Monday, 15 June 2015

My big fat fake wedding dress!!! The world of counterfeit wedding dresses explained.

If anyone follows my social media posts or picked up a 'Brides Beware' leaflet at my shop or at a wedding fayre, they'll have noticed that I feel very strongly about counterfeiting in our industry and I often highlight the dangers with pictures of 'real versus fake' to illustrate the point.  I have been thanked by numerous brides over the years for making them aware of the fact that counterfeiting goes on - many brides have told me that they were on the verge of buying a copy of a designer dress with no idea that they weren't getting the exact same dress as was shown in the picture. But what I haven't done is to explain to people what goes on in the world of counterfeit wedding dresses and why we should stop and think about the industry as a whole and the implications of what 'buying fake' means.

The sad reality is that counterfeiting goes on with many products.  If anyone watches 'Fake Britain' they'll know that there are people out there making everything from fake food products and alcoholic drinks, to fake DVDs, perfumes and electrical items.  It seems that in this day and age there are fake versions of almost anything!! And fake designer wedding dresses are a big thorn in the side of most of the top wedding dress designers and the stores which invest in their labels in bridal boutiques all over the country.

I've blogged and shown pictures on my Facebook page before and shown the scary reality of what many of these dresses look like - I even have a few in my shop that were given to me by disappointed brides who had believed that they were going to get a dress that looked identical to the one in the photograph, but were left bitterly disappointed when they received their gown.  The two below aren't the worst to be fair, but they show dresses that some people would call 'passable' beside the authentic version.

The fake one on the right may not seem so bad - but compare it to the one on the left...

I guess it's like everything in life - some people are more easily pleased than others.  For many brides, they will accept nothing short of the high quality that you get from a designer dress for one of the biggest (and most photographed) events of their lives, but for others, they are pretty clued up on the fact that they are getting a fake dress and will settle for a cheaper version of the dress in the form of a counterfeit dress.  They know what they are getting and are happy to settle for something that isn't up the same standard as the real deal.

 'Sure what harm is there in buying fake goods?' many would say.  But there's a lot to consider when going down this route....

The first issue is related to the factories in which these dresses are made.  Dress designers have a constant fight on their hands trying to target the factories which are illegally using their copyrighted images and designs and who are then supplying fake dresses - and the thing that makes it so hard is that these are 'back-street' set ups which are operating illegally and are hard to track down.  Often the only thing visible is a website which doesn't even supply a phone number or address.  When I buy dresses from my designers, they use legitimate factories which they either own or lease.  These factories follow strict guidelines when it comes to things like health and safety, and there are labour laws in force to make sure that employees are working in good conditions, get a decent wage and get things like holiday pay.   They also have restrictions on their working hours to make sure they are not exploited.  Okay - it means that we pay more for items that come out of these factories, but I for one can sleep better at night knowing that my business isn't selling goods that are made in sweat shops with 10 year old children sewing beads on dresses, or knowing that a person isn't doing a 80 hour week with no overtime in factories with no air-conditioning.  Back street counterfeit factories can produce dresses that we can buy for a cheaper price, but at what cost?  I find it sad enough that the designers of the dress are losing out on getting their cut for having their designs stolen, but when people are getting exploited, that's a whole league of it's own.  The price is cheaper, but at what cost?

Quality control is extremely suspect when it comes to fake designer goods.  Wedding dresses have to pass certain tests so that factories are not forwarding goods that may be extremely flammable for example.  Another one is to make sure that you don't get a dress that has a nest of baby spiders in it (yes - wedding dress parcels from our designers' factories have to treated to make sure that no foreign critters arrive as a nasty surprise!)  One of the realities of fake wedding dresses is that gowns can come apart on the wedding day (followers of my Facbook page may remember one that went viral a few years ago where a bride bought a fake dress and it fell apart on her wedding day... and she had told her guests it was from my shop!)  Whilst I was angry that she fibbed about getting the dress with me, I did feel sorry for her that  her day was ruined due to shoddy workmanship.  You can't undo your wedding day, the pictures or the memories of a dodgy wedding dress that fell apart on the day.

Fake goods being destroyed at customs
When you buy a genuine dress through a wedding shop, you also know that they have went through all the proper channels. When a bride is waiting for her dress to arrive and it has come from a source that is above board, the bridal shop owner is not panicking that the bride's dress will be confiscated by customs. When I track parcels and hear that a dress has arrived at customs, I'm thinking 'great - this dress is almost here!'.  When a bride buys a fake dress either directly online or through a home seller, it's fingers and toes all crossed that customs don't seize it.  A change in European laws last year now means that products entering the EU will be seized and destroyed if intercepted, and they already have destroyed billions of pounds worth of counterfeit goods since this law has come into effect.  Follow this link to a BBC report to find out more. 

With an imminent wedding on the cards, is it worth taking the risk when you could have bought a wedding dress elsewhere that would have fitted into the same budget?  (eg. at a wedding dress sample sale)    Counterfeiting has huge implications for the local and wider economy. Avoiding taxes and customs affects every person in our country who uses services that depend on these taxes, whether it is for educating our children or having an illness treated at your local hospital.  Top celebrities have been named and shamed in recent years for tax avoidance - counterfeiting is no different in respect this issue.   It's on a smaller scale for each individual, but a much larger scale when they are all added up!!

At the end of the day, I can't stop brides buying fake wedding dresses (or any fake goods for that matter), but what I can do is highlight the dangers and make them stop and think before they go down that route.  It's very tempting when you are presented with an image stolen from the designer's website and a price tag that seems too good to be true.   I can guarantee that if you put the fake dress and the genuine designer dress side by side, the quality, the fabrics, the beading, the cut and structure of the dress and the workmanship will be of a very different standard.   Buy a designer dress at a sample sale,  or even buying pre-loved, you get what you see, you have it that day, you won't be worrying about it getting seized at customs and there won't be any nasty surprises.  Buy cheap - buy twice.  I've come across that scenario many times.  Brides who have told me that they chanced a fake dress and ended up down in my shop looking for a new dress on the run up to their wedding. Just  be careful and don't set your expectations too high if you do decide to go against the advice posted here.  A wedding is one of the biggest days of your life, and there's no doubt that the bride is the focal point of the big day.  With all eyes on you, is going down the counterfeit road the best way?