Prada and post office

I haven’t run away to join the circus. Don’t need to, I live in one. Seriously, I’m swamped with Mr. Fashion-Incubator upgrading the wiring and lighting in my shop so it’s a real disaster. It’s times like this I’m even gladder I married him. For the last 25 years, I’ve had to do it all myself. Now I can fetch and carry food and beverages and sigh and lament that it’s not all done this instant! Don’t get me wrong, it’s great if you can do your own electric but it’s even better if you don’t have to. Hopefully it will be done this evening because I have a class starting tomorrow. That’s what is really going on. I won’t have much time to spend on site over the next few days but I will be checking my email if you need something.


In what scant time I had to read, there are two items to share from my feeds.

The post office is in even worse straits. Do read that, not the same old, same old. I can’t help but think our industry has some of the same problems, essentially one of model and scale. Consider: USPS pricing is based on first class mail. However, the usage of this mail class has fallen precipitously. And at the same time, the amount of bulk mail increased. Meaning, the model changed but the basis of pricing structure didn’t. Market forces demonstrate that the price of bulk mail is too cheap. Its similarity to our industry is people are buying a lot more clothes than ever before but they want lower cost goods. Bad has pushed the good out of the market. There are more similarities but I’ll leave you to pick them out. Personally, I’ve long thought taxpayers could save a flippin’ bundle if post office lobbies were sized to the number of clerks on duty. Having six windows available but only one or two clerks working is a huge waste of utilities, construction materials etc.

The other news item that caught my eye was the concept that fake (pirated) designer goods can drive demand for the real thing. Here’s the money quote courtesy of Slate:

When most people think about the effect of counterfeits on legitimate brands—and when brands themselves litigate against counterfeiters—they focus on the “business stealing” effect: Every fake Prada handbag represents a lost sale for Prada. But a dirty little secret is that Prada rip-offs can also function as free advertising for real Prada handbags—partly by signaling the brand’s popularity, but, less obviously, by creating what MIT marketing professor Renee Richardson Gosline has described as a “gateway” product. For her doctoral thesis, Gosline immersed herself in the counterfeit “purse parties” of upper-middle-class moms. She found that her subjects formed attachments to their phony Vuittons and came to crave the real thing when, inevitably, they found the stitches falling apart on their cheap knockoffs. Within a couple of years, more than half of the women—many of whom had never fancied themselves consumers of $1,300 purses—abandoned their counterfeits for authentic items.

Don’t you think this will raise debate if not hackles? Whichever side you come down on, a brand must continue to police its intellectual property or lose the rights to them be it virtually and or literally. I think libertarians will have a field day with this one. What do you think?

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  1. Quincunx says:

    Keeping up with the Joneses is one thing, but keeping up with your perception of yourself? That’s even less forgiving. Once one of these women became A Woman Owning a Designer Handbag albeit a fake one, she also became The Sort of Woman Who Budgets Money for a Designer Handbag, and hey presto, disposable income started to get funneled towards the next, this time real, designer handbag.

    But who am I to look down on that progression? I became A Hobbyist Woman Owning the Entrepreneur’s Guide and, imperceptibly, A Woman Who Budgets Money and Stashed Fabric for the First Sample.

    Thoughts on shipping: The other day, I saw a flower delivery truck delivering the morning’s milk and meat to a restaurant along with the table flowers. An interesting piggybacking of perishables.

  2. Theresa in Tucson says:

    The Dooney and Bourke handbags were the rage some years back and all my female inlaws had one or more of the Korean counterfeit ones. There were even stores in Houston where you could purchase the bag, without the stamped duck logo, and after purchase, the clerk would stamp the logo on the purse. I’ve got one myself. I haven’t progressed to the next step but like Quincunx I do own the Entrepenuers Guide and I am definitely, A Woman Who Budgets Money and Stashed Fabric for the First Sample. In my case, the first sample is for me but I have frequent machine envy and am always looking to upgrade either my skills or my equipment. Keeping up with the Jones has always been keeping up with ones perception of oneself. A little bit of self delusion is sometimes all we have that makes us feel special.

  3. marilyn says:

    I live in Houston and the knockoffs are everywhere, even though the places selling them are raided frequently. Now, even when I see a woman carrying, say, a LV, I’m not sure if it’s real. And if it is, I’m not all that impressed with the ‘quality’. I own one knock off and I only use it when I go to look around Neiman-Marcus — it keeps the sales people from following me around the store and watching me. I think this ‘gateway’ theory is plausible but has a very low percentage, certainly not enough to loosen up the vigilance on counterfeits and your brand.

  4. Marie-Christine says:

    I agree that the gateway theory is plausible, but only for people who have any hope of ever affording the real thing. The fake Chanel bag I got my sister in NY’s Chinatown did lead her to the real equivalent in time. But when a woman is barely squeaking by, no amount of savings is going to get her to plonk down a real $1300 for a stupid status item.

    I like marilyn’s theory of fake handbags for better shopping though, very much :-). I have to say that I have been actually prevented from buying a better bag 3 times in the past year. The problem is that I have to dress up for work more than I like. So I tend to dress down, way down, on the weekends, even though I know I shouldn’t. And the minimal-wage but very sharply dressed girls who work the fancy shops downtown enjoy shooing out the bum. Good thing I finally found the lone gay man who makes his own bags and was happy to have a long conversation about leather technique which would have made you proud Kathleen :-).

    I totally agree that the only good side to be on at any construction project is the supervising one. For me at least there’s a much better chance of coming out with something that works. Go Eric! OK, I’ll go buy that paint now..

  5. Quincunx says:

    If you’re barely squeaking by, I submit that you aren’t fooling anyone even with a fake designer handbag. :) And yes, that ‘fake designer handbag as camouflage’ sounds brilliant, if you don’t fall into the ‘aren’t fooling anyone’ category above.

    Thoughts on empty customer counters: Part of the local government moved offices recently and deliberately set up more windows than employees. It looks like a paperwork version of the idea of having more sewing machines than operators, but how much specialization does a separate window for each type of inquiry offer? I suppose that, if nothing else, it means the necessary forms are close at hand on the employee side.

  6. Don Pezzano says:

    The ‘gateway theory’ just sounds stupid. Either you can afford the bag or you can’t. Either you want the real thing, know what it looks like and understands the quality of the investment or you are buying a rubbish copy that will fall apart and the ‘real’ bag owners will laugh, knowing you wish to be in their league. Why support knock-offs anyway? What are the conditions of the workers making that knock-off bag?

    The post office windows? It’s called the ‘Karma-Sutra’ model- ten positions- two work.

  7. Eric H says:

    When there is such a huge disparity in price between the real thing and the fake, the fakes simply aren’t a threat. People who can’t afford the real thing were never in Prada’s demographic, so they aren’t being siphoned off in any meaningful way. People who can easily buy the real thing and are in their market would never buy the $15 knock-off. And now we learn that people who are in the long tail of their target market buy … both?

    When the disparity between prices is not that great, this argument is less valid. A $40 knockoff of a $200 dress is a much more serious threat. And a $60 knockoff of a $60 blouse is a real problem. Isn’t that what DvF did?

  8. Sandy Peterson says:

    Hi Kathleen,

    When your finished with your shop, could you take more pictures and give us a little tour? It looks great!!

    I started reading the post office article but had to stop and print it because of the length. It is very interesting so far.

    Have a great class!! Oh, and by the way, what are you teaching?

  9. Lesley says:

    I have a slightly different take. I tend to think that too many knock-offs or copycats serve to cheapen a brand and even spike fads that are quicker to die. I am thinking of Gucci watches and the millions of fakes yrs ago. If you are an affluent shopper and – all the fluff about quality construction aside – the idea behind a $1300 purse IS to buy exclusivity – so why on earth would you want to have the same label that every poor soul wearing flip flops at Walmart is wearing, even it if IS a knock-off? It becomes like Crocs, where the exclusivity is in NOT owing them.

  10. Kathleen says:

    ‘Karma-Sutra’ model- ten positions- two work

    Don, that is the funniest thing I’ve read today.

    When the disparity between prices is not that great, this argument is less valid. A $40 knockoff of a $200 dress is a much more serious threat. And a $60 knockoff of a $60 blouse is a real problem. Isn’t that what DvF did?

    DVF knocked off a $250 jacket and marked it up to $600. It is possible some of these mechanisms are responsible. I’m not suggesting it was true of Mercy (who DVF knocked off) but it is more common that DEs are knocked off by someone who improves the product and increases its value. Most assume a knock off is lower quality but this isn’t always true.

    Sandy: maybe I will next week. I’m particularly pleased with a solution Mr. F-I devised to plug in the industrial machines which could be a solution to people who don’t have raceways.

    The class was interesting; a successful retailer with three stores is dipping their toes into the water of manufacturing their own line. Iow, they have a lot of interest and motivation but few hard skills. We did a four day crash Manufacturing 101 class on how you know what you need (skills, equipment etc). Do you think people would be interested in hearing about it? I can’t reveal anything proprietary tho which I’m sure you understand.

  11. Jen in NY says:

    The proliferation of knock-offs has different effects on different people, I think. I am an owner of an authentic Coach bag (okay not the most expensive of the brands, but not cheap either). I bought it because I liked the aesthetics of it; the brand didn’t matter that much to me. However, I stopped using my Coach bag a couple of years ago after seeing all of the knock-offs for sale around the city–for a few reasons: 1) witnessing the drug-deal like sales of the things in the alleys around Chinatown (most sellers have been driven out of the store fronts); 2) the incredible proliferation of fake Coach bags particularly, may of them really poor quality; 3) the faked trademarks violate Federal law (I don’t want to be involved in a federal crime); and perhaps most of all…4) I was really repulsed to see piles of fake Coach and other knock-off bags for sale on the street across from the WTC site. It really made me feel awful and since then I haven’t used my Coach bag. It just reminds me of that materialistic desire that drives the sales of the knock offs, and how that is so contrary to what matters. Maybe I’m weird but that’s how I feel about it. No more designer bags for me.

  12. Helen the Engineer says:

    Very interesting points on both articles of interest. To my understanding the USPS is entirely self-funded though I’m not sure how contracts to build buildings o
    Kreayshawnare awarded or funded or how employees’ benefits are paid for.

    With regards to designer bags, multiple people have noted that when a style is perceived as “common” the original consumers are put off. Perhaps when many fakes of a particular style are purchased it signals a future shift in the demographics of the future consumers of that style; the original “elites” buy in fewer numbers and maybe some new, “down market” consumers begin to buy. Though my guess is that the new purchasers probably do not make up for the loss of original purchasers it my extend the lifespan of that style. Would have to see the numbers and economic impact to be sure. I’m also curious to see if increased sales of brand counterfeits correlate to increased sales of that brand’s fragrance and cosmetic lines (which tend to be much more accessible to the average American consumer). It would be insanely difficult to determine unless one surveyed purchasers of fakes about their future or past purchases and data on people’s intents is a bit iffy no matter what. Even if there were a correlation to fakes and other product lines or even exposure I’m sure we’d never hear about it from the brands as though they exist to make money much of their “value-added” comes from the appearance of exclusivity, expense, or status.

    Sorry to write a book, I hope if you’ve made it this far you didn’t get too lost.

  13. Helen the Engineer says:

    Oh drat. So a random word shows up in my last post Kreayshawn is a musician(?) with an explicit but interesting song called “Gucci Gucci”. A lyric of interest from said song is as follows:

    Gucci, Gucci, Louie, Louie, Fendi, Fendi, Prada
    Basic b****es wear that s**t so I don’t even bother

    It seems to sum up a common view here.

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