Festival de Cannes: A heady mix of luxury, aspirations and counterfeits

Palais des Festival, Cannes: I had the opportunity of having a brief conversation with French actor Marion Cotillard (of The Dark Knight Rises, Inception, A Good Year fame) at the Palais des Festival in Cannes, France. She congratulated me on the selection of my debut movie as a lead actor by Cannes jury and then said, “So you also are a luxury writer? Did you find anything interesting here?” I told her that we journalists/writers have a nose for stories, especially in strange places. Marion was wearing a Dior Haute Couture dress, Dior shoes, and Chopard jewellery.

But this piece is not about the razzle dazzle of the Cannes red carpet stars, it is about the people who get ready in their (fake) designer-labelled tuxedoes and gowns and stand outside the barricade from dawn with a placard held high,desperately seeking a pass for screening in the evening. It is also about the co-existence of the dazzling luxury stores and the extensive use of counterfeits or first copies or fake designer labels by people.

It was my first screening experience at the coveted Festival de Cannes, my first humble “so-called red carpet” moment at Cannes Court Métrageand little did I realise how this is an aspiration for so many – young and old – whoare ready in their best rented attires since dawn, begging for a pass. I spoke to one of them to understand how it works.

Julia is an independent graphic designer. She had come in a classic-Valentino-red-gown-look alike. The first red carpet screening will be at 6.30 pm (Cannes time). She will wait with baited breath for 12 straight hours and keep begging for a pass. And some lucky ones do get passes this way, every day. She has rented this counterfeit for Euro 100 for five days. The original Valentino would have needed two more zeroes. She will try her luck. She will wait every day till she gets one. She told me there is a huge market for such copies of designer labels that are available for rent, for men as well as for women. To an untrained eye it is as good as the original. “To me, this is a Valentino”, she told me with a pride of ownership.

The razzle dazzle of luxury brands generate, although unwittingly, a parallel market --a market for counterfeits. The luxury-crazed non-stars want to flaunt as well just like the stars that shine on the red carpet. The dominance of fakes and counterfeits at Cannes amazed me. Every second person, across genders, are flaunting labels, and almost all of them are counterfeits. The most prevalent was in the categories of accessories and leather goods – bags, belts, sunglasses, watches, what have you.

I saw the biggest of the boutiques of all the coveted luxury brands along the Cannes Riviera, but I also witnessed the biggest counterfeit show that surpassed these genuine labels by living mannequins, the non-stars. These non-stars sported amazing variations of Louis Vuitton monogram and Gucci logos, I am sure Marc Jacobs or Tom Ford would have found it interesting too (they were once creative directors at LV and Gucci, respectively).

What I admired the most was the way they were flaunting the counterfeits, with such élan and elegance. To them, they were as good as real.

But at the end a fake is a fake. It is bound to hit the luxury market hard. And this dominance and growth is due to a wrong branding strategy by most of the luxury brand custodians. They give so much attention to branding labels and making them aspirational, that the story of exquisite craftsmanship and design, somehow takes a backseat. A buyer needs to appreciate why the label has become so aspirational and only then they will not opt for a fake Omega, just because they see George Clooney sporting that logo on the red carpet.



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