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Talking Business: Tackling counterfeiting from the catwalks

Commercial ops director and fraud specialist Stuart Fuller explains another perk of “see now, buy now”.

Stuart fuller 1

Stuart fuller 1

This week thousands of fashionistas, celebrities and industry professionals descended on the capital to catch their first glimpse of the latest collections produced by the world’s most renowned designers during London Fashion Week. Lurking among the fashion fans, however, would also have been fraudsters seeking to produce counterfeit versions of the designs.

Counterfeit designer clothing and accessories are the most common articles detained at European Union borders for infringing intellectual property rights. Fake fashion goods make up more than one-10th of all seizures and more than half the total value of goods captured.

And as fashion brands increasingly use social media platforms to debut their new collections to grow their brand presence, they also increase the risk of fraudsters using the images to infringe their intellectual property rights. In the UK, complaints about counterfeit goods advertised on Facebook have rocketed 400% since 2010. Since the start of 2015 2,000 websites that sold fake luxury items have been taken down.

However, brands are developing innovative ideas to showcase their latest designs to their customers, and beat the counterfeits to the shelves. In response to customer demand for greater choice and speed, and retailers’ requests to stock new collections earlier and earlier so they can remain competitive, some brands are offering a “see now, buy now” concept.

During New York Fashion Week earlier this month, Ralph Lauren launched “see now, buy now” from its catwalk show at its flagship store on Madison Avenue to an audience of retailers, buyers, editors and top customers. The new collection was unveiled at the store and was available for sale immediately afterwards at Ralph Lauren stores around the world.

Similarly, during London Fashion Week this week, Topshop Unique launched its “runway to retail” initiative, whereby a selection the high street retailer’s high-end collection was available to customers in store and online immediately after it was shown on the catwalk.

Both Ralph Lauren and Topshop Unique follow in the footsteps of Burberry, Tom Ford and Tommy Hilfiger, all of which debuted “see now, buy now” collections this season.

By taking this approach, the brands may have unwittingly created a barrier for counterfeiters. In reducing the time to market for new collections, fraudsters have minimal time to manufacture counterfeit stock before the genuine lines appear in store.

In addition, by reducing the time that customers need to wait to get their hands on the new season stock in store, consumers are less likely to be tempted to make online orders from unofficial sources.

Counterfeiting remains high on the agenda of many luxury brands, 70% of which consider loss of revenue from counterfeit goods to be their biggest challenge on the internet today. To protect their reputations and revenues, fashion companies must proactively defend their designs online, identify the greatest threats to their brand and seek to remove infringements. 

Stuart Fuller is director of commercial operations at NetNames, part of Corporation Service Company, a global provider of corporate domain management and online brand protection services



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