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Pakistan’s booming counterfeit industry and how it hurts designers

Pakistan’s booming counterfeit industry and how it hurts designers

Mehreen Zahra-Malik

The market for replica designer items in Pakistan is enormous and ranges from cheap knock-offs to accurate reproductions.

The counterfeit market includes both Western wear items and local designers. Although it’s uncertain as to how many people actually buy these products, counterfeit products serve as thorn in the side of designers worldwide for a variety of reasons.

Intellectual property theft

Although copycats may not harm the yearly sales of designers, knock offs could well harm the long term viability of the designer lawn business. The issue of intellectual property theft comes into play here. Intellectual property theft is illegal and consumers who buy counterfeit products, whether wittingly or not, support this illegal activity.

Moral issues

Moreover, there also comes into play the moral dilemma of passing off someone else’s work as your own. Some counterfeits may be altered a bit and copyright laws state that if an item is changed 20 per cent, then it no longer counts as a copy. However, the counterfeit industry effectively kills originality and promotes the unethical idea that it’s okay to generously borrow ideas or designs from another person.

Additionally, consumers of counterfeit products don’t take into account the fact that the vast majority of these products were made by workers who may have been trafficked and under very poor conditions. There is further the theory that most of the money made from the sale of counterfeit items is used in other illegal activity.

An unfortunate consequence of this booming industry is that not only is the designer industry sharing at least part of the profit with the counterfeit industry, but also their exclusivity is getting affected – and that ruins the whole premise of designer wear. As long as designer fashion brands flourish, their copies also flourish equally rapidly.

Legal Implications

Although there are no legal repercussions for purchasing fake products in Pakistan, there are rules and regulations against the possession of counterfeit items abroad. This means that counterfeit items can be seized during airport security and anyone attempting to travel with these items risks possible jail time if they are caught.

Is making fashion more affordable a solution?

There aren’t a lot of solutions to counter the issue of fake luxury items. Some argue that if these designer houses made their products more affordable, then they would effectively run the copycats out of business. The foundation of this argument is that working women who earn a basic salary cannot afford to spend a fortune on one suit or one handbag, therefore, they turn to replicas.

At what point does copying because imitation?

In the case of local clothing brands which are far easier to copy due to accessibility of similar, cheaper material, this becomes a huge issue. Designers are inspired by each other all the time — that’s how trends are born. Copyright laws create their own issues- if a design is changed by 20 per cent it is no longer a copy. The 20 percent rule is a standard that is hard to apply when it comes to something creative — what matters is the impact of a design. If a designer is able to take something and make it their own, that is one thing, but their work should not obviously be just a version of someone else’s ideas.

Like all intellectual piracy, the theft of fashion designs is difficult to counter and ultimately does affect the industry. However, the clients who buy replicas are arguably different from those who invest in designer wear. As long as designers are willing to innovate and invest in quality, there is a limit to the damage that piracy can do to the industry.

Keep up to date with more news at ProperGaanda: What Pakistanis can learn from dining alone


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