upon whoch the company immediately sent her one of its bag with the comment that they thought ‘she should have a real one’. ” (Karin Schacknat, “The Magic of The Image” in “Fashion & Accessories”, ArtEZ Press).

Image: Poketo Fake Bag, 3in1 Bag. It visualizes and satirize the current era by combining the Louis Vuitton brand and graphic image of FAKE. Through this project, the artist critiques idolization of brand names and prevalence of knock-offs. Featured at the London’s 100% Design. Available at Poketo for 80$


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