Brand name mirage

  • 2013-08-08
  • By Ilze Powell

SHOPPERS’ PARADISE: Spectacular bargains can be found in the street markets.

BERLIN - Most of us when faced with a certain struggle connected to clothing remember the popular expression ‘fashion takes sacrifice.’ Given today’s offer and demand, wouldn’t it be more appropriate to say ‘brand name sacrifice’?
One of the world’s favorite shopping cities is London. People from all around the world, not only the EU nationals, have grown fond of the brightly lit and posh British department stores. If you can believe their statistics in this regard, ‘made in the UK’ is the highest demanded product these days. Names like Stella McCartney and Vivien Westwood are very popular among the locals, therefore, they are able to keep their prices high. Interestingly enough, a tiny three-year-old’s dress by Stella costs £130 in a London department store, while you can easily find the same thing in a Hannover department store for half, or sometimes even a third, of the price.

Germany seems to be the most overlooked when it comes to fashion. Despite the fact that we consider France and Italy as the capitals of ‘moda,’ the German-born designer Karl Lagerfeld is in charge of a lot of their fashion houses. Moreover, the sleek and perfectly cut suit brand Hugo Boss also comes from Germany. So does Jill Sander and Joop. But similarly to England, while these labels might be well sold at their original prices in Germany, Romanian and Italian second-hand shops often sell them dirt cheap.

Italy is another popular destination when it comes to lookingfor famous brands. Their industry seems to be heavily based on the infamous ‘made in Italy’ tag. Both tourists and locals have no problem purchasing high quality imitations from the street (there’s always some myth suggesting that your Gucci bag from the street corner might somehow come from the actual Gucci people). The Sunday market in Rome, Porta Portese, and Naples are both crazy, every-man-for-himself places where if you’re lucky, you go home with something Dolce. If not so lucky, your fake D&G will still be real leather and last you a lifetime.

While I was living in Northern Italy, I was introduced to their widespread news stories about the manufacturing exchanges between Italy and China. Apparently, a while ago, when the Italian manufacturing machinery was getting old and needed either to be upgraded, or sold off to be replaced with better equipment, it turned out to be cheaper to simply sell it off to China. So the Asians took the old machinery off their hands and… well, Italians were never informed about their further efforts. Nowadays, we go to stores and select Italian clothes that are ‘made in China,’ that are allegedly produced using the same old machinery that once produced the beautiful fashion products ‘made in Italy.’

Another top story tells the truth behind ‘made in Italy,’ this one in the form of Asian (possibly Chinese) sweatshops near Florence, Italy, where popular brand names sew their merchandise. It’s cheap, it’s the same quality as their Asian factories, but its tag sells better.

After investigating the seams and lining of Armani dresses here in Berlin, I must say the quality of most pieces is impeccable. But there were a few that reminded me of Latvia’s Ogres Trikotaza products so much that I curiously reached for the tag to make sure it was, actually, made in China.

Choosing to spend my holiday in Porto, I found myself in a little fashion fairytale there – the beautiful and touristy Portuguese city doesn’t seem to bother much with the well-known worldly names and proudly exhibits their own labels in boutiques where stylish clothes are affordable, even for the locals buyers. So I guess in some places we still get what we buy.