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


  1. Thanks for this overview of your fascinating project Magda. I’d be very interested in hearing some more about whether or not these objects are thought of as fakes (e.g. not the authentic article) or as authentic still because of the brand markings that they carry. It reminds me of Naomi Klein’s discussion in No Logo, in which, if I remember it correctly, she emphasises the purchase that brands have, even if they aren’t manufactured with official sanction (e.g. all publicity is good publicity)… Certainly my experience of shopping in New York city’s canal street is that there isn’t much between fakes and non-fakes on the surface (underneath you have obvious price and quality differences). I would be quite happy (in theory of course!) to carry a fake prada handbag for instance e if it’s nice leather) as I feel like I get to participate in the brand without paying for it, or taking it too seriously… As a thinking consumer, purchasing fakes also draw your attention to the inequalities and dynamics of the marketplace. It’s alright to buy a Nike object made in a sweatshop in Cambodia, in an official Nike place of production – but not ok to transfer this profit into a potentially more distributed informal economy?

  2. Dear Magda,
    I was really pleased to hear this update on your research as it’s been a while since we’ve last seen each other here at UCL. Is it too early to ask what does Nike/Adidas track suit or Diesel jeans mean in Romanian context? What message (if any) does someone who wears this item communicates to others in Romania? I remember that soon after the collapse of Yugoslavia in early 1990s, Belgrade markets with fake brands were flourishing: partly because domestic textile industry shared the faith of Yugoslavia – it collapsed, partly because famous weekend shopping trips from Belgrade to Trieste stopped because of the war, and partly because the war brought the new aesthetics defined by popular criminals (shaved head, thick golden chain with a cross, fake diesel jeans, fake nike track suit top tucked in the jeans, and original nike running shoes) and turbo-folk semi-naked bleached singers (fake kitschy D&G, fake Versace, fake perfumes, fake tons of make-up…). Wearing fake Nike, Versace, Diesel or D&G in Belgrade in the 1990s was a political statement which meant that one was aligning with Milosevic’s new Serbia. I wonder how were fake brands appropriated in the neighbouring Romania and what kind of statement did it have there?

  3. hello
    Im an aspiring retailer/wholesale sales rep. caught in a maze of q&a , where I have recently encoutered the big question of ” what is branded clothing”
    you have hit the nail on the head as I wondered why the gucci and versace jeans were so inexpensive.Needless to say,I M interested in learning about this epidemic and am wondering if it is rampid in the usa.Willcontinue to research and look forward to sharing more findings with each other.

  4. Dear Magda,
    I only came across your research update today. It is such an original and fascinating project. I can not wait to read more about your findings once you are back from the field. I thought that because you are busy collecting all that wonderful data you might not be aware of Elizabeth Vann’s (in American Anthropologist, 2006) recent discussion about notions of the fake and the authentic in Vietnam, which might offer an interesting comparison.

  5. hi!
    I’m trying to write a term paper on the ethnography of clothing. Do you know where I might start – some good sources I should check out?

  6. Hi there! I’m interested on what you wrote about fake branded clothing,yeah definitely it’s like a disease outbreak not only in U.S. but also in Asia. Distributing,selling or supporting fake brand of clothing is against the law,so it is so alarming to some wholesale clothing and apparel supplier that sells branded clothing,there must be an action that authority to implement to apprehend those store who sells fake branded clothing.

  7. Hi!
    Hi there, thank you for this post, im interested in your post, so you know what’s the fake and the branded right? And i believe that there are many ways how to look a fake brand, clothing and other stuff. Not like Business Suits have a branded name, tuxedo, blazers, zoot suit and other stuff have branded and not fake brand.

  8. Definitely a fake branded clothes is exactly a piracy that pulling down our economic status so I preferred to purchase item on my respective and trusted store for example buying clothes or accessories on a wholesale clothes supplier that offer an original branded shirt.I’m looking forward for your new post,thanks.

  9. Thanks for your lovely article. I really admire your writting.m interested in your post, so you know what’s the fake and the branded right? And i believe that there are many ways how to look a fake brand, clothing and other stuff.Wholesale Clothingin this article. Thanks for sharing such an informative article with us

Leave a Reply