On Counterfeit Culture: What It Is & What It Means To Fashion

On Counterfeit Culture: What It Is & What It Means To Fashion

“More than fakes, knock offs and imitations”


With the rise of street style comes the even more glaring prominence of counterfeit culture, of which South Korea has been hailed the heart of the empire. Pieces of information were shared via Highsnobiety’s 15-minute documentary on the topic, highlighting just how counterfeit products have changed the landscape of fashion—in more ways than one.


It started after the civil war that both broke and reinvented South Korea. With a generation that was struggling to make ends meet and a hunger for fashion that could not be satisfied, a culture of copying built its foundation. Now, years after that war, that talent has only gotten tighter and bolder.


The generation now is only more obsessed with fashion. Girls and boys of all ages, heights and sexual orientation know how to dress up and when to dress up (spoiler: all the time)—and street style is what everyone has their hands on.


Slow it down. We all know that it isn’t just South Korea that’s keeping this $1.2 trillion industry alive. So let’s back up a little bit.


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What is counterfeit?

Counterfeit does not just mean a “fake” of something branded; there are certain aspects that have to be met in order for something to truly be considered counterfeit. It is not simply a knock off, an infringement or a copy of something else. The rules of counterfeit contain:


  1. Including another party’s federally registered trademark, not limited to the brand logo
  2. Knowingly and deliberately using another’s trademark without authority
  3. Using a trademark in current use
  4. Producing within the trademark holder’s registrations and
  5. Causing confusion in the minds of average consumers when it comes to legitimacy


Yet despite its multiple odd requirements, counterfeit culture is everywhere. South Korea, yes, but you’ll find it in Moscow, Bangkok and right here in the Philippines (and you and I know exactly where to find them).


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You know these stories

I’ve had balikbayan relatives purchase counterfeit goods in everyone’s favorite Greenhills on the pretense of giving it to their friends. These same relatives reveled in the fact that their officemates and foreign family members thought they were making it big and buying luxury goods as gifts. They laughed when they admitted counterfeit.


I’ve had friends say that they would prefer knockoffs because they’re cheaper. They argued they could buy five pairs for the price of one genuine Adidas, Puma or Nike pair.


I’ve received gifts from well-meaning titas that can’t even be considered counterfeit. I mean, who wouldn’t give a seven-year-old fake jewelry?


Counterfeit is so well tied into our culture that it almost runs in our blood.


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A report commissioned by the International Trademark Association and the International Chamber of Commerce theorized that the global economic value of counterfeiting and piracy could reach as high as $2.3 trillion by the time that 2022 rolls around. The study also argued the likelihood of China and South Korea spearheading the production.


Nevertheless, it’s a lot of money that the fashion industry is losing. Funnily enough, these same brands are spending millions of its own money to try and counter counterfeit. But if we’re being honest, the complete obliteration of this culture—a culture that is so embedded into the daily lives of millions in this country alone—seems like a far-off reality.


Embrace it? Perhaps not; it’s illegal after all. But when it comes to style, you should dress how you want to dress—price tag be damned.



Art Alexandra Lara


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