Today’s Obsession: Vuitton Fakery

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At PopMatters, a marvelous excerpt by Marcus Boon about the notion of copying with a highly visible example: Louis Vuitton and its desirable, oft-copied bags.

(Interestingly, the bag pictured above is actually a Vuitton, designed by Stephen Sprouse in 2001.)The piece looks at the level of skill involved in the copies themselves, and at what point a copy becomes indistinguishable from the original. Some Vuitton fakes can go for nearly as much as a Vuitton itself—Vuitton’s pricing not being set primarily because of actual scarcity (they have fifteen factories and 390 stores around the world), but also because of difficulty of manufacture and prestige. Some of these copies are essentially saying, with design of different models, “our Vuittons are just as good as Vuitton’s Vuittons.”

Even more bizarre than the idea of a copy costing as much as the original item is the initial story of the piece: a Vuitton show featuring non-Vuitton artists creating Vuittons, and Vuitton itself creating copies of the fakes to sell as actual Vuittons.

This piece is pretty dense, and refers to some philosophical writings, so you might need to do some googling if this stuff didn’t hit any of your college syllabus. One reference is the ideas that were posited in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, which I talked about earlier this year from a panel on constructed realities at South by Southwest. Don’t let its density throw you off—save it for later! This article encapsulates some of the most interesting ideas inside copyright and intellectual property law. Very relevant to us. If you’re interested, here’s a link to Boon’s book, In Praise of Copying.