"'I remember walking into an assembly plant in Thailand a couple of years ago and seeing six or seven little children, all under 10 years old, sitting on the floor assembling counterfeit leather handbags,' an investigator told me... 'The owners had broken the children's legs and tied the lower leg to the thigh so the bones wouldn't mend. [They] did it because the children said they wanted to go outside and play.”
- From Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster by Dana Thomas
According to Forbes, counterfeiting was the largest criminal enterprise in the world last year. Global sales of fake goods now total $ 1.7 trillion annually (that’s more than drugs and human trafficking).
The industry is predicted to grow to $2.8 trillion in sales per year by 2020, costing 5.4 million jobs across the world. And it’s not just handbags--everything from pharmaceuticals to military gear, baby formula, toys, electronics, food, and cigarettes are faked. The results are often tragic. Further, The Counterfeit Report recently said, "China produces 80% of the world's counterfeits and we're supporting China. Whether or not it's their intention to completely undermine and destroy the U.S. economy, we [in the United States] buy about 60% to 80% of the products."
Counterfeiters work with crime syndicates who deal in human trafficking, gang warfare, money laundering, and child labor (see above). Although law enforcement is improving (The Feds arrested 32 people last August and seized a half billion dollars’ worth of counterfeit goods after a 6 year investigation) and companies defend themselves well (Louis Vuitton won a $23 million dollar judgement against Chinese retailers selling fake bags online in the US in 2017), the counterfeit industry is thriving.
One thing we can do to combat the human cost of counterfeiting is work towards decreased demand: learn about this industry, share what you know, and shop mindfully. At Common Threads we’ve had steep learning curves on fakes and our knowledge bank continues to grow-please ask us anytime about how and why we authenticate.
Taking note from Harper’s Bazaar:
If you see someone selling counterfeits contact the STOP! Hotline 1-866-999-HALT; stopfakes.gov
If you see suspicious activity such as a clandestine workshop or smuggling, call U.S. Customs and Border Protection (1-800-BE-ALERT)
Support the Teacher of Ten Thousand Generations Foundation, which rescues child laborers from counterfeit factories in China and puts them in schools (confuciusfoundation.org).
Check out Bazaar's fakesareneverinfashion.com.