Interview with Chanel, on counterfeiting


Jul 25, 2007
Here's an article I did for a newspaper.
It's an interview with the manager of Chanel Boutique in Vancouver.
Tell me what you guys think. =)

Faking It! How Counterfeiting Affects Fashion.

Chanel's Gisa Straith
We’ve all seen it - people crowding over tables at night markets, digging through piles of Louis Vuitton monogrammed wallets, striving to find a good fake. From local malls, to alleys in Chinatown; counterfeits are everywhere in Vancouver. The problem is vast, but will it ever end?

It was a Monday afternoon when I arrived at West Hastings and Hornby Street. I walked up the steps and pushed open the heavy glass door. Right in front of me was a showcase displaying a white quilted lambskin purse, and satin silk camellia corsages. “She’ll be right with you Justin.” said Patty, a sales associate at the downtown Chanel Boutique. I put down my bag and began to prepare for the interview.

Gisa Straith, Manager of Chanel Boutique Vancouver, came out from her office in her sleek, black tweed suit. Gisa' s job isn’t easy; she just returned from Paris for Fashion Week, and she' s leaving again the following week. “Sorry, I just had to reply a few emails back there.” She said, while greeting me. Starting my digital recorder, I addressed the issue at hand. “It really comes down to whether or not the buyer cares.” She lamented, “and these people don’t care, that’s why it’s so frustrating.” Dealing with knock-offs on a day to day basis, Gisa explained how knock-offs are ruining our society, and our appreciation for quality and originality, but this is only the underlying issue.
When a consumer purchases a counterfeit, for instance, a Prada handbag, she may think that she is getting a good deal. She is getting more or less the same thing, without having to pay for the exorbitant price tag. What she doesn’t know is that the $50 she paid for her Prada bag goes into money laundering and funding underground businesses.

The majority of counterfeited goods originate from Asia, mostly from China and Korea. People who make them are slave laborers. In fact, most of them are young children, a startling number of these kids are as young as 6, who are taken away from their homes to work in poor conditions, and for as little as a dollar an hour. The counterfeiting industry makes up to $650 billion a year. That $650 billion is going somewhere, and you can bet it’s not feeding the poor kids in China that make these purses. According to Straith, the money goes into supporting the drug business, arms business and funding international terrorism. Basically, they are using a shortcut to make big money, to support illegitimate businesses.

For most people, it doesn’t seem to be worth it to pay $2,000 for, say a Chanel bag. If one can find a knock-off out there that is ten times cheaper, why pay so much for the real thing? Why is a CC-logoed bag or a Fendi Baguette so expensive? “It’s mostly made by hand. Each bag takes between six to eighteen hours to make.” Involving a multitude of steps, each bag is of very high quality and immense craftsmanship. “When you think about the cost of a specialized artisan who makes those bags, it’s very much worth the price. We use the finest skins, and each of them go through quality control.” Gisa explained. Chanel also has six specialized ateliers, for shoes, hats, embroideries and other ornamentations. “That is what produces the expensive, but fine quality merchandise that we make.”

Counterfeits on the other hand, are of very bad quality, in fact inferior quality. Instead of using fine lambskins or calfskins, counterfeiters use plastic or man-made leather. They are not long lasting to begin with; most of them fall apart very easily. The designs are usually off. “People don’t know how silly they look in counterfeits.” Says Gisa. Counterfeits are blatantly infringing on a trademark, and that is illegal. From a fashion house’s perspective, it is a very serious issue. It ruins the brand image, it cheapens the brand, and eventually they lose business.

The issue here though, is not about how much business they lose anymore, because in most cases, consumers who resort to purchasing a counterfeit probably won’t buy the real thing anyway. “The real issue comes in what does it stand for and how far back you trace it as to the slave labor that happened in the beginning.” It’s an intellectual property and a human rights issue, and that is what’s serious. Chanel will still be making lots of money, as will Hermès, Louis Vuitton and all the other fashion houses. “That’s because luxury goods are a hot commodity,” Gisa explained, “which is also why there are counterfeits out there.”

In the last few years there has been resurgence in the popularity of luxury good and designer labels. Canada’s luxury goods retailer Holt Renfrew recently expanded its Downtown Vancouver store; Louis Vuitton will be expanding its Fairmont Hotel boutique in the coming year, which will also be carrying their Prêt-à-Porter collections. When there is a high demand for luxury goods, there will be counterfeits. “We have a lot of clients who simply will not wear specific designers, because there are too many knock-offs out there.” Gisa explains.

Canada is somewhat behind some other European countries, when it comes to laws implemented to target the counterfeiting industry. “If you enter France with a fraudulent item, you will be fined very heavily, and your item will be confiscated. That is what they’re doing to protect their national industry.” Gisa thinks that Canada should do more to protect the fashion and luxury goods business. “All the luxury goods retailers are working together to deal with this problem.”

Ultimately, it is really up to us- the consumers. When consumers boycott counterfeits, there will be no need for it. If that doesn’t happen, it will continue to be there; it will continue to be successful. Gisa hopes that they can catch enough of the counterfeiters to make an impact on that market, and stop what’s happening on the source ends of counterfeits. But in the end we as consumers control the situation, and if we value originality, freedom, and creativity, this issue will cease.


C'est Magnifique!
Sep 18, 2007
Thumbs up. It's a good article and it generates awareness to everyone. It's not a myth that the counterfeit industry is supporting illegal businesses like drug and arms and child labor, sadly, it's a fact.


<3's chanel
Jul 20, 2006
Los Angeles
Interesting article! Very good work -I especially appreciate how emphasis was placed upon the plight of slave and child labor, and how it funds things like terrorism -most people that knowingly purchase fakes could seem to care less about how it effects the companies, but probably don't even know how detrimental it is to the people who are victimized by the counterfeit industry. Thanks for sharing!


Dec 13, 2007
Ur article is very well written and informative.I didn't know that they use child labour to produce these counterfeits.I thought they were mass produced in a factory or something.Thankx for sharing that here :tup:.

I'm totally down with the point quoted.I refuse to use a certain brand because of the amount of fakes out there..not that Chanel is not widely faked but at least to my knowledge,a fake Chanel is more easily spotted than this brand I'm thinking about.

When there is a high demand for luxury goods, there will be counterfeits. “We have a lot of clients who simply will not wear specific designers, because there are too many knock-offs out there.” Gisa explains.


Jul 11, 2006
I really enjoyed it. I think you did an excellent job. It was quite informative. Hopefully people who buy fakes will read it.


Sophie ^o^
Feb 13, 2007
Outer Space
Thanks for sharing. Your article is well written and informative and serves as an eye opener for those who are unaware of the hidden scams behind the counterfeit business.