Fake Branded Clothing

An Exploration of Its Presence in a European Periphery

Magda Craciun, PhD Student in Material Culture, University College London  e.craciun@ucl.ac.uk
ordinary socks in turnu magurele.jpgA widespread phenomenon, re-production is morally and legally contested and combated, culturally derided, and socially dismissed as belonging to the lower social strata. I am interested in approaching it in its everyday complexity, by focusing on the lives of objects, and meanings and consequences of their presence; on practices, and preoccupations of people living in the vicinity of these objects; on institutions these objects bring together; and on the trans-national routes along which these clothing items move.

In order to grasp as much as possible of this complexity, I have designed
a multi-sided ethnography, choosing as field sites Istanbul (the main regional
producer of fakes); “Europa” market on the outskirts of Bucharest (considered
the source of 80% of the counterfeited goods on the Romanian market); and Turnu
Magurele (a provincial town in south Romania, chosen for its typical clothing-scape,
in which “Europa” clothing predominates).

These interests have led to me following
up many promising trails. In Turnu Magurele, I have started by scrutinizing
the clothing-scape and its sources, establishing the basic conditions of my
ethnography; investigating different aspects of people’s relationship to clothing,
i.e. the formation of a systematic discourse about clothing and social re-differentiation,
budgeting, dreaming, satisfaction and dissatisfaction, wardrobe as financial
capital, and respectability. Within the next site, a huge still expanding commercial
area, fakes are a tiny part of the merchandise. Since its opening in the mid
1990s, “Europa” market has become part and parcel of everyday life in Romania,
substantially contributing to the local material world.  I also paid attention
to the ethnic interactions that shape the market experience. This almost illegal
site being a battleground on which economic interests of Arabs, Turks, Chinese,
Roma and Romanian groups collide. I took into account the way visitors and non-visitors
represent it, as “Europa”/Europe to be left behind. I am now exploring the third
field site, Istanbul, where the main goal is the ethnography of production,
of the workshops where the making of original brands, fakes and local brands
is closely intertwined. In brief, I have entered the underbelly that supports
the visible and the acknowledged. Fake goods are revealing themselves as a means
to transport people from one experience to another.
Right now I am still in the middle of my fieldwork, but i would be very interested indeed to hear from anyone else who is working on related topics or would want to be involved in expanding this field of the anthropology of fake brands.

clothing shops, Turnu Magurele.jpg Merter, textile district, Istanbul.jpg
Clothing Shops, Turnu Magurele Merter Textile District, Instanbul

Fire in Europa, Bucharest.jpg

Fire in Europa, Bucharest

Grand Bazaar, Istanbul.jpg
Grand Bazaar, Instanbul