Thursday 06, July 2017 by Georgina Enzer

Italian designed; sweat shop produced

Designer brands have the art of befuddling the customer down to a science.

I learned an interesting fact. For a brand/item to be considered to be made in Italy (for example), all that has to happen is that product has to be finished in Italy i.e. rivets put on, or a label sewn inside. What is even more interesting is that the fancy monogrammed designer bag you paid thousands for, was likely mass-produced in a sweat shop in Pakistan, Bangladesh or India, and ‘finished’ in Italy.

Many moons ago, I worked in Pakistan as a journalist and happened to come across a very enterprising factory owner (sweat shop master). He admitted to me, that he made ‘designer’ bags by the thousands in his factory, then sent them to Italy to have labels sewn in. He also let me know that one of the biggest problems his factory faced, was people stealing a certain highly monogrammed bag fabric by the roll. An equally as enterprising factory in the same area used these rolls of monogrammed fabric to make ‘knock-off’ bags. That factory was also poaching his staff, luring them to his factory with higher wages.  This made me think. What exactly makes one bag authentic, and one bag not? Especially when it is being made of the same fabrics, by the same staff.

So, I acquired one of these high-grade knock-off bags (made out of the real fabric) and took it to the designer store here in Dubai to see if they could spot it was a fake. The manager of the store was called and he said it was the best fake he had seen. The only way you could tell it was not real, was that the thread was a shade too yellow and the stamping on the rivets wasn’t completely smooth on the edges. The leather used was the same high-grade pale leather, and it aged in the same way as the ‘real’ version. The fake even came with an authentication certificate, and the right dust bag.

What is even more amusing, is that a certain designer brand in Dubai (several years ago) was rumoured not to actually be licensed by the parent company, and was selling fakes out of its shop.

The same enterprising factory owner who was making the bags, also owned a jeans factory. Did you know that high-end designer jeans are made in the same factory as high-street brands? Did you know that many are cut from the same pattern? Did you also know that the only difference between ‘designer’ and ‘high-street’ is the quality of the hardware (rivets and zips) put onto the denim and the label sewn into the back? If you are really lucky, your ‘designer’ pair will have been made with a higher quality fabric.

So, perhaps it is time to stop the designer label adoration, and instead look for the little boutiques who source from local factories and use local labour. Who are ethical and pay their staff a decent wage. Who produce clothing and accessories that are well made and will last more than a few months. Perhaps it is time to move over to online hand-made and vintage marketplaces and stop supporting an industry that is all about tricking women into covering themselves in mass produced, overpriced labels?

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