France Launches A Massive Ad Campaign Targeting Owners Of Counterfeit Luxury Goods

The production of counterfeit luxury goods is a criminal offense, and designers have always been vocal in their condemnation of the practice. Last week, Prada chief executive officer (and Miuccia’s husband) Patrizio Bertelli stoked controversy when he shared his opinion on the matter, saying, “Fake goods aren’t totally bad; at least it created jobs at some counterfeit factories.” He went on to reason, “We don’t want to be a brand that nobody wants to copy.” When questions arose, a Prada spokesman justified Bertelli’s statement, proceeding to say that “the quote is part of an extended conversation” that acknowledged the way in which “the market of counterfeits is an objective reality for successful brands and how this phenomenon has its own reality, also in terms of manufacturing, that is very structured.” This kind of progressive attitude, previously unheard of amongst the high fashion flock, is a natural extension of the fact that these activities will continue to exist, so why not put a positive spin on it?

Prosecuting owners of counterfeit items is not quite the priority it is in America as it has become in France. For starters, we certainly don’t have an ad campaign — yet. “Buy a fake Cartier, get a genuine criminal record,” reads one of the ads, backed by the luxury goods association Comitè Colbert and the French National Anti-Counterfeiting Committee, that will be installed in eighteen of France’s busiest airports this summer. While there is no penalty in the States for mere possession of fake goods, the stakes are significantly higher in France: owning a knockoff can be punished by fines of up to €300,000 (roughly $300,000 at current exchange) or a prison sentence of up to three years. “Every time you buy a fake Lacoste, a fake Longchamp, a fake Chanel, you are shooting yourself in the foot on the values you hold dear,” said Dior CEO Sidney Toledano.

I can empathize with the plight of luxury houses, who lose $7.5 billion in revenue every year due to counterfeiting, but $300,000 or three years in jail for just owning a fake is beyond. Punishing consumers doesn’t bring France any closer to conquering the root of the issue, which is the actual mass production of the knock-off goods… so is there something I’m missing? Additionally, how are law enforcers being trained to spot fakes? This ad campaign poses so many questions, I can’t help but wonder. [Fashionologie]