Monday, August 14, 2006


When it comes to shopping, my sister-in-law in New York will sometimes suffer from momentary lapse of reason, though her overall sense of kindness and lack of malice give her license for it.

Take for example the incident last week. As if trying to beat the local time zone’s break of dawn, she called me on my cellphone. She wanted to know what the deal was with this 168 Mall in Divisoria that she keeps hearing about from her recent balikbayan friends.

Groggily, I told her this mall has stores that sell knockoff name brand merchandise from China at dirt-cheap prices. When she asked how the distributors and retailers are able to make any profit, I replied in jest that they were merchandise skimmed off the top portion of humongous shipping containers; that these counterfeit products are primarily used to camouflage the more valuable stuff at the bottom — shabu; otherwise known as crystal meth in New York. But I was wise enough to quickly retract what I had just told her, though there were rumors alleging smuggling at the heart of this mall’s operations.

She is an accountant and has worked at various companies in the fashion industry and cognizant of the adverse affects of this flood of fake products in the U.S. — from the fifteen-dollar Hermes scarf to fifty-dollar Prada clutch bags from China and Korea. And despite the authorities' efforts, smuggled knockoffs remain to be a multi-million dollar headache for both the government and the garment industry.

As a proactive solution, some design houses have created a separate division from within their own organization that would use the same exact patterns of their collection and reproduce them with cheaper fabrications. The result: same look but cheaper prices to be sold at their “outlet stores.” In tony suburbs across America, there are now shopping malls which specifically cater to these designer outlet shops — stores for knockoff items produced by the same companies that created the originals.

The New York Times article, "Fashion’s Cutthroat Edge," provides a rare glimpse into this dilemma and features a blogsite, Counterfeit Chic, which shows just how maddening this counterfeit situation has become. According to this article, the blog site’s author, Ms. Scafidi, an associate law professor at Methodist University, “posts one or two items to which she lends some in-depth, knowledgeable commentary. And each week, she posts a long list of newsy links to articles and blog posts from across the globe about police stings, internecine industry battles and efforts by both governments and fashion houses to somehow stem the flood of knockoffs.”

The success of Divisoria’s 168 Mall is fueled by the government’s lack of stringent efforts to battle the influx of counterfeit products into the local market, as well as by the consumers’ minimal disposable income yet fascination with status-setting designer merchandise, though fake the items may be. It's the "counterfeit chic phenomenon;" buying one of these items for the look and fun of it — until disposed of for another shopping spree.

My sister-in-law is one who appreciates the quality and durability of authentic designer goods — and willing to pay for it, or I should say patient enough to wait until they go on sale, if ever. Her attitude has always been, when she gets tired of them, they would still be in good enough condition to pass on or donate to her church — which could end up in one of those ukay-ukay shops in Bambang. But I opted not to tell her about this new crop of shops that have become popular to local shoppers. I was still sleepy and dying to end our phone conversation by then.

Basically from the same distributor, fake name brand sneakers being sold outside in the streets of Divisoria, as well as inside the 168 Mall.

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posted by Señor Enrique at 2:47 AM


Blogger Senorito<- Ako said...

I can understand buying knockoff bags for women. They don't need it to be durable, before the bag is even 'time-tested' another fashion wave cometh.

But fake rubber shoes are not as durable as the originals.

Heck even originals made in Korea are not durable. The pecking order durability-wise for a 'branded' rubber shoes or "kicks" 5 years back was.. Taiwan, China, Korea, Indon/Pinas.

August 14, 2006 5:30 AM  

Blogger ipanema said...

You continually amaze me with your articles. Are you a journalist by any chance?

Counterfeiting has become huge business that governments aren't able to control or perhaps refuse to.

This reminds of big pharmas joining in to produce their own generics. Why give it to other producers who are manufacturing your products, why not do it yourself? Sensible, isn't it? Just like the fashion houses who manufacture it at a lower price. That's better than losing customers.

If you can't beat them, join them.

August 14, 2006 5:59 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

True, S.A., and that is the reason why these items are more popular amongst women.

Yes, these fake athletic footwear do not last that long. Did you know that they even have a hierarchical order in terms of counterfeiting quality -- from Class A- down to Class C? But the look, though, is uniformly astounding! Crazy, huh?

August 14, 2006 6:33 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

I wish, Ipanema! That way from money earned as journalist, I'd be able to afford an awesome digital SLR camera ... hahaha.

But seriously, it's something I learned from Oprah. Yes, Oprah Winfrey! It's the idea of doing something for the sheer fun of it and then releasing it to the universe or to God (my chief editor ... hahaha)

Yes, these drug companies have a 17-year window to exploit their patents and recoup the millions of dollars they had invested in reasearch, FDA approval, and whatnot. So those generics is but another revenue stream to add to their coffers to fund current/future research.

And yes, same exact reasoning behind the fashion industry's outlet shops. Ironically, without the design houses' couture collection and/or initial line of luxury items, they wouldn't be able to establish a good enough "brand name" that would attract licensing deals from various manufacturers (perfumes, leather goods, sunglasses, jewelry, and etc. -- and that is where the real money is -- and where the counterfeiters lurk for opportunities as well.

August 14, 2006 7:12 AM  

Blogger TOW Blog said...

hi senor, pls note that i will always visit your blog to ease my homesickness!

pirated DVD's, designer knock-offs--all coping mechanisms of a country trying to get a piece of the action that everyone shd be entitled to.

a certified divi alumni,

p.s emailed you re the book you want. will give you details soon!

August 14, 2006 8:20 AM  

Blogger ipanema said...

Wow, another Oprah fan. :) Count me in.

August 14, 2006 8:27 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Again, many thanks, Minotte. Very kind of you, indeed!

Speaking of DVDs, I once bought a music concert DVD at SM mall for 1700 pesos. In Quiapo, the same exact DVD sells for only 50 pesos -- after some haggling, 40.

Thanks for making my site a rest stop when feeling homesick -- that sort of gives me a "purpose," actually. To be of service in some small way.

August 14, 2006 8:52 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Cool, Ipanema :)

That woman is truly something else. She deserves every success she has attained!

Even before she really made it big on TV, I was always impressed of her acting skills; in Color Purple, especially.

August 14, 2006 8:56 AM  

Blogger ipanema said...

That's true Eric. I'll post her name in one of the movers & shakers category perhaps. :) I love her Katrina Projects and when she gave out cars!

Sandali, asan na ba tayo? :)

August 14, 2006 11:15 AM  

Blogger Rey said...

Yeah, counterfeit products are everywhere now. From dry goods to chocolates to drugs.

In my very first trip back to phils in 2001, I saw this really great looking branded shoes in a stall with a "get-atta-here" price. I knew then it was knock off but they were done so nicely that i bought 3 different pairs. It only lasted for some months. Now I knew better.

August 14, 2006 11:24 AM  

Blogger Sidney said...

There will always be a market for contrefeit products. Even if the quality of those products are lesser (this is not the case for software, films & music) there will always be people willing to buy them since they can't afford to buy the genuine ones.

August 14, 2006 1:08 PM  

Blogger ipanema said...

That's true Sidney. The fact that they're thriving attest to a growing market.

August 14, 2006 1:41 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Told you, Rey, The look is astounding! You can hardly tell the fake from the real one. I'm sure you learned your lesson; however, for today's kids interested to wear/use them for a couple of months, fine. But those used to having their sneakers last forever, sorry :( Nothin' doin'.

August 14, 2006 3:24 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Sidney, I'm going to echo Ipanema's agreement with you -- there will always be a market willing to consume these products. Like I said, it's the so-called "counterfeit chic phenomenon."

August 14, 2006 3:27 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Counterfeit products - yes, you almost can't tell the difference from the genuine ones. Well, except for perfumes and colognes. They don't last long. Spray now and in a few minutes you need to spray on again. Parang tubig lang.

Eric, please ban me from your blog. I just can't stop reading your entries. And I have books here needing to be read. I might flunk! Hahaha. Funny thing is - my daughter came to me last night with a stern look on her face. She handed me a list of: "Things you haven't done because of blogging." OMG!

January 19, 2007 10:16 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...


Hey Rhoda, I think I found the ideal manager to negotiate a book deal for me -- YOU!


January 19, 2007 11:54 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Really? Me? Puwede rin! Hahaha! Well, FYI, I also edit,write for a local newspaper here... but you are way better than me, and from the look of it - you are an editor's editor.

January 19, 2007 12:13 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

I'm serious! Something for you to do in between law school (para bang dami mong oras no?) hehehe.

January 19, 2007 12:16 PM  

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Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.


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