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Nicola Mouskis

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An exploration into the effect of counterfeit consumerism

Six teary eyed women circled the mobile device as they stared at the loss of a colleague’s stolen goods, the ultimate accessory – the handbag. “Louis, Chanel, Geiger, but the greatest loss was my black statement Mulberry.” Three men had broken into her home, walked passed the fifty-inch plasm, left the children’s Ipads, ignored the fine china and headed for the clothes closet, where they knew quick and easy money could be made. But when her statement Mulberry eventually finds itself in the hands of a new owner, it will go for a fraction of the retail price. Why? Because its leather imprinted tree certainly didn’t grow in the luxury of a Mulberry factory, however in the hands of a counterfeit labourer.

For decades, tourists have been drawn to the back-street markets in major cities that offer cheaper versions of the ‘real thing’, but counterfeit purchases are becoming ever more common with the click of a button and independent online sellers. The ease of purchase increases the demand of production and as customers we find ourselves wrapped in the cellophane of the counterfeit market.

“our desire to look the part is affecting the designers who create the image we seek

The primary question that we must ask ourselves is, why do we indulge in counterfeit consumerism? It’s no secret that the financial cost of a fake item doesn’t unstitch the lining of our pockets like that of a famous designer brand. But what is it that makes consumers return to counterfeit markets? Whilst the original designer brands come at a price, they also connote the image of success that customers desire; possession-defined success as Professor Adrian Furnham names it. This is arguably the driving force of counterfeit consumerism. However, our desire to look the part is affecting the designers who create the image we seek. Names such as, Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Chanel are designers whose monograms lace each corner of the world and because of their world recognition, they have become vulnerable to counterfeit crime.

But what is the effect of our counterfeit consumerism? Counterfeiting goes beyond Carrie Bradshaw’s fear of cheap-looking, bottom of the trunk goods; it goes beyond our dishonour to Chanel and is now widely regarded as a serious social, economic, and political issue. It’s no secret that fashion is a complex art that has taken years of ever evolving perfection. The existence of the counterfeit market insults the talent of the fashion industry and robs it of its authenticity. Brands such as Louis Vuitton have built an ancestral house and work to protect its individual craftsmanship, as one spokesperson claimed by “fighting the illegal network that infringe on human rights, the environment and global economy.”

Unlike the authentic craft of designer goods, counterfeit items are made cheap materials to construct designs that have not been tested in conditions that fail to accommodate safe working conditions. Counterfeit crime has a devastating effect on communities where labourers often work in appalling conditions and earn an insufficient amount producing fake products. This year Inews reported “most imitations are made in unregulated factories in middle-income or third-world countries, with some using child slave labour. China produces more than 80 per cent of the counterfeit goods seized in Europe, according to the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO).”

Whilst these products are being made in countries such as China, Vietnam or Russia, the issue lies and can only be stopped by the consumers themselves in Europe or the USA. If the customers are made aware of the effects of their consumerism, they will avoid indulging in the counterfeit chain, rippling a stop to their production. As consumers and tax-payers, it is our moral responsibility to ensure our consumerism is not infringing the tax laws and investing money where money should not be made. Last year’s Intellectual Property report found that 4% of all UK imports made in 2013, were counterfeit. This results in a loss of sixty thousand jobs in the manufacturing industry and £4 billion lost in tax revenue.

Whilst consumers must acknowledge their part and responsibility in this issue, brands have begun to take it upon themselves to cease the trading of counterfeit goods. In 2010, Louis Vuitton initiated over thirty thousand anti-counterfeiting procedures worldwide, resulting in the seizure of thousands of counterfeit products and the breaking up of criminal networks.” However, these procedures cannot prevent the production, selling or buying of replica items worldwide and the ease of this is putting the real industry at risk. France introduced new measures to discourage buying counterfeit luxury goods with the Real Ladies Don’t Like Fake campaign, where legislation allows for consumers to be jailed up to three years. Adverts had been placed around airports to raise awareness of the issue and consequences. However, will this suffice as a strong enough deterrent of counterfeit consumerism and will we ever take responsibility for ceasing the fake market?

To celebrate Mental Health Awareness Week we are bringing back one of our favourite pieces highlighting the positive impact of meditation on Mental Wellbeing. 

Meditation is one of the most ancient and effective practices of combating stress, but how can we incorporate such an old practice into our technology driven lives? Nicola Mouskis explores the importance of meditation and the latest app that helps us weave it into our daily routine. 

With fashion designers adopting dual roles and the industry at its fastest pace ever, there has never been a more important time to step back and ‘take ten.’ 

Last year Lanvin designer Alber Elbaz gave a speech at the FGI (Fashion Group International) Night of Stars awards which embodied the daily pressures imposed on the industry following the rise of social media and other technological developments. “We are living in a smart world. It’s all about smart design, smart product and technology.” Whilst these developments are offering designers creative possibilities beyond their imagination, they are producing 24-hour work schedules that are leaving designers “exhausted.” 

Thus, these pressures are producing fatigue and stress levels that are ultimately hindering the innate creative talent that designers depend on. In his book Creativity is Forever, Gary A. Davis pin points the factors that block creative thought such as: high stress levels, fear of criticism and various social anxieties.  And so the question arises – what is being done to beat these factors and reduce the effects of stress? 

Amongst many of our hippie in heels fads, meditation has been adopted as a practice amongst many within the fashion industry from fashion designers to supermodels; everyone is giving the ancient practice a try. But with a busy 24-hour schedule run by technology it must be hard to incorporate such an ancient practice into our lifestyles – wrong. In a new wave of apps, meditation has become as easy as sending a text message. 

It is fundamental that we adopt practices such as meditation

In 2010, former monk Andy Puddicombe co-founded the meditation app Headspace in an effort to make meditation more accessible to the world. Since its launch, more than 150 countries have downloaded the app worldwide. In a brief welcome animation of the app Puddicombe describes Headspace as a ‘gym membership for the mind that can train the mind for a healthier, happier more enjoyable life.’ Expectedly so with evidence published over the years that suggests meditation helps reduce the harmful effects of stressful lifestyles.

Before subscription, the app offers a ‘Take Ten’ program, which consists of ten, ten-minute sessions for ten days. Guiltily, I was slightly sceptical before downloading the app, as I was keen to step away from my phone and any devices that bound me to my work and daily routine. However once I watched the welcome animations and set out with my first ten-minute session I saw the app as an easy introduction to meditation.

I continued the ten days consecutively, finding it difficult at first to remain loyal to taking time out of my day, however by the seventh day I found it easier to incorporate it into my morning routine and sooner or later it became second nature. Whilst the effects were minor and almost unnoticeable, I found that by the end of the ten days my patience for things around me had grown and conversations became easier, I took the time out to listen more. In a recent video blog for Vogue, Puddicombe describes this as the ‘ripple effects’ of meditation and that the positive energies we gain from it are eventually reflected onto others through our calmer state of mind.

By the tenth day I caved and subscribed to the app, looking forward to all the other meditation sessions on offer such as a series on sleep, health and even relationships. One of the most prominent differences I came to identify since using the app was my revived desire to sketch. It seems after introducing myself to meditation I had began to knock down the factors that Davis stated blocked creative thought and in a more recent publication by Preston Bentley, Meditation Made Easy we are told of the benefits meditation has on creativity. He describes the meditative process as one that “strengthens the architectures of your brain allowing you to think faster and visualize better.”

Ultimately with the foundations of our future being built around technology and an ever-growing pace of demands, it is fundamental that we adopt practices such as meditation that enable us to exercise our mind and breaking down boundaries that hinder our creativity and create more of a mindful experience.