A Chinese worker at a factory in Prato, Italy.
Dear blog readers,
There are certain reoccurring reasons that people state prevent them from buying replica bags. Some authentic purists often even get offended when they hear other people may mix in a fake or two into their collection, and they begin to spurn a list of criticisms, three key ones which include:
- The bags are made by factory workers in poor conditions in China (or another developing country).
- The original brands make it with the care and love of a true artisan – that is why they deserve to be paid thousands of dollars for their art.
- The bags support terrorists, gangs, and every other despicable organization out there.
Now don’t get me wrong. There are good reasons not to buy replicas of certain bags. For example there are certain bags I like to buy authentic because the embroidery or handwork is not something that I have seen eloquently created in the replica market. Or when a certain bag by a certain designer that I love is so fringe or non-popular that I know a replica manufacturer cannot get perfectly right (hence why I recommend sticking with many popular models when it comes to shopping for replica bags).
Some of my friends get duplicate fake bags of their real ones, simply because they don’t want to worry about their thousand dollar investment getting dirty or deteriorating quickly. So I definitely understand that there are situations where it is better to buy authentic, while there are other situations where it is better to buy fake.
However the key point I am trying to make here is that this air of snobbery and those oft mentioned criticism I listed above are not justified, especially after the damning New Yorker article which was released recently, which makes explicit the fact that all of our favorite designers, whether it be Gucci, Prada, or even Chanel, outsource their work to Chinese factories that are located in Europe. The article even states that many of these brands outsourced their work directly to Asia at certain points, before they realized they could not do that and simultaneously label their products “Made in Italy”.
I find the article very ironic because very so often on this blog I notice that in the comments certain individuals pop up and use luxury or designer goods as a tool to attack others, try to elevate themselves, and essentially use it as a mechanism to deem themselves superior. Examples include:
This prominent niche of people who I call orthodox authentic shoppers like to think they have a certain air of moral superiority when it comes to buying strictly authentic bags. And this is what is wrong. These are the biggest shockers I read in the article (you can read the original by clicking here):
1.Workers employed to make bags for top brands (e.g. Gucci) work in very poor conditions.
Based on the price tag people tend to naturally assume that the bags are made by artisans who are paid well and who treated like humans. This is wrong. The article highlights how many workers work in poor conditions where they are yelled at to meet quotas, work long hours, and sometimes are not even paid for their work (which has lead to protests against certain factories). Read this snippet from the article:
One of the employees who protested later told me that he had been paid only twelve hundred euros a month, with no benefits, to work in a freezing-cold room. He remembered working on products for companies including Ferragamo, Prada, and Dior. The crew chief, he said, “would scream at us to work faster, to get more pieces done.” (The employees were officially paid a higher salary, to comply with the law, but, according to a union representative, managers required them to withdraw their “extra” wages and give that money to the owner.)
2. Most designer products are made by Chinese workers in a town called Prato, Italy.
Factories import workers from China as well as other developing countries to work in factories in Prato which have deals with top brands to make their goods.
3. If 2 steps of the manufacturing process take place in Italy then a product can be labelled “Made in Italy”
This allows designer brands to outsource the remaining steps to countries with cheap labour in order to maximize their profits. In the ‘90s brands would make their goods from start to finish in China or Eastern European countries (where labour costs are lower than Europe) and lie to their consumers labelling their products “Made in Italy”. They stopped when they were caught.
4. It costs Gucci about $75 USD per bag.
Read this snippet to see how much it costs per average Gucci bag produced:
Arturo took me through the economics of doing work for luxury-fashion brands. He was paid a set fee for an order, no matter how long it took to complete. He generally lost money on the first bags he finished, but his workers got much faster with repetition, and the later iterations were profitable. When he was fulfilling Gucci contracts, he said, the company paid him an average of nineteen euros an hour. He showed me a bag that featured the company’s insignia fabric, with its interlocking “G”s, and said, “This fabric would cost fifteen euros a metre. But they make millions and millions of metres, so they don’t pay fifteen. Maybe ten. The leather here costs maybe fifteen to twenty euros. It’s two euros for the zipper, plus the money they pay us—that’s the cost. And they put it on the market at between ten and fifteen times that cost.”
In 2014, an Italian artisan spoke to the investigative television journalist Sabrina Giannini. Gucci had given him a big contract, he said, but the pay was so low—twenty-four euros a bag—that he had subcontracted the work to a Chinese mill, where employees worked fourteen-hour days and were paid half what he made. When the bags made it to stores, they were priced at between eight hundred and two thousand dollars.
The Bottom Line
I could go on and on and on about how this article debunks a lot of myths about authentic bags being made, but that’s unnecessary.
The prime take away from this all is that there are wrong reasons not to buy replicas, and right ones. The ones discussed in this article are the wrong reasons not to buy replicas.
Another key takeaway is that as much one covets designer brands they are a business at the end of the day – i.e. a money making enterprise, and as a result we should not fetishize these brands to the point where we forget that they too can have disheartening manufacturing practices. There is a big percentage of “fugazee” when it comes to luxury goods.
What do you think of the story? Leave a comment below as I’d love to know!