I've always taken a fairly stringent stance against knock-offs and fakes.  I can't pretend it's because there's a noble reason for wanting to show my disapproval of the counterfeit industry (although that factors into it).  In most cases, there's a certain amount of respect for the originating designer and the perceived quality in what you're buying in the 'original'.  Alas, it mostly comes down to an innate pride that to buy a knock-off/fake is somehow a way of eating my own words, counter attacking my support for original designers.  Yet, how does one avoid 'inspired' design entering into the equation especially when the 'inspired' version in question actually presented itself as a pretty credible match against the original?

Some of you on Twitter were very gung-ho about my going for these ASOS Monroe metallic brogues, clearly very much inspired (and unapologetically so…) by the now oh-so-ubiquitous Prada S/S 11 brogues, which I also possess.  The ASOS shoes are a fifth of the price of the originals and I'm a bit hesitant as to say whether they are a fifth of the quality of the Pradas without full testing them out. 

All I know is that I had a good enough initial reason for buying them?  Metallic leather!  Silver AND gold.  Pure aesthetic motivation.  Had Prada done them in metallic leathers?  Not to my knowledge.  Did my guilt lessen because I have actually bought and supported the originals?  Ashamedly, yes.  Subsequently the shoes served a more practical purpose.  I pumped for the ASOS ones to take with me to Huntington Beach and unsurprisingly they were soaked in sand, sea and tap water.  They have since dried out 100% and surprisingly survived the Pacific ocean soaking.  I'm sure that the Pradas might have withstood the same amount of damage but I never took that risk.  The ASOS ones became a disposable form of brand protection.   

I've never had any beef against other people choosing to buy fakes/knock-offs for the reason that is often spouted in their defence – the people buying the knock-offs are never going to be able to afford the real thing.  Now, clearly I have broken that rule of thumb, but go through countless posts about Jeffrey Campbell's own version of the Prada brogues (I personally think there's something a bit 'off' about the shape and the leather but what do I know?) and you'll see people declaring the fact that they'd never pay $800+ for a pair of shoes.

Then I went back to re-read Fashionista's own investigation into the motivation for buying fakes and it's apparent that it isn't as simple as dividing it up into the poor people who buy fakes and rich people who buy the real thing.  I've obviously fallen into the 'buying both' category.  With the knowledge of knowing the differences between the 'inspired' version and the real thing, what it boiled down to was the fact that to me, there was a desirable aesthetic value in the metallic brogues by ASOS to warrant the purchase as well as well as their 'wreckable' quality even though we're still talking about a ¬£95 pair of shoes.  I know that Prada shoe has not been outdone in quality and if they did in fact produce them in metallic leathers, I'd probably eschew the ASOS ones and save up for the real thing just as I did for the ones I bought in Milan

Yet the bottom line for me in this instance was satiating aesthetic desire.  Am I condoning the fact that ASOS (along with JC, Topshop…) can readily facilitate this 'inspired' chain of production?  No, not completely – even if I do think that the majority of customers for these 'inspired' versions aren't likely to own the originals.  Do I applaud the fact that ASOS were able to capitalise on an original design and somehow add their own 'twist' to it?  Well, clearly since I've bought a pair.  Do I then become part of a complicated customer profile – one that buys both the original AND the knock off, which might ultimately hurt the bottomline of the high end labels?  Perhaps…

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Comments (41)

  1. I don’t know how I feel about knock-offs! As a “poor student”, I can’t really blame people for wanting to find a cheaper alternative to lust-worthy designer items — which 9 times out of 10, I find ridiculously overpriced. But there’s something unexplainably “special” about a genuine designer item that you can’t replace!
    x Michelle | thefeatherden.net

  2. ellio100 says:

    Thanks for this, I think it’s a fascinating topic. I once had both fake and designer watches when I was a young teenager. I didn’t like the feel of the fake baby G watch, it was really tacky and when I got a real one for my birthday I thought it was far better.
    Thing is, I’m very unlikely ever to buy anything designer new. I don’t earn very much and lovely as some designer things are, it’s just not a priority for me to scrimp and save for something I’d be so fearful of damaging. But I guess it’s inevitable that most (all?) of the clothing that comes to my wardrobe is derivative from some designer look somewhere along the line… I guess it’s a pity I’m not financially supporting the original creative thought, but as long as I like what I do buy then I won’t lose any sleep over it.
    Maybe it comes down to what you value about designer stuff. Quality, brand and aesthetic appeal seem like the big three. My own matrix includes ‘fragility’: I’m sure everyone has their own values, I agree that it doesn’t only come down to cost, though that’s a major prohibitive factor!

  3. Swan says:

    I seem to visit 2 completely different camps on this topic. Or maybe 3. One is anti new stuff. One is anti fake. And the one I am fascinated by is the one that is very loudly and angrily anti-expensive. There are a lot of them out there. And they think it is their right to have the design they want for the price they want. And I’m not judging. I’m not sure you can fight this mindset. I fall into all camps. Watcha gonna do?

  4. I really want to have a pair, the silver/gold ones! But they are so expensive 🙁
    XO Charlotte
    http://www.thefashionguitar.com

  5. amie says:

    I wonder if there is much of a difference in quality? I am in the camp of saving up for a designer splurge, rather than buying loads of cheaper items which after 6 months, I’m bored of. Maybe that’s just me. Golly, don’t the brogues look similar! Both are just as lovely to look at mind; and I suppose that’s what fashion really boils down to.
    Love Amie
    http://www.creditcrunchchic.blogspot.com

  6. Love these and want a pair! But could only afford the knock offs!
    http://eighteengramsofglitter.blogspot.com

  7. kb says:

    You are extremely lucky to be able to own both pairs, but for most, the High Street versions are a more realistic option. To be honest, I’m not that impressed with the High Street offerings (though Asos would have to be my faves at a push) as I can’t get the designer version out of my head. I prefer inventive interpretations instead of blatant fakes as I believe that the designer originals start a trend, which the High Street needs to put it’s own spin on. Raised flatform heels are the basis of the design and it’s up to the likes of Topshop and Asos to reinvent the concept whilst capturing the playfulness of the original. Really love the neon look.

  8. susie_bubble says:

    ellio: Big up the Baby G crowd! I had one too! No, it’s not for people to lose thought over the ‘origins’ of their design and whether their items do have intellectual property theft involved. That’s just now how the majority of people shopped! Aesthetic personal satisfaction is what one could hope for and then navigating ethics is another thing entirely – one that I people shouldn’t judge others against. Everyone has their own consumer ethics after all and a lot of the time, there is economic inequality involved in being the most ‘ethical’ and buying things with the cleanest slate‚Ķ
    I’m one of those ditzes that prioritises aesthetics above all‚Ķ with quality coming a close second from feeling/touching things and looking at fabrics etc‚Ķ.
    Swan: Well, there lies a good solution to those three camps – vintage and vintage only. I’ve noticed many people on Guardian’s fashion column for example that argue that by buying vintage only, they’re clean of all of those things (especially if you shop in charity shops). I’m not in that camp that new or expensive is a bad thing – I blame material wonton for that‚Ķ I try to ask the questions about what I’m buying but like I said in those post, what it comes down to is aesthetic satisfaction‚Ķ.
    Amie: I will test them out and report back but to me, the leather in the Pradas is definitely far superior as is the stitching and the finishing. The metallic has already started rubbing off. Then again, I didn’t submerge my Pradas in sea water for hours on end under the baking sun and I don’t plan to with the real thing so perhaps we’ll never know!
    Kb: I’m in full belief that designs on the high street can be inventive interpretations, improving on design (if not quality) on the originating source or going off on their own tangents. You’re right, there are so many routes you could go down with a flatworm heel but sadly to capitalise on the originating trend, going close to the original is normally the way to go. I do believe the type of ‘inventiveness’ you talk about does exist though – it’s just always easier to spot these ‘knock-off’ instances‚Ķ. ; )

  9. I love this post because it made me really think – thanks! What makes something a “designer original” isn’t the cost, but the craftsmanship, the creativity, the materials, the quality, the skill, the cumulative product -it isn’t any one thing. When I slip a designer shoe on, I can typically feel the difference in the quality and it isn’t always just the cost – but the attention to detail.
    I think there is a big difference between some of the “designer inspired” shoes and the knock-offs or replicas which try to pass for cheap originals and are intended to deceive the buyer. The latter is direct copyright infringement (I won’t allow fakes or replicas to knowingly be sold on my site) and almost always poor quality. The former are usually different enough from the originals to be seen more as “closely related cousins” and I find these more tolerable, as even the “big” designers are inspired by one another and have similar designs.
    Just my two cents 🙂
    http://www.IfTheShoeDoesntFit.com

  10. I love how you wrote about this! As designers we always try our hardest (even though the copies are sooo fab and perfect) not to buy them because of the fact that they are taking someone else’s idea! And then we found out that Kate Spade copied our Gold spec necklace. ..and are still freaked out how a big company copies young designers. It’s totally stealing! And really upsetting that your design can be copied and stolen right under your nose. Here is our Beckerman necklace: http://www.spectaclesblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/beckerman-spectacles-necklace.bmp
    and here is Kate Spades copy:http://www.katespade.com//designer-jewelry/necklaces-for-women/hang-in-there-glasses-pendant/WBRU3617,default,pd.html?dwvar_WBRU3617_color=711&start=1&cgid=jewelry
    The similarity is totally ridiculous! So we have been totally discussing the whole “fake” thing and copy right issue and are sooo glad you brought it up!!
    Big kiss
    xo Beckerman Girls
    http://www.BeckermanBitePlate.com

  11. Noa Noa says:

    Love these platformed brogues – especially the multi-coloured pair.

  12. zee-elle says:

    Really love the ASOS ones! I was going to get them too. And the Pradas are just way too costly… I really don’t think Prada’s sales will be affected because of these ‘inspired’ versions (ASOS, Jeffrey Campbell etc.) People who buy Prada will still buy the Pradas and people who never buys Prada either don’t buy both or just buy the cheaper alternative. It really doesn’t hurt anybody. It just exposes the design to consumers of a wider range.

  13. Adam James says:

    I’m buying a second pair of the Prada ones this week I love them that much!
    There are metallic ones though… Fran Burns has a pair that she had on order for 4 months! http://twitpic.com/62w5uk
    http://fashioninaflashlondon.wordpress.com

  14. susie_bubble says:

    Adam James: Weirdly I kinda like the ASOS shade of silver (more burnished) than the one Prada used… *shame*
    I really wanted them in the super duper high platform though – too late now probs!

  15. loubehr says:

    Yayyyyyy those shoes are amazing … They look so stylish …
    http://rocknrealprincess.blogspot.com/

  16. Lola says:

    I wouldn’t consider buying something off the high-street which has clearly been inspired by a designer, in this case Prada, as knock-off. My definition of knock-off is when something has been replicated to be pretty much exact-with the name of the designer imprinted on the insoles sort of thing, but it’s funny because what ASOS (Topshop, Zara etc) produces is sometimes so similar that someone can argue that it could be considered knock-off.
    My friend bought a Gucci bag from Dubai a few years ago, she told me it was fake and I was amazed but I could never bring myself to do it. I can’t afford the real either so I’ll just stay in the realm where I’m buying high street “inspired” pieces!
    But this piece has got me thinking though, perhaps I would feel less guilty about buying a knock off because I’m already doing it, I just never realised it!!
    X

  17. Taylor Lewis says:

    They are such gorgeous shoes!! i want them hehe!
    please visit…
    http://TheFashionDrugg.blogspot.com/

  18. Jade Mellor says:

    Hello, my only other comment posted was this time last year, when I quoted Schiaparelli on buying well rather than cheaply. I’m now compelled to post again after reading this! As a completely independent jewellery designer funded by a full time day job, so much time is spent working on an original idea from concept to finalising processes, making different versions and experiments using up materials that this is reflected into the final product’s price. It is probably flattering when someone copies your idea but also terrifying as really a larger company could recreate or even improve on your product without these costs and all the blood sweat and tears you have spent, purely because you are passionate about visualising your own idea. I think instead of just a “product”, you can think of designer creations as works of art. They can be appreciated my many but possibly only bought by very few. However, reproductions(eg, prints of paintings and postcards)could be produced by the artist and bought and enjoyed as an homage to their original work, so the creator benefits from their sale and you are supporing there work. Maybe in the future there could be a better way for designers to produce their first original with other companies paying a fee for using a version of their idea. At the moment intellectual copyright is quite difficult to uphold with it’s annoying loopholes so that as long as enough incredibly subtle changes are made it’s they can get away with reproducing a design without paying anything to the original creator. I personally try and keep my costs as low as possible and I hope people will enjoy an original piece made by a real person. Thanks Susie! xx
    http://www.jademellor.com http://www.jademellor.blogspot.com

  19. rain lover says:

    gosh, i love them so much!!!! even getting jealous, cause i want them too !! :DD
    http://stylerhapsody.blogspot.com/

  20. Love these! Not so sure about the price tag for them tho! ha

  21. Hi Susie! That’s an interesting topic and I quite agree with your point of view. I tried on the original pair from Prada but they’re quite heavy to walk in, so I got a classic pair instead 🙂
    Often, we abuse the knock-off version and not the original one due to their material value. Life is unfair anyway :))
    Have a good week!
    Hang

  22. I love those red/green/brown shoes! Your whole outfit (especially the orange one) is amazing!

  23. Olive says:

    really in love with your sunglasses and it such an amazing ensembles 🙂

  24. .. A tricky one, but i do feel that a knock off is only really a knock off when the item is being replicated (complete with logo etc). If people can tell the difference between the real thing and the ‘inspired by’ then its perhaps a form of flattery! I don’t actually expect it would affect the bottom line of the original designer as i’m tipping the purchaser would have bought the designer version had it existed in the original collection(as you say). … And just quietly, the more brogues in the world the better I say! I’ve included a whole brogue pin punch story in my own little shoe brand for next winter!

  25. I really enjoyed reading this, I think that buying inspired by products is okay, but a total copy/fake of something is not something I would do.
    Fab post.

  26. Prudence says:

    I’m not into the obvious knock-offs which as seen absolutely EVERYWHERE but I agree if there’s a point of difference and the copier has taken the original design and added their own twist then it’s ok. And after all this is how trends begin. Too often you see that this hasn’t happened. When it doesn’t happen and the product is directly copied to look as if it is the original it devalues the designer product. For instance in Australia, the Louis Vuitton signature print is more recognised as a knock-off then the real deal because it is so widely copied.

  27. well you can look at it from that perspective ‘The ASOS ones became a disposable form of brand protection’. sometimes you don’t want to wear your uber expensive designer pieces for that reason! there are a lot of pro and cons, but in my opinion, i am a con! i don’t like it and i will never do! a blogger friend of mine created a fake Chanel tee, Chanel forced her to remove all the pics of the tee (PS the media picked up the story and she is a celebrity now in belgium). but why is asos aloud to make knock-offs like that! do they have an agreement with Prada? is it pure a marketing trick?
    PS If i cannot by a Ferrari, i am not going to buy a fake one! this is the same thing! I understand your motivation! but it is still a knock-off! I was married in a Dior dress, imagine that somebody on my wedding was wearing the same dress but in a cheaper knock off version!!!
    I must say, i love the fact how you wrote the article, you know the business and you know what you are writing! you clearly have thought about you own profile as a customer: who am i and what do i buy and why do i buy it! I love it, it is not an empty article!

  28. Jay says:

    I’m not a fan of fakes/knock-offs either but feeling “guilty” because i can’t afford a pair 800 dollar shoes? Are you out of your mind? Who’s to say your pradas weren’t made by the same five year old Chinese orphans that made the Asos knock-offs.

  29. susie_bubble says:

    I think we’re seeing quite different attitudes towards knock offs/fakes for different reasons. For the most part, we should be valuing the quality differences but how DO we tell the difference? Jay pointed out that the Prada shoes could have been made in a similar way to the ASOS ones. Like Ellen (TDSF), I tend to ‘feel’ the difference and with these Pradas, I can personally see a marked difference in the stitching, the leathers and the way the sole is constructed but can I verify HOW it was made. I’m a huge fan of knowing how things got to us – what factories, what manufacturers, what materials etc…. perhaps this is something designers can promote more often to justify why they charge the prices they do. I don’t mean bunging out a ‘fake’ campaign like Louis Vuitton who inferred all bags were ‘hand-stitched’ through and through. I just think knowing the origins and artisans behind the product is a fascinating thing for the consumer and would rub out any cynicism.
    I can also see that loyalty/pride in a designer label is also a factor to not wanting to touch the knock-offs/fakes from Absolutely Mrs K’s comment. The very idea of a fake existing, regardless of quality is abhorrent and that’s fine too – that’s the power and sway of the brand. I do agree with Absolutely Mrs K about stopping a blogger from doing one paltry t-shirt – why not draw that line with the high street brands too who are profiteering?
    Beckerman Girls/Jade Mellor: It’s absolutely deplorable that a big brand would copy a young designer’s original work – I think that’s more frightening than high street chains doing designer knock offs. It just seems like such a foolish thing to do and considering you’re a fashion blogger too, it makes no sense. I recently got a necklace taken down from a high street brand’s stock because they had totally ripped off a designer I had written about so I’m glad i can help sometimes in that respect but it just happens all to often, especially when you go through Fashionista’s Adventures in Copyright series…
    Lola/Prudence: The line between knock-off and inspired is a blurry one. A design can evolve to make a marked difference but often the point is to be as close to the original to get consumers excited that they’re getting say Prada on the cheap! That’s why people go mental over a ton of Zara products for instance because they copy things to a very close degree – too close for me which is why I tend not to go in….

  30. Jen says:

    The thing is, the knock-offs that are too obvious are embarrassing to own ‚Ä쬆at least that’s how I feel. I could never buy these, cause it feels cheap. But I also refuse to buy 600 Euros for a pair of shoes that will definitely not last forever. And tell me, whose shoes do? It’s gotten really, really difficult to find *true* craftmanship, even and especially with high-end designers. So many of them are mass-producing, too, even Chanel and Hermes have gotten worse in quality over the years. I know, because I saved up for a real 2.55, babied it and it still broke after a few light uses. Same with stuff from other high-end labels, and you can read about these things on fashion forums all over the net. It is mostly simply not worth it. And that is the true scandal: That these labels still make a ton of profit by providing products that aren’t made to last. I find that deeply disturbing.

  31. susie_bubble says:

    Jen: Well said! You can feel, touch and investigate all you like in stores but the proof is in the wearing/using and if ¬£500+ items are breaking, wearing down fast then there is indeed a problem! That’s why I think it’s important for brands to prove provenance/craftsmanship and superiority of materials to their customers.
    Or else, they can just keep on selling the ‘fantasy’, the ‘dream’ of the label to customers who might not be so discerning, prey on the excessively rich, who do 5 figure spending sprees regularly and ignore the group of ‘save-and-splurge’ customers, who do want maximum bang for their buck…

  32. This post has very good points in both your and your commenters’ writings. It’s a slippery slope, this whole issue over fakes/knockoffs/inspired-bys. But I do agree with your take on the whole aesthetic reason for buying a “copy” vs the original, or even both in your case. There have actually even been times where I’ve preferred the “copy” to the original because of perhaps the pitch of the heel being more friendly, or the color being a combination I preferred more. While I do try to justify buying high end items for their craftsmanship and superior and generally more well thought out design, there are times when a black pump is a black pump and I’d just much rather pay less for it. It’s a shame that some of these luxury label brands can get away with the occasional skimp on their product because there is such a fan base that is willing to buy into the name or the aspirational value of it. It’s important to some of us to be educated consumers, but I guess the average person just wants what they want. To each his own?

  33. Sofia says:

    Sorry for not commenting on the actual subject you brought up, I’d just like to enquire about that blue jacket in the last photo – where is it from?

  34. susie_bubble says:

    Sofia: It’s from Tokyo – the label is Curated… bought it in a store in Kita-Kore
    http://stylebubble.co.uk/style_bubble/2011/05/kita-kore-finds.html

  35. I was wondering what you thought about someone DIY-ing a similar pair or DIY something similar to high fashion and then selling let’s say on Etsy??
    I came across some vintage banana charms (10 pairs) on ebay and could not help but buy them to make Prada-like banana earrings. So essentially, they are knock-off, but at the same time they are very pretty (sorry, I’m so humble!) and a bit different from Pradas. I hesitated to do this, but just for a second 😉 What’s your take on this? Is this unethical in your opinion? For me, it was just something I could not help but do. http://byebyesoccermom.blogspot.com/2011/07/going-bananas.html
    Thanks so much!
    Maya

  36. Lucie says:

    Ahhhhhh susie i’ve been obsessed with these platform brogues for ages, and I’ve finally bought the gold & silver asos ones! As a poor student this for me was a big buy but they’re worth my impending compensatory frugality :P. Would like a bit of advice on outfits to wear with them- you pulled together an awesome outfit (above)! Do you reckon I could wear them with jeans?
    Love your blog <3
    Thank you!
    Lucie

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