Fakes are a dime a dozen, so much so that even when you’re wearing the real thing, most folks will think it’s fake.
MANY years ago, way back when man wasn’t universally obsessed with branded goods emblazoned with a designer’s name in huge shiny letters that leap out of your chest, your derrière, or your crotch, a good friend paid an insane amount of money for a designer T-shirt.
Now this T-shirt, let’s call it a Pierre Cher, was nothing much to look at. Indeed, it didn’t look any different from the T-shirts I usually bought for a fraction of the price from my local department store. But therein lay the problem. You see, my friend felt cheated by the thought that no one would be able to tell that her Pierre Cher T-shirt was more expensive than my Jusco number. A few days after the T-shirt’s premiere, I bumped into my friend again.
She was still wearing her Pierre Cher (trying to get her money’s worth out of it, I suspect), but this time there was something different about it: a label bearing the designer’s name was neatly sewn across her left breast. “I didn’t notice that label before,” I said.
“It wasn’t there before,” she said. “I felt bad that no one would know that this is a Pierre Cher, so I removed the label from the inside of the neck – and voila!” “Isn’t that a bit extreme?” “Not at all. It’s all about the prestige and being noticed. You wouldn’t buy a Rolex watch, and then keep it tucked under your sleeve. Or purchase a Mercedes, only to drive around in it after dark.”
“But prestige only works if I’m a brand snob, too. If I’m not, I won’t be impressed by your T-shirt. I’ll just think that you paid way too much for a piece of cotton and spent way too much time sewing a label onto it for the benefit of others.”
Of course, that was way back in the dark ages, way before designers began making casual clothes that people can actually wear.
These days, designer labels are everywhere. Go to any shopping mall and you’ll see fashion slaves being used as free advertising. Every time a young man wears his Calvin Klein underwear with the branded waistband peeking out over the top of his trousers for all to see, Mr Klein’s cash register goes kaching!
Every time a young girl wears a Tshirt with D&G emblazoned across the front using enough bling to blind you, Messrs Dolce and Gabbana highfive each other and wonder how many different ways they can apply their initials to a teensy bit of fabric churned out of a factory in Vietnam for a few dong.
Of course, brand prestige takes a bit of a beating in countries like Malaysia, where many of the designer clothes and accessories worn by label-minded people are knock-offs. You only need to visit Penang’s famous Batu Ferringhi night market to see that there is a huge demand for fake goods, and not just with local people. Many westerners return from their beach holiday in Penang with Giorgio Armani, Moschino and Gucci stuffed in their suitcases, all purchased for less than the price of a cup of designer coffee back home.
Heck, even the mother of the man who fries the best char kway teow in Penang wears designer T-shirts. Her face may be lined, her hair grey and her teeth set in her shrinking gums like random peanuts standing to wobbly attention, but she wears the same T-shirts as Paris Hilton and Madonna as she attends to customers at her son’s coffee shop stall.
She can’t even pronounce the name “Versace” correctly or tell you that Chanel is French, but she’ll wear those T-shirts until she can’t get any more wear out of them.
This must surely have diluted the demand for original designer goods in Malaysia. I mean to say, why would you fork out hundreds of ringgit for that branded T-shirt you saw in the shopping mall the other day when your maid probably has an almost identical one – in four colours?
There are so many fakes around these days, that even when you’re wearing the real thing, most folks will think it’s fake. I mean to say, you can’t even wear your over-priced garb to the coffee shop without running the risk of the char kway teow woman pointing out that you’re wearing the same T-shirt as her.
“Buy one, free one?” she’ll say, as she gives you the thumbs up sign between wrapping fried noodles in yesterday’s newspaper.
Like, where got class lah?