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On Buying Fakes: Is It Really a Big Deal?

Unpacking the faux fascination, once and for all.
On Buying Fakes: Is It Really a Big Deal?
Unpacking the faux fascination, once and for all.

From big-ticket labels like Gucci, Prada, and Louis Vuitton, to other luxury brands like Longchamp, Kate Spade, and Michael Kors, there seems to be a fake for every designer bag and shoe in existence. The Philippines is a breeding ground for massive maze-like tiangges straight out of an urban legend: Miss a turn and you’re bound to lose your way for the next 20 minutes. And in the labyrinth of bland fluorescent lighting, makeshift shoe shelves, and vinyl-wrapped booths lies a veritable mecca of replicas, ranging from the clear fakes to the almost uncanny imitations. You do your best to avoid eye contact until the ladies call out to you, high-pitched voices and all: “Pili ka na, ma’am!” “800 lang ‘yan!” “Etong LV, bagay sa suot mo!”

Hold up. Three figures for a decent-looking designer clone? Sort of makes you stop and think.

But the ubiquity of thrift stores and flea markets has made patronizing fakes all the more problematic. They’re everywhere, and the occasional efforts to crack down on them have played out like a hydra: Shut down one tiangge, and two more appear in its place. The fact of the matter is that imitations of patented designs are a form of intellectual property crime and infringement. Republic Act 8293, or the Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines, serves as the backbone for the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) to confiscate counterfeit items and penalize vendors of said items. Granted, there have been attempts to cut off the supply, but the demand for fakes will always be present—and as long as there is demand, the money-hungry vendors will continue to provide.


We have for ourselves a dilemma. Because it’s so easy to get away with toting around a false Chanel without anybody batting an eyelash, the temptation to keep up with trends by buying fakes is difficult. But think of it this way: Every purchased fake slowly and cumulatively contributes to the consumerist culture that puts instant gratification above everything else. Designers and brands work hard to produce well-crafted, sturdy, and beautiful items worthy of their hefty price tags. The Tory Burch or Givenchy logo on the real thing is an artistic stamp, declaring to the world, "This is my creation." And when that creation is copied and redistributed for a fraction of the price without a second thought, the integrity of those creations is diminished.

On the other side of the ring, one could argue: If there are fakes everywhere, then that makes owning the real thing a much more exclusive affair. Furthermore, you know you’ve made it as a designer when people are ripping you off left and right. And finally, not everybody can afford designer bags—fakes will tide you over until the next trend comes rolling in. These are all solid counterarguments...although they don’t make the impact of the law any less iron-fisted.

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Until there is a universalized, consistent effort to eliminate knockoffs from the Philippine market, fakes are sticking around, and they’re not going away anytime soon. That leaves the decision up to you: are you sticking to your guns and buying genuine, or will you succumb to the siren call of the designer doppelganger?

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