Monday, September 3, 2007

The criminal costs of "luxury"

Ever buy a knockoff like the one at right, then keep mum when complimented on your lovely Prada bag? This commentary'll have you thinking twice before buying that next flea market find: Dana Thomas (below), Newsweek's style and cultural reporter and author of Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster (2007), writes that "the average luxury bag retails for 10 to 12 times its production cost." That twelvefold markup spikes demand for knockoffs, so that more than a tenth of the world's garments and goods are fake. According to Interpol, counterfeit clothes make their way into global commerce by the same conduits that bring other contraband -- drugs and arms -- and other crimes -- human trafficking and terrorism -- to the mainstream.
There's the production end to ponder, too: Noting that "[m]ost fakes today are produced in China, a good many of them by children," Thomas writes wrenchingly of accompanying police to a Guangzhou sweatshop where
we found two dozen children, ages 8 to 13, gluing and sewing together fake luxury-brand handbags. ... As we made our way back to the police vans, the children threw bottles and cans at us. They were now jobless and, because the factory owner housed them, homeless. It was 'Oliver Twist' in the 21st century.

Surely there's a need, as Thomas argues, to address these transnational criminal abuses. And then, it seems from this vantage point, to call into question that unconscionable markup on "genuine" goods.

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