Knockoffs, parody bags and value marketing

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Knockoffs, parody bags and value marketing

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Recently, I got together with a group of fashionable friends who often serve as a guide to “hot trends.” One showed off her newest bag. It looked like a Kelly bag by Hermes, but the material was strange. “Is it a knockoff?” I asked. But she claimed that it was a Samantha bag, the hottest item in posh Gangnam.

The Italian leather manufacturer processes cowhide to resemble crocodile skin, and the bag is priced at 400,000 to 500,000 won, when bags from Hermes or Colombo are sold at over 10 million won ($8,893). When she carries the bag, people know that it is a Samantha bag - instead of assuming it’s from Hermes or Colombo. Based on this rather absurd theory, she claims that it was not a fake.

Since last year, “fake bags” featuring prints of luxury-brand bags are gaining popularity. These “parody” bags have a photograph of a notable designer bag by Hermes, Balenciaga or Chanel. Today, witty parodies are as popular as the original high-end items.

There are various interpretations on why those who had consumed luxury goods are now more enthusiastic about the parodies. They may have grown tired of the soaring price of luxury items. Also, so many people have access to luxury goods now that they want to find a unique way to show off their fashion sense. Another analysis is that people are protesting and ridiculing the established culture after Psy’s “Gangnam Style” and “Gentleman” made successful debuts around the world.

With the changing consumer trends, interest in Korea’s own brands are also growing. Homiga, which became famous after President Park Geun-hye was spotted carrying a knockoff of, is not the only one. The soft bag offers nylon or canvas bags with python and exotic leather prints. Another popular local brand Havianoo is by a former stylist to actresses. Some say that the local designers are emerging, and foreign luxury brands are on the decline. Industry insiders argue consumers are now more focused on value rather than ostentatious spending.

But are the changing trends really due to buyers’ desire for value or satirize the culture? In fact, the latest popular items are success cases of “star marketing.” If you search for products online, you would easily find articles and photos of celebrities. An industry insider said, “Once a celebrity is photographed with an item, it becomes a hit.”

I’d rather welcome the remarkable rise of Korean brands. I may be overanalyzing the new trends to perceive them as excessive celebrity obsession. I cannot help but feel that once a celebrity moves on to another designer item, the earlier brand would suffer seriously. Also, I am concerned for those talented designers without celebrity network to make it in the fashion industry.

* The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Yang Sunny

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