Thursday, February 26, 2009

Illicit: The Dark Trade

As most of you already know, I love to watch documentaries. Mostly documentaries dealing with something political, criminal, or world history related. Last night I couldn't sleep (like always), and so I decided to look for something to watch online. I have netflix, and a couple of other sites that I like to use to find movies and television shows that might be interesting. So after about 10 minutes of searching, I found this documentary about the business of illegal trade (aka illegal knockoffs) and it's effects on the global market, tilted "Illicit: The Dark Trade". The description of it's content peaked my interest, so I decided to watch it. I was thinking it was going to be about how different designers and companies track down knockoffs and what they are doing to prevent this illegal enterprise from growing even larger. When most people hear the word “knockoff” they immediately think of fake Gucci bags, rip off Ed Hardy t-shirts, phony Versace sunglasses, counterfeit D&G jeans, etc. etc. etc. But to my surprise, that aspect of illicit trade is minuscule compared to the big picture. I understand why different labels and designers want to do whatever they can to end this illegal practice, on the basis that it infringes upon their brand, and allows others to steal and profit from their ideas and their hard work. I totally get that. . . but I find it really hard to feel sympathetic for them when they are a multi million dollar company who over inflates their prices, and then they want to lock up your corner hustle/barbershop hook up guy who has next to nothing in his bank account, living in the projects, and he's only selling this knock off stuff to feed his family and pay the rent. And if you really think about it, the people who buy this designer knock off stuff, are people who can't afford “the real thing” anyway. So it would be stupid for a designer to think that the corner hustle man is taking away some of their business or stealing some of their customers. That argument is absurd, ignorant, and down right ludicrous. From my perspective, I think the whole “high-end” haute couture fashion industry are victims of their own making (and I use the word “victim” very very lightly). When it comes to marketing and promoting their clothes, and building a strong recognizable brand, they are the absolute best at it. Too good for their own good. These companies were among the first to recognize and exploit the power of the media, and the importance of name recognition. When they blanket an area with an explosion of ads, knowing that the average family income of that area is below $25,000, and the cost of their cheapest handbag is $8,000 , you have to wonder why are they doing this. They bombard magazines and television with ads that makes the consumer think that they are nothing unless they can have that designer bag. So eventually the consumer starts to see the bag as a status symbol, and part of their self worth. These companies know exactly how to use and manipulate consumers. They feed off of people's insecurities, in exchange for millions in profits that pad these fat cats wallets and contribute to their lavish and extravagant lifestyles. Everyone wants the “American Dream”, and they have convinced a large portion of Americans that the American Dream is for sell. And that's why I have no sympathy for designers, when it comes to buying and selling knock-offs of their products. I mean, just think about that 12 year old boy out there somewhere, living in the projects, with a single mother, and very little money for anything other than the basic necessities. He watches TV and sees the rappers and movie stars flashing all kinds of expensive stuff, their big diamonds, and constantly referencing different designer names. They look like they are the happiest most fortunate people he's ever seen. And he goes to school and see his classmates with the latest $150 sneakers and shirts and pants with visible designer logos, and he's wearing old hand-me-downs from his older brother. All of this gradually eats away at his self esteem. So when he becomes an adult, he connects happiness and self worth with having expensive material things. There are a lot of young girls and boys that are going through similar situations right now, all over this country. If they are too poor to buy those Versace sunglasses, they go out and get the next best thing, a knock-off.
This blog entry is a lot longer than I expected, so I'm going to have to write the second half half sometime tonight or tomorrow. Just wait and see how it all ties together. I break down the documentary and explain what caught my attention and got me fired up enough to blog about it. I will also post a link to the documentary so you can watch it free streaming right on your desktop.


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