Roxy Genier - Luxury Anti-Value - Deception


Plagiarism, Fakery – Luxury Brands May Want To Check Their Closet For Skeletons.

The art of seduction that once swayed consumers to look up to luxury brands seems to have taken a darker twist in the past few years, turning itself into a dance of deception.

Big brand fashion lifting designs from indie makers, white washed labels using African tribes as a prop, airbrushing models, the travel industry piling on the filters, writing whimsical statements about Myanmar and the Maldives without mentioning the political unrest and human rights violations simmering under the surface.

Thievery and fakery shouldn’t be the driving force behind what is supposed to be one of the finest industries in the world – otherwise what precedent are we setting?

Living in an Echo Chamber

Charlotte Parks-Taylor mapped it out in a recent article for Luxury Society, she warned ‘In a post-truth world where the faltering political elite are increasingly recognizing their own precarious status, the custodians of luxury brands must take heed if they are to avoid the same fate as Trump – distrusted, mocked, and maligned.’

While it may seem a dramatic move to compare Gucci and Louis Vuitton with Trump; it’s a stark warning to luxury brands – the echo chamber is over, consumers will no longer blindly fall into line, the spotlight is shining and any stains on the floor are sure to show up.

Roxy Génier - New Luxury - Luxury must never steal from other people, brands, cultures and communities

Brands That Beg, Borrow, and Steal

The line between appropriation and inspiration seems to have become a little blurry and there have been endless accounts of luxury brands begging, borrowing and downright stealing rather than looking for lofty inspiration within.

Take the case of Gucci who copied a jacket from Dapper Dan and then quickly switched the narrative to it being a ‘homage’ as soon as the internet storm started to whip around their ears. Moschino plagiarizing the graffiti work of RIME to adorn their red-carpet dresses. Chanel copycatting Scottish designer Mati Ventrillon after she sold a few pieces to their team. And then even anarchistic fashion icon Vivienne Westwood using Rottingdean Bazaars graphic without permission and then calling it a ‘shout out’ to young London designers.

The line between appropriation and inspiration seems to have become a little blurry.

Riding Off the Back of True Creativity

These are big names with plenty of revenue, riding off the back of young, independent creatives and not even owning the situation when they get called out. These are brands that could be nurturing up and coming designers and artists, rather than taking what isn’t theirs and pretending they are only trying to show respect. Until these young designers get recognition and payout, it is a situation far from respect.

With the rise of social mediathe truth is easy to out, and many of these young designers haven’t been afraid to take to the platform and call out these big brands who have been lifting their unique ideas. Even if independent designers don’t have the resources and the revenue to see the conglomerates in court, once word has spread on social media – the damage to these big businesses is already done.

Until these young designers get recognition and payout, it is a situation far from respect.

Roxy Genier - Luxury Consultant - Deception

The Cringe of Cultural Appropriation

Beyond the borders of creativity, luxury fashion is also starting to be held accountable for cultural appropriation. Valentino’s Africa inspired collection hit the runway back in 2016 during Paris fashion week. It was a collection said to capture the primitive and the wild, but the whole catwalk was completely whitewashed and the Caucasian models wore their hair in cornrows.

Then, for the fashion shoot, the models headed out to Amboseli National Park in Kenya, to stand alongside local Masai people in their wares. The message of tolerance and interaction that Valentino said they were hoping to inspire, came off as completely tone deaf.

The whole narrative turns luxury fashion brands into common thieves.

When Couture Becomes Common Thievery

Dior too, sold a coat for £26,000 with a design that they lifted from the traditional Romanian Bihor people. Of course, the community didn’t see a penny of that profit. Designers need inspiration and the world is brimming with beautiful places, people and rare cultures that get all kinds of creative juices flowing. But we cannot live in a world any longer where we just take and take and call it our own and lap up the success without giving credit where credit is truly due.

The whole narrative turns luxury fashion brands into common thieves, it cheapens the whole market, whittles down the wonder of integrity, it deceives and takes the buyer for granted.

How long will we accept all these lies?

Manipulation in the Travel Market

With the rise of Instagram and in an age of social influencers, the art of deception has also seeped into the travel industry. We are all guilty of adding a filter here and there to our holiday snaps, of brightening the colors, and changing the light. Why not? It makes things look prettier; the sea suddenly changes from navy to turquoise, and the sky goes from silver and grey to gorgeous blue.

Studies have shown that more than a third of millennials manipulate their travel images to make a place look better than it actually is. Forty percent of millennials said they considered how instagramable a place was when choosing their next travel destination, and where did they get the know how on this? You guessed it Instagram. But those images were doctored in the first place, the lie is being passed down the line.

The Lies Instagram Tells Us

For example; popular Instagram account @doyoutravel posted a glorious picture of the Pinnawala Elephant Sanctuary in Sri Lanka. A dreamy image of a young carefree couple gazing from a cliff down at a herd of elephants bathing and playing in the water. The picture racked up thousands and thousands of likes. Other travelers and bloggers took the sojourn to the same spot to bask in the beauty and saw the reality the picture failed to capture – the elephants were chained to the bottom of the river.

This isn’t just a one off. This is a trend that is spotted at every angle of the travel market – from personal blogs to big brands. Airbrushing other tourists out from the Taj Mahal, removing litter from the base of the Egyptian pyramids, and even turning drunken party beaches into idyllic strips of sand.

We live in an era of fake news and fake photos.

Influencers, Fans and Fakery

Social influencers are major game players in the changing face of travel, but when you have influencers who are paid to post about a place, who are under pressure to get endless attention on these posts, then there is a heightened risk of fakery behind the scenes.

Take travel influencer Amelia Liana who has worked with enormous brands like Burberry and Yves Saint Laurent. She was recently called out for supposedly superimposing her own image over landmark destinations after one fan spotted her iconic New York skyline picture had the Freedom Tower completely missing.

One of her followers and fellow blogger Laurzrah said “Instagram, by nature, encourages us to post a filtered image focusing on the highlights of our life but there’s a difference when Instagrammers choose to create a fantasy and pass that off as reality. When you factor in money and young influential fans as well, I think such a level of delusion edges towards being fraudulent.”

Selling Disappointment

The point of this exercise isn’t to name call and point fingers; its to show that we run the risk of filling our lives with pretty photoshopped propaganda and encouraging other people to aspire to lies. When an audience looks up to us, don’t we have a duty to showcase the truth so that people are able to make better formed opinions to make their decisions. Do we really want to be responsible for selling disappointment?

We live in an era of fake news and fake photos; we have mistaken the search for happiness with the search for an instagramable life and as a result, we mostly end up feeling vapid, hollow, and pretty terrible about these experiences, places and products that are supposed to bring joy to our world.

But once we clear the cobwebs from our eyes and take deception of the table, maybe we can gift experiences that truly resonate. Maybe we can swap out the bitter taste of disappointment for a breath of fresh air.

Going Back to Our Roots

New Luxury is about going back to the beautifully unrefined roots of authenticity. Because at least then brands breathe authenticity and they give the consumer the respect they deserve.

In the free market, consumers should be trusted to make their own choices based on fact and truth, so they can pick brands that align with their own belief system.

Not only is this important on an ethical level, but it also gifts brands and their creators the chance to truly be smart, creative, and innovative without the sword of an expose swinging over their heads. Afterall, isn’t this the true beauty of luxury.

Now that we have  learned about the dangers of deception, let’s explore the solution.

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