The fashion industry is a complex one, increasingly so as time goes on, since both the licensed brands and the fakes are outsourced and mass-produced in China. If the brand has a legitimate licensing agreement, then it can be argued that the item is legally not a fake. Therefore how do you tell what is fake and what is not on these high-ticket items? Do you stop to google the corporate history, bankruptcies and mergers before you buy that Armani or Fendi blazer? In a sense, mass produced luxury brand is an oxymoron. There is a fundamental contradiction when it comes to value.
The changes in the fashion industry since the nineties or so has been staggering. One of the biggest changes is the upsurge of luxury brand outsourcing. I believe that the mass produced licensed brands should not be passed off as anything other than mass-produced and should be priced accordingly. The notion that a blazer that is mass produced in China is in the same price range as a one-off blazer made in Italy, France or Germany (with attention to detail, hand stitching and quality fabric), just because of a licensing agreement – is not fair to the consumer. The design is not everything. The fabric, workmanship and country of origin do matter.
As an example, a vintage Fendi blazer is made of 100% wool, has hand stitched trim and is very well constructed. It has all labels including where it was made. In contrast, a contemporary Fendi blazer that is a more recent purchase, has a nice style – but it is flimsy, a polyester blend. It has the Fendi label inside the jacket but no tags to indicate where it was made.
For those who are familiar with changes in the clothing labels over the past few decades, or with vintage clothing, you will be familiar with some of the early union labels. The American International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU) was formed in 1900 to protect the almost all female working population from being exploited in sweatshop factories in North America. Canadian clothing from 1968 to 1984 also has the union label. These union labels are very valuable in dating vintage clothing. They also signify the North American history of the recognition of fundamental economic rights of the women and children in “sweatshop factories” – garment workers who had been working under conditions of slave labour. It was part of the battle for women’s rights in general. This is an example of what a union label looks like. It is often found in the waist or side seam of a garment.
Licensing luxury brand names is a goldmine for the licensor. But, licensed and mass produced luxury brand is not the same as the original brand. In my opinion, the country of origin – where the item was manufactured – should be a tag that is required on all garments. That way, a licensed brand can be easily identified and the consumer can decide if it is worth it. If an item is manufactured without such a tag – such as the newer Fendi blazer that I described – it does not have the quality, workmanship or label to indicate where it was made. In my opinion, that Fendi blazer is worth far less, and even in the absence of a country of origin label, it would not be honest to pretend that it is not Made in China, because after awhile you can tell, almost the minute you pick something up, if it is Made in China. It can look pretty in a picture, but it’s not the same as the real thing. You can’t expect to create a luxury product by paying low wages, with lower quality fabrics, using standards of mass production – without compromising quality.
Just like the old adage “Size Matters” – So do labels. Don’t be fooled by zero sizes and omissions of labels, or so-called authentic brand licensing. There is a big difference between the original luxury brand products and the mass produced imitations.
Copyright Valerie J. Hayes and Quiet West Vintage (2014). Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Valerie J. Hayes and Quiet West Vintage with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.