Allow me, if you will, a brief-ish monologue (dialogue, if you chime in) on the origins, distribution and practice of carrying fake designer handbags. What a strange place to draw your line in the sand, you might say. Of all the moral dilemmas available, including several in the fashion and beauty worlds, why go after the guys with card tables on Michigan Ave or in Chinatown? And to that I say fair point, but I'm gonna get a stick and draw that line anyway.
I have been known to cut corners in my day. I used Napster and Kazaa for free music in college (maybe even the occasional Enrique video though I'm strictly pay for play now), I've subbed in Smart Balance for French butter in recipes and I will readily admit that the 1.5 carat studs in my ears are straight up CZ. I'm all for saving the cash where I can so I can spend it where I want. I draw the line, for whatever reason, at handbags.
For all the ills that globalization has dragged along under its back bumper, one of the most publicized is labor conditions in foreign factories. Thanks to some very hard work by groups like Co-op America & Change.org, the pressure is on for large companies (Nike, Victoria's Secret) to at least pay a living wage or suffer the PR consequences. To circle back, I'm talking about large, public companies in the public eye. When you see the "purse guys" scatter into alleys at the first sign of authorities, do you think "big, regulated public company"? I'm gonna go with No. And because of this and because of the HUGE demand for items that look more expensive than they really are (Prado wallet in Serendipity for your Molly Shannon fans), organized crime has taken notice. There are now full rackets of slave labor fueling gang profits and all tying back to the Kate Spud Shopper that Aunt Barb picked up in Soho.
That's just my human rights issue. From an intellectual property perspective, the designers charging hundreds of crazy money for the original bag are doing it because there are people who value the design and will pay for the product only that designer can conceive of and create. Basic econ whether we find it ridiculous or not. If you think you are paying for a name, that's because we've made that name by hyping their talent. If you even suspect you are "paying for the label," don't you dare spend that whole paycheck on it. Do your homework and find something that represents something that YOU love and if you can catch someone original and upwardly mobile, all the better- that's where chic is born.
If you don't have the cash on hand (when WILL I have a paltry $1,700 lying around for Chloe?) or frankly don't care enough, get thee to Target, Forever 21, H&M, Urban Outfitters or that vintage place in Hipster-ville. Or step into the growing upper middle class of handbags at Banana Republic, Anthropologie, Ruehl or Bluefly (high class bags that are "fashionably late" but fabulous). TKTC has linked to favorites after the jump.
Can I guarantee you that all of these places are giving their employees health benny's and bonus checks? Not remotely. But I can tell you that 9 times out of 10 having people like Molly McG oversee the bag selection for places like Target is going to be better all-around than giving the same amount of money to Rodney the Fish to circulate for a plasticized imposter.
Better yet, wait 22 days, save up your lunch money and get a fair price on whatever it is you really wanted for Christmas. You know something gorgeous that doesn't promote child labor, racketeering, intellectual robbery, drug lords or bad taste.