Let’s Talk About Handbags

I used to feel a deep sense of satisfaction after a ‘bargain hunting’ trip to the shops; new handbag for $20, cool top for $5, cute necklace for $3.. but not anymore. The more I learn about child slavery the more I realise that while I may not be paying much for these items, others are  – dearly. And this is a fact I have chosen not to ignore any longer. In fact, often it’s not a conscious decision not to purchase products which are highly likely to have been produced through slave/child labour; I can practically ‘smell’ it in the store. It’s not necessarily a tangible smell (my nostrils aren’t flaring!) but there’s a definite sense that things just aren’t right (more on that later).

My beautiful friend Lee-Ann encouraged me to write this post. She explained it perfectly:

“I have no doubt that these rip off bags (sold at basement prices in some stalls and shops) are directly linked to child slavery. And western women are fuelling the trade by buying these bags… Fake bags in party plan is rife. I wonder if those girls sipping their champers oooing and ahhing over fake labels would still be oooing and ahhing if we showed a video of the young children making these bags and the conditions they are working in. Not to mention the fact many have probably been sold into slavery to make them.”

Apart from the obvious disadvantage of cheapening and stealing from legitimate designers, there are a few reasons why counterfeit products (not just handbags, these may be fashion, home wares, electrical goods etc) and dirt cheap buys are harmful;

  • SLAVE TRADE: Often (usually!!) these products are made by children and adults who are locked up and forced to work in terrible conditions (aka sweat shops) under “little to no adult supervision.” They’ve often been sold into the trade, much like people are being sold into the sex slave trade. I think we need to understand that this seems to be happening in MOST cases, not ‘sometimes’, not every now again – this is a BOOMING trade. It’s massive. We just don’t see the little kids looked up, working hard to make things for us. Maybe if we could see it, it would seem more real to us. We can easily assume that the products we personally buy were not made by children and/or slaves.. but the overwhelming evidence suggests that they probably were.
  • DODGY BUSINESS SUPPORTS CRIME: Evidence shows that these products, and specifically fake designer bags, support terrorism organisations and international crime groups. I feel like a bit of an air head when I read the stats on this. Crime bosses have noticed how much us western women love a bargain. They also know that, in the past, we’ve turned a blind eye to where they may come from. I hate that!
  • IT’S BAD FOR EVERYONE: Economies suffer, jobs are lost (statistics say up to $250 billion and 750 000 jobs are lost annually in the US as a direct result of illegal, counterfeit manufacturing).

NOTE: Did you know that in the US, shutting down party plan bag selling has become a major priority (due to its links to funding terrorism and crime organisations) that police have started raiding such parties and making arrests! It’s a serious business, not at all the fun, flappy ideal we may have of it.

5 ways to check if something is a fake:

  • Try peeling off the label. If you can, it’s a fake.
  • Genuine products always list the place of manufacture on the label. If it’s not there, it’s a fake.
  • Real pieces are sold at company stores or department stores (not at home parties or street stalls). You know those stalls in the middle of the shopping centre’s with all those cheap bags, purses, clothes, towels etc? They’re usually fakes.
  • Smell the product. Strange odours may signify that the item has been made out of low-quality products (polyurethane, vinyl, plastics) which have been treated to look like leather (See, I told you fakes stink!)
  • Don’t fall for the SALE! signs.. TODAY ONLY! (that sign has been up all year..) If it seems too good to be true (or too cheap!) it is. If the bag is worth $600 and you’ve found one on sale for $50 at some dodgy side stall, it’s a fake.

If you’re after a designer product, surely it’s better to save your pennies and buy the real thing with a happy conscience than to buy a fake, knowing you’ve just contributed to something you’re against.

Personally, I still love a good bargain but I’m a little more savvy about them now. Op shops are like treasure troves and, despite common misconceptions, stores stocking fair trade/ethically made products are often very reasonable with their prices and, just like rival stores, they have great sales and chuck-out baskets! (see below for links to some awesome ethical shops with great prices and products). Thankfully, there are many, many people and companies working to make a positive impact on the world.

Thanks so much to these great websites for all their information. If you want to learn more, check them out:

TheBagForum

BagBliss

eHow

FabulouslyBroke

NARTS

eBayReviews

So, what about you? How do you feel about fakes? Do you sometimes forget to consider where and how things are manufactured? Would you consider purchasing from some of these stores instead?:

Nine50 – Beautiful Peruvian silver jewellery which supports artisans and suppliers by paying cash advances when products are ordered, paying a fair price to artisans and building relationships with them. Nine50 also supports Compassion. (UPDATE:  Big order of beautiful Fairtrade Handbags arriving @Nine50 this week! 247 George Street Windsor or people can join our Facebook Page or Twitter and see/buy new arrivals from there!) Check out Nine50’s facebook page  and follow them on Twitter.

Oxfam – Oxfam stocks a huge range of products – and they have awesome sales too..

Tribes&Nations – Great product range and prices too. I feel so inspired just by looking at this site!

Thanks for reading and I hope you’re having a fantastic week!

Cheers

Joni x

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