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Since when did 'knockoffs' become so damn cool? 

Catchy t-shirts and accessories that poke fun at fashion houses like Hermès, Céline and Saint Laurent (or the house formerly known as Yves Saint Laurent) are becoming as ubiquitous as the fashion houses themselves. The witty slogans, such as Aint Laurent Without Yves and Céline Me Alone, are championed by celebrities, fashion bloggers and Instagrammers galore. But the designers they celebrate have mixed reviews.

 

       

To wear, or not to wear?

 

Designer Hedi Slimane of the recently re-named Saint Laurent has even gone so far as to punish retail partners that carry these parody products. Last month Saint Laurent pulled out of Colette in Paris for carrying t-shirts that spoofed the label. Is this a case deserving of punishment, or more like a case of biting the hand that feeds you?

On the other hand, designers like Donatella Versace have embraced counterfeit culture and are using it to gain more brand exposure and, like any smart business, turn a little profit. Last month Versus Versace and rapper M.I.A. unveiled a new capsule collection they had collaborated on that was inspired by all the fake Versace sold on the streets. Rather than viewing imitation as a threat, Donatella saw flattery (and a business opportunity), and inserted her voice into the dialogue rather than try to silence it. That's smart business IMHO. 

These clever products push old, established brands into the fashion zeitgeist. A totally free marketing opportunity that will certainly not damage brand equity. If anything, they make the brand even more valuable. They are not in the same classification as fake Louis Vuitton bags on Canal Street...they are creative, unique and something the fashion brands should listen to, not try to snuff out of existence.

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