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Deceived by Fashion, Blinded by Luxury

As luxury brand products come at a premium, more and more consumers are opting for fakes in an unregulated offl ine and online market By Akanksha Singh

Watching Sarah Jessica Parker walking down the upmarket New York street decked-up in her Marni jacket, Chloe pants, high-heeled strappy Louboutins with a Christian Dior bag, people across the globe ran to pick their own share of Parker’s garb.

It was not just Hollywood that made us drool over their flashy brands, even the Indian designers bowled us over with their alluring designs and assembling. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s exquisite and traditional Neeta Lulla outfit embellished with precious and semiprecious stones charmed its way right into our wardrobe.

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From Hollywood’s tryst with Prada and Versace to Bollywood’s association with doyens like Rohit Khosla, Ritu Kumar, Manish Malhotra and Rohit Bal, the growing couture culture in India has put big names of fashion industry on everyone’s wishlist.

According to a report by one of the apex trade associations of India, Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM), India’s luxury market is expected to reach $14.72 billion by 2015 from a current estimation of $8.21 billion.

From elite to democratic, the concept of luxury in India has undergone a change with brands like Hermes and Canali designing sarees and Nehru jackets. But the determinant imperative of all is the cost an average consumer is fated to bear for the brands they desire to stack their closet with.

So, how to live a luxurious life on a not-so-luxurious budget? As it is said, ‘imitation is the best form of flattery’, sprawling local Indian markets may help you unlock the answer.

Delhi, even while topping the list of ‘key luxury destinations in India’, leads to several dubious lanes where high-end apparel labels can be seen hanging by the porch. In these places, luxury becomes readily affordable and one can haggle over the prices.

ASSOCHAM’s report revealed that the fake luxury market in India is growing at a compounded annual growth rate of between 40 and 45 per cent. The data, which was released earlier in January 2014, put the current level of replicated luxury goods at about 25 billion Indian Rupees which is expected to more than double by 2015 thus increasing the stakes to around 56 billion Indian Rupees.

Strutting down the narrow sidewalk of Janpath and Sarojini Nagar or roaming around the straightened lanes of Chandni Chowk or Laxmi Nagar! It can fetch you luxury sans their authenticity at a small fraction of its real cost.
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What’s more! A consumer gets the right to bargain every single penny on these counterfeit luxury brands, bringing down the price of originals almost to nothing.

The report points out towards various luxury goods imported from or supplied to international markets but the trend appears to be more prominent among fashion apparels and accessories belonging to Indian as well as global luxury giants.

According to one of the retailers at Janpath market, “People are always on the run to keep up with the changing fashion trends. They labour hard and their appearance makes up for a great share of what they manage to achieve. However, spending money on ever changing fashion trends doesn’t seem to be a wise investment.”

“Demand creates supply and so we are only giving what people want. They know what they are buying. We do not deceive others, we help them to look deceiving,” he quips.

Abhay Gupta, founder and CEO of Luxury Connect, a luxury brand consulting and advisory company, draws out a perception that, “The counterfeit market has both a positive as well as negative effect on the main brand. On one side while it draws in many more aspirants who one day can reach the actual usage level, it also acts as a deterrent since negative perceptions about quality can be created in new aspiring customers. Wide spread brand awareness being the gain, quality perception could be the major loser.”

Of late, Indians have become brand conscious and they constantly look out for names like Missoni, Versace, Corneliani, Ralph Lauren among others but in their own twisted way. Glinting designer sarees designed by Sabyasachi or a Rocky S creation are convincingly replicated by small-time fashion houses. The low-priced imitations are sold to a wide array of Indian consumers.

page27a-sep-octGrowing parallel to physical markets, online retail is an equally unregulated space. Since, neither the buyer nor the seller confronts one another, opting for counterfeit brands becomes more viable. “The client is unable to touch and feel the product. The picture on display could be different and closer to the real product but what is shipped is a poor copy of the same. Easy and unregulated access to e-commerce has multiplied this market several times over,” explains Abhay Gupta.

He further adds, “A strong legal and regulatory framework, built along with brand inputs and support, can help curb this menace. Random raids by brands on suspected sellers will assist the process.”

Luxury brand distributors and consulting companies are also making greater efforts than ever to protect their copyright and trademarks. Back in 2013, Italian fashion house Gucci filed a lawsuit against a number of websites and online merchants selling counterfeit products under the Gucci label.

The step may have helped the fashion house to protect its image but the legal battles are unlikely to stop counterfeiters. Lacking the policy support, Indian luxury market has been discreetly described as ‘not being policies and regulations-friendly for the luxury retailers’.

However, over the years the demand for counterfeit products has become so obvious that one cannot ignore the existence of fake luxury segment as a separate business entity.

As once said by fashion ace Coco Chanel: “The best things in life are free. The second best are very expensive”, people won’t mind faking luxury as long as originals are still a fairy tale

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