A new study from UBC suggests fake designer duds could make fashion labels step up their game.
When a designer’s product is copied almost exactly, their first instinct is usually to improve the look of the item.
“The authentic producers will make the most of any cost advantages they have to produce more highly differentiated goods shoppers can easily identify as the real thing. In fashion this can mean an increased focus on aesthetics,” said Yi Qian, the study’s author and an associate professor at UBC’s Sauder School of Business.
Qian studied 31 different brands that sell sport and leather goods in China during a 12 year period when sudden changes to enforcement policies lead to a surge in counterfeit items.
The study found that an increase in fakes lead designers to use better materials and quality of construction. Functionality largely remained the same, since that is harder to judge.
“While potentially expensive for producers, this innovation effect actually enhances consumer welfare in the fashion industry because part of consumer utility derives from aesthetics and the fast fashion cycle,” she said.
But that’s not to say counterfeiting is a good thing – it might just be part of the effects of a free market.
“We know knock-offs are out there. Yet sometimes, the most efficient solution is to let the market’s invisible hand do its own regulation, as it can lead to better products.”
You can read more about the study here.