A small shop selling leather accessories that mimic the real thing. My advice: refuse the temptation to buy items that are genuine fake.
While enjoying a perfectly lovely trip abroad, I got a clear “reminder-to-self” to refuse being a genuine fake. You should, too.
Of course, I didn’t need to travel to Turkey to figure this out. But, the concept of buying goods brazenly marketed as genuine fake struck me as a genuine affront to all that is good in the world. For about twenty bucks apiece, I could have filled my wrists and arms with genuine fake brand name watches with nearly identical designs and appearances to the real McCoy’s. I am sure we have all seen this before on Canal Street in New York, or by some street vendor near Union Square in San Francisco, or just about anywhere else.
In Turkey, it’s part of the culture to show these genuine fake items, most often aimed at the tourist crowd. But what does this really say about the culture that creates this whole realm of the fake?
What Is So Bad About Fake Designer Brands?
As the sign brazenly says, genuine fake watches are available here. Don’t be tempted to buy a $20 genuine fake watch that may be long on looks but short on time, as these fakes will not last.
I’ve written before about how counterfeit goods are produced, most typically in China, shipped to everywhere you can imagine, and sold to willing consumers. But, this practice is still an underground activity. I even remember, while living in Dallas years ago, women having parties in their homes to sell Louis Vuitton bags. Trust me, these bags were genuine fake goods.
I’m not here to defend the designs of Louis Vuitton, Breitling, Rolex, or any brand. They can fight that battle on their end.
I’m asking, why is there a demand for the genuine fake?
Clearly, there is an incredible demand for designer products. And not everyone who desires a luxury brand watch, handbag, belt, or other apparel and accessories is in the position to afford it all. So, in come the genuine fake goods created to satisfy the demand.
Designer Quality Exudes Sophistication
This tells us two things. First, there is an image one conjures up by being seen in designer clothes. When we wear something that even looks like designer quality – regardless of whether it is even real – we look urbane, sophisticated, moneyed, and even worldly. No matter where we are in the realm of economic prowess, many of us want to have that impression upon others, and to ourselves.
People Like High-End Designs
The second thing this tells us is that people like the designs of high-end goods. They are designed – both inside and out – to be and to look luxurious, long lasting, and of quality.
While touring Bodrum and Kusadasi, where the hospitality industry reigns supreme, we could tell that Turkey’s economy is thriving as it westernizes. People working in the tourist spots and in cafes are so earnestly welcoming. The economy around Kusadasi is bolstered by its carpet export industry, and by agriculture that includes everything from apples to citrus, tobacco to cotton, and mulberry trees to wines. They’ve got the ability to grow anything grown in California and in the Deep South all within just one western region of the country.
Fake Luxury Is A Fleeting Pleasure
With so much working in its favor, it really threw me off to see genuine fake goods offered so brazenly. It all comes down to the fact that everywhere, people want others to perceive them as successful.
In Istanbul, the genuine fake luxury item reigns supreme in the very popular tourist spot of the Grand Bazaar. The place is a riot of color and of colorful personalities, and with genuine fake luxury items made in every color for every personality. Not only that, but you will see so many of the young guys hustling their wares donning genuine fake items from anything that covers their hair follicles down to whatever covers their toenails. Hats, T-shirts, scarves, denim jeans, bags, shoes – anything that can have a logo – are all worn by so many of these guys, it’s almost as humorous as it is insulting.
After seeing all of the genuine fake products at the Grand Bazaar, I needed to cleanse my spirit by paying a visit to one of my most favorite brands, Hermes.
As just one example, the Hermes brand is among the world’s most coveted. The company is very strict about how much of its goods they produce, which keeps the demand high [and the prices even higher] for the genuine article. I stopped counting how many guys wore these absolutely outsized “H” belt buckles intended to copy the original design produced by Hermes. I wear my gold “H” buckle and belt every day because I like that it stands for the best in quality, and the design is richly elegant.
A Dose of Reality In Nisantasi Shopping District
After seeing the Grand Bazaar, I needed a dose of reality. So I toured the Nisantasi shopping district, and visited an actual Hermes store where I psychologically bathed myself in the air of the genuine stuff I so genuinely appreciate and value.
To be clear, areas of Istanbul, like Nisantasi, or Istiklal Avenue, or the adorable little streets around Galata Tower are devoid of the genuine fake. Here you will find real luxury, real pedestrian brands, fine local craftsmanship, and emerging designers and concept stores.
Whether it’s watches, scarves, or leather accessories, you can find items that are genuine fake pretty easily. My advice: walk on by.
But after several days of in-your-face genuine fake product marketing, I am left with the thought that none of us should give in to the pressure to lower our standards by wearing a genuine fake item. It diminishes something about you from deep within. It’s not fun to do it. It is a reminder that you couldn’t afford the real thing – in which case, you should have the strength to know that you can do without it. It’s also symbolic of the fact that you didn’t value the real thing enough to get it instead.
Know Your Value, Don’t Wear Fake
If you are not clear about your own value, and that you need a genuine fake product to prove something is true of you – but that it really isn’t – you need to stop and think deeply about this.
Given the dearth of genuine fake products, I know that what I’m saying here is a probably a minority opinion. The tide is on the favor of mass producers, re-sellers and mega-mass demand.
When I can’t afford the genuine thing, I get what is real and is affordable. By buying less, but better quality designer goods, my sense of self is preserved and elevated. I don’t feel so entitled to have everything under the sun, even if it means getting my hands on a genuine fake. Despite having experienced Turkey, I refuse to “be a turkey” by surrendering my sense of self. Don’t be a genuine fake either.
About Joseph Rosenfeld
Joseph Rosenfeld was born to be a personal style strategist. He survived a difficult childhood of physical abuse and bullying. The turning point came when he had an epiphany in high school. He theorized then that personal style could transcend physical attraction. In fact, it remains the crux of his work for over thirty years.
Known among his clients as a “style savant,” Joseph is most called to serve those on a quest for transformation. His hallmark style strategy program, “Conceive Your Precise Style,” encourages clients to sync their inner and outer energy. He guides top business leaders with his trademark blend of empathy, creativity, and precision to ensure they look on message.
Quoted in The New York Times, NPR, The Washington Post, and NBC, Joseph loves sharing encouraging messages about style. Also, Silicon Valley Magazine named him best personal stylist in its 2020 It List.
In his spare time Joseph nurtures his interests in art, fashion, design, good food, traveling, and exploring his new home town, New York City.
Joseph Rosenfeld - Chief Style Geek - helps fellow geeks activate a visual communication strategy that helps them gain prestige, profit, and personal connections. Top execs and leaders in high tech, finance, and law purport to have success with Joseph. They have elevated their careers, had successful business launches, won lawsuits, and attracted the loves of their lives. Presenting authentic executive and personal presence play a role in their success.