Swag spirit

In Korea, clas­sic de­signer brands make room for ‘swag-fake’.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIVING - By BAE HYUN-JUNG

THE fash­ion in­dus­try has long been dom­i­nated by a blackand-white the­ory that only gen­uine ar­ti­cles from clas­sic de­signer brands have value. Any­thing that’s a knock­off – a fake” – was im­me­di­ately dis­missed as low-class.

This ob­ses­sion with au­then­tic de­signer prod­ucts, how­ever, was ac­com­pa­nied by a sense of snob­bery, and those who found this re­pel­lent have gone the other way to ad­vo­cate fakes and copy­cats.

The pop­u­lar­ity of im­i­ta­tion brands in Korea has be­come such that people no longer seem to be shy or ashamed of wear­ing or car­ry­ing knock­offs. This is the so-called “swag” trend. Trend­set­ters are strut­ting the hippest neigh­bour­hoods in the coun­try with can­vas bags that are knock­offs of Her­mes’ Birkin Bag, topped off with T-shirts or base­ball caps that choose to spell Chanel as “Chan­nel.”

Even the celebri­ties have joined in on the fun, as seen in G-Dragon’s fake Givenchy brand, “Giy­ongchy.”

And faux fur has gained re­newed pop­u­lar­ity as fash­ion houses are rush­ing to roll out fake fur clothes and ac­ces­sories, claim­ing that it’s not just about the price, but about pro­tect­ing the rights of an­i­mals.

“Swag-fake” not “just fake”

There has al­ways been im­i­ta­tion, but the re­cent swag trend con­tains an additional fac­tor – knock­offs are now con­sid­ered an in­de­pen­dent fash­ion style.

“Swag” is a slang term that orig­i­nally meant “stolen goods” but can re­fer to showy ac­ces­sories in mod­ern col­lo­quial English. Kim Nan-do, pro­fes­sor at Seoul Na­tional Univer­sity and au­thor of Trend Korea 2014, pre­sented “swag” as one of the top 10 in­flu­en­tial key­words in do­mes­tic con­sumer trends this year.

“The younger gen­er­a­tion seem to favour swag, and think that the bet­ter-known de­signer brands go against the so-called swag spirit,” Kim said in his book.

“The swag phe­nom­e­non is about cling­ing to one’s orig­i­nal style and re­fus­ing to en­dorse con­ven­tional luxuries.”

Some de­sign­ers and trend­set­ters have taken the fur­ther step of satiris­ing de­signer brands and their fol­low­ers.

Among them is Brian Licht­en­berg, a con­tem­po­rary fash­ion de­signer who came up with a se­ries of mock lux­ury brands such as Homies for Her­mes, Ballin for Balmin, Bucci for Gucci, and Fe­line for Ce­line.

As his works gained fame, sec­ondary copy­cats started to ap­pear in the mar­ket and au­tho­rised dis­trib­u­tors stressed the “gen­uine­ness” of their “swag goods.”

Fun a key fac­tor

There may be dis­putes about the au­then­tic­ity of these mock lux­ury goods but one thing is for sure – that fun is a key fac­tor of swag, or “fake fash­ion.”

This is demon­strated by Gin­ger, a ca­sual bag and ac­ces­sory brand which kicked off in Hong Kong back in 2007, spe­cial­is­ing in 3D printed ny­lon bags.

The Gin­ger Bag is widely known for its orig­i­nal se­ries which, at a dis­tance, look like the high-priced Birkin Bag by Her­mes but are, in fact, ny­lon bags with real­is­tic 3D prints.

Un­like the source of their in­spi­ra­tion, how­ever, these de­cep­tive bags are mostly priced un­der US$282 (RM930), which is an at­trac­tive fac­tor for young con­sumers or those seek­ing a rea­son­ably priced bag.

“The fun of it is that these bags do not pre­tend to be Her­mes or what­ever other mod­els they may re­sem­ble,” said an of­fi­cial of Suwa United, the of­fi­cial im­porter of Gin­ger in Korea.

“Just like Andy Warhol’s Pop Art paint­ings, they de­scribe a rep­re­sen­ta­tive im­age, a clas­sic leather bag in this case, but re­pro­duce them in a fun way, in­stead of pho­to­copy­ing ev­ery de­tail.”

This is why those be­hind the Gin­ger Bag re­sent its nick­name “fake Her­mes,” say­ing that the bag is not about copy­ing or mock­ing a spe­cific brand or item.

“Our iden­tity is in the ad­vanced 3D print­ing tech­nol­ogy, which de­picts ob­jects in 3D to make them ap­pear real on a flat sur­face,” the Suwa of­fi­cial said.

She added that the bag has sev­eral fea­tures – em­bossed leather, square shapes and solid buck­les – that em­body the es­sen­tial fac­tors of a clas­sic bag. This may be why it has re­minded con­sumers of the pres­ti­gious Birkin Bag.

Re­fus­ing to stop with the ny­lon Birkins, Gin­ger moved on to launch an­i­mal-shaped bags and beach bags with 3D prints. All of these bags are made out of cheap and prac­ti­cal ma­te­ri­als such as ny­lon or fab­ric.

Prac­ti­cal­ity as lux­ury

The rise of fake fash­ion is also at­trib­ut­able to the chang­ing con­sumer trends that pri­ori­tise prac­ti­cal­ity over pres­tige.

This is how a novice bag brand named Jury came to rule in the af­flu­ent Gangnam and Bun­dang neigh­bor­hoods.

The Jury Bag, char­ac­terised by its large size, di­verse col­ors, and syn­thetic leather, first kicked off in 2011 as a fash­ion­able di­a­per bag, un­der the slo­gan “For Gor­geous Mama”.

It first gained recog­ni­tion as a cheap al­ter­na­tive to costly bags but soon built up a rep­u­ta­tion of its own, cre­at­ing a “Jury Bag syn­drome”, es­pe­cially among moth­ers in their 30s and 40s.

Its top-sell­ing mod­els, too, look much like the rep­re­sen­ta­tive mod­els of Her­mes or Louis Vuit­ton but the owner de­nied the copy­cat al­le­ga­tions.

“It is true that the de­sign of the Jury Bag re­sem­bles those of the sug­gested lux­u­ri­ous brands but is not en­tirely the same,” said de­signer and CEO Jo Jury in an in­ter­view.

“My idea was not to im­i­tate the lux­ury bags but to of­fer stylish but prac­ti­cal bags for moth­ers who find it dif­fi­cult to carry around heavy or small-stor­age bags.”

The rise of prac­ti­cal­ity also ben­e­fited spe­cialty re­tail­ers of pri­vate la­bel ap­parel such as H&M, Zara, and Uniqlo.

In an aim to lower costs, ex­pand circulation and re­spond to fast-chang­ing con­sumer trends, these SPA brands of­ten dis­play fake-fur ma­te­ri­als or fun-de­sign items, in­clud­ing python­pat­terned ny­lon shoes or fake col­lars.

The ap­pre­ci­a­tion for ar­ti­fi­cial ma­te­rial was fur­ther boosted by the eco-friendly fash­ion move­ment, led by renowned de­sign­ers like Stella McCart­ney, who has re­fused to use an­i­mal fur in her clothes since 2007. – The Korea Herald/ Asia News Net­work

The swag phe­nom­e­non is about cling­ing to one’s orig­i­nal style and re­fus­ing to en­dorse con­ven­tional luxuries.

What’s in a brand?: Fash­ion­able girls pos­ing for a photo in the af­flu­ent Gangnam district of Seoul. in Korea, the pop­u­lar­ity of im­i­ta­tion brands has be­come such that people no longer seem to be shy or ashamed of wear­ing or car­ry­ing knock­offs. — aFP

The ap­pre­ci­a­tion for ar­ti­fi­cial ma­te­rial is boosted by renowned de­sign­ers like Stella

McCart­ney, who re­fuses to use an­i­mal fur in her clothes. —


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