Counterfeit fashion items have been rising in popularity because of their combined aesthetics and affordability. In fact, the industry of counterfeit goods has become so successful that the market for fake clothes, shoes, handbags, cosmetics, and watches amounts to as much as $450 billion per year. This comes as no surprise given that the counterfeit goods are labeled with federally registered trademarks and patterned after famous designs from luxury fashion brands. However, these brands aren’t the only victims of this surge in fake fashion. The counterfeit market harms individuals, industries, and most importantly, the environment.
The Prevalence of Counterfeit Items in the Fashion Industry
Consumers think they’re getting great deals because the telltale signs of counterfeit items are usually easy to miss. To illustrate, Fashionista states that knock-off handbags have different levels of quality, such as the obvious “super fakes” up to the precise “line-for-lines”. These fake handbags are also produced at a faster rate, because manufacturers also create duplicates of the in-season products. Thankfully, handbag enthusiasts are teaching consumers how to spot fakes through details in the materials, handles, and stitching.
Unfortunately, the production of knock-off products has bled into other trades, such as the shoe industry. Replica sneakers have become prevalent, due to original kicks becoming more difficult and more expensive to acquire. Fortunately, sneakerheads are pushing back by teaching that saving money and putting in the work is part of becoming a collector. Through this purist mentality, sneakerheads are instilling the value of authentic sneakers.
The Impact of Counterfeit Fashion Items on the Environment
Fashion brands have been fighting against knock-offs for a long time. But the industry is so unregulated, that manufacturers get away with creating counterfeit products as well as other illegal practices. Additionally, consumers continue to support fake fashion items due to economic issues and miseducation. But there’s a good reason why experts need to educate consumers regarding counterfeit products and original items. Fashion brands and enthusiasts are fighting back because the issues associated with these counterfeit fashion products actually go beyond monetary losses. In exchange for the cheap price tag, manufacturers of fake goods are damaging the environment.
For one, manufacturers of counterfeit items can speed up production time and reduce costs because they use cheap materials and toxic dyes. Popular and inexpensive materials like polyester shed microfibers. These eventually end up in the ocean, where they’re ingested by marine animals who do not gain any sustenance from them. Some of these microfibers also end up in our own bodies, given that many people regularly eat fish and other aquatic animals.
Meanwhile, cotton production requires vast amounts of water to grow. Considering that cotton-exporting countries like India and Pakistan already struggle to provide clean water for their population, cotton farming puts a further strain on their water resources. Cotton plants are also sprayed with pesticides, fertilizers, and other chemicals to ensure that they grow. These chemicals spread into the local water system, contaminating it and making it unsafe to drink. This only exacerbates the water pollution problem.
On top of that, the fast production of these counterfeit goods further pollutes the environment because they often end up in landfills. In fact, 4% of global waste comes from the fashion industry alone. While there’s a high demand for counterfeit products, consumers are likely to discard these items because of changing trends as well as their flimsy materials.
In contrast to what most consumers think, we pay a very high price when supporting counterfeit products. By purchasing knock-offs for a low price, consumers are supporting manufacturers that are actively harming the environment.