The Din of Inequity

The Din of Inequity

...yes, I spelled it that way on purpose.

Friday, February 03, 2006


I just read that Louis Vuitton has gotten really serious about cracking down on people who sell knock-offs in NYC. Or more particularly, since they can't seem to pin down the perpetrators, they're going after the landlords that appear to be looking the other way.

Fine. I'm not really interested in that one way or another. What interests me is knock-offs.

Let me get this out of the way first: I work for a content producer. Our products are home video, but the basic issues are the same. I do not support piracy or knock-offs. Not at all. And I think pirating or stealing (which is what you're doing when you buy from the pirates or download--let's not kid ourselves) easily-afforded items is reprehensible. If you can't afford to pay $20 for a legit DVD of Will Farrell's latest so-called comedy, maybe you shouldn't buy it (There are about 1000 other reasons not to buy it, but let's stick to the economic).

But with that said, I have to point out that it's a little weird when you talk about the situation with Louis Vuitton or the other companies whose products are currently popular to knock-off: Gucci, Prada, Chanel, Burberry, et al. These companies (with the possible exception of Burberry) are in the super-luxury goods business. Nobody in their right mind would pay the prices their bags, etc., list for. They do not sell a lot of units, don't really expect to, and they never lower their prices.

Then the hip-hop world (increasingly) and Hollywood (perennially) seize on one of their items as the thing to have. Demand for the LV bag skyrockets amongst the rich, ostentatious and/or the stupid. More sensible but still media-brainwashed types really want these bags, but won't pay full boat for them.

Enter the knock-off. The knock-off makes the treasured item available to the hoi-polloi, who snap them up, robbing LV of their precious dollars. Right? I'm not so sure.

Here's what I think really happens. The knock-off, at least temporarily, turns the item into even MORE of a must-have. Then more people who have more money than sense run out and buy into the trend: "Even the janitor's daughter has one. I saw it the other day." Only these new soft-heads are buying the real deal--something they might well have never thought to do before they saw the bags everywhere. Hell, there's even a bit of pride to be found in owning the real deal as more and more knock-offs crop up. And as more and more knock-offs show up in styles the real company doesn't make, fake-spotting becomes a sport. One that's way more fun when you're carrying the real deal (indeed, this is probably the only time fake-spotting is emotionally worthwhile).

Sure, eventually there will be a saturation point, when nobody can tell who's got the real deal and who doesn't, or when so many people are carrying identical bags that it becomes uncool to carry them at all (real or not). Nobody wants LV bags anymore, boo fucking hoo.

But here's something else: It's the fad that makes the knock-offs, and the knock-offs that bring the fad into the living rooms of slightly-more-well-off Middle America. The knock-offs (and real items) all over the street in New York and on TV make Sally Creamcheese in Ohio desperate for the cosmopolitan panache and style that ONLY the REAL LV bag that her parents will buy her can give. This would be the same bag that would have languished on the shelf in a Columbus department store, eventually to be returned to LV or the distributor, were it not for the LV bag craze.

These are luxury items, people. There's just not a huge demand for them, because they're so expensive. Even people who can afford them don't think much of buying them. Until the (at least partly) knock-off-driven craze.

As to the knock-offs flooding the market and making the product uncool, well, yeah. But how long did the mucky-mucks at LV really think they were going to be the hot shit? Don't they watch TV? The next award show is going to have some pseudo-junkie Hollywood asshole sporting somebody else's flash, and it'll be their turn.

And once their super-premium product is yesterday's news, the only people still buying that look will be going for knock-offs as an impulse buy, not saving up for weeks or months to get last year's handbag. That is, the only people buying them will be people who would NEVER have bought the real deal.

Yeah, these companies really need, for trademark reasons, to pursue the counterfeiters. But don't kid yourself that they lost a lot of money to them. The knock-off fueled bandwagon was an unexpected windfall for them. If they got addicted to the cash flow and didn't realize it wasn't going to last, that's their problem.

|| Bikeboy 4:21 PM ||
Just think of Rolex watches. How many stories are told of the $20 Rolex watches bought on the street. Do you think Rolex is really suffering? No.

But this is miles away from DVDs or CDs, of course.
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