Counterfeit Pandemic in department stores of Paris, or how Galerie Lafayette and Printemps go vintage. Story by Eleonora de Gray, Editor-in-Chief of RUNWAY MAGAZINE.
Paris Fashion Week created another “trend”, or better say a fungus of luxury – Counterfeit. In September two of my favorite stores, the place of my shopping and my absolute fidelity, proudly announced their new project – the special departments dedicated to luxury vintage, luxury 2d hand. This project both department stores started to prepare already this summer, and announced the opening in September.
It is obvious that luxury vintage departments are a great idea, and especially now when we all think about ecology, recycling, and so on. Luxury pieces are always luxury pieces because of their quality, name, and history. They have ultimate and timeless value. This is obvious.
Galerie Lafayette and Printemps gave special dedicated space, proposed various services in vintage departments from reparation to absolute transformation of luxury pieces. And it’s where the companies who offer counterfeit goods squeezed in. Each store got one company like that. And this is quite dramatic. How ever they could get in?!
Counterfeit or not Counterfeit – this is the question
You would probably imagine that these companies who you see in Galerie Lafayette and Printemps vintage departments propose fake Chanel or fake Gucci. No, they don’t, but counterfeit is not that simple. Let me ask you couple of simple questions:
Imagine you have a very old Louis Vuitton bag, so loved and used, that it has holes everywhere and in condition of “no repair”. And you also have a couple of very old jewelry from Chanel, which is also gone in pieces. You own and love these wonderful items but you can no longer use them the way they were meant by these luxury brands. So you think, why don’t I bring them to a tailor and ask to customize your jacket or jeans. And you obviously own Levis. So you ask your tailor to customize your Levis jeans or Levis jacket with what’s left from Louis Vuitton bag and Chanel. Would it be wrong?
The answer is – NO. You own these pieces from Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Levis. And you can do whatever you want with them, and go creative as you like. You can ask your tailor to put Hermes scarf on the back of your Levis jacket. You own – you play. You mix and match your luxury pieces with denim YOU OWN to your full content.
Verified FACT. Levis today proposes a tailor shop – customization of anything you own from Levis, and the way you like. I went to the flag store of Levis on Champs-Élysées where they have the best Levi’s tailor shop, if they can use my old Louis Vuitton, Hermes and Chanel pieces and customize my Levis jeans. The answer was – absolutely NOT. Why not? The luxury brands like Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Chanel and others have intellectual property (copyright, trademark etc) legal protection for the all items they produce, so the other brands can’t re-tailor them even by the customer request.
So now back to the companies in vintage departments of Galerie Lafayette and Printemps. These vintage departments were composed of several companies proposing vintage, chosen by Galerie Lafayette and Printemps.
Imagine you don’t own Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Hermes old pieces, you don’t ask your tailor to customize anything, you just go to the vintage department of one of these stores and you see Levis jeans with back pockets decorated by Louis Vuitton canvas, and front pockets with Chanel buttons, you also see Levis jacket customized with Hermes scarf. And even better, you see a badly sewed hat – half Dior and half Burberry, Adidas and Celine hybrid coat. There’s a price tag attached to these items. You check the price and it is very very high, as it corresponds to the price of Louis Vuitton or Chanel luxury items.
For example, Levis jeans with Chanel buttons and Louis Vuitton back pockets cost 550 euros, Levis jacket customized with Hermes scarf 1500 euros, hybrid Dior Burberry hat cost 420 euros, hybrid Adidas Celine coat cost 1180 euros, a blouse with Celine label on the pocket 740 euros etc.
And the seller of one of these “vintage” companies proudly explains the concept – these are vintage items, customized Levis, recycled and even better – REINVENTED with Chanel, Louis Vuitton or Hermes details (together with Dior, Celine and many others)!
Do you think these “reinvented” remodeled items are counterfeit or not? YES!
It is counterfeit, as re-tailoring, or any kind of modification without authorization of the owners / producers of these items for commercial purposes (reselling) is ILLEGAL!
Let’s add here that Chanel, for example, didn’t give any authorization for re-modeling the items they produce, they also didn’t give an authorization for mix-and-match them with Louis Vuitton and Levis brands. All modifications done “in the house”. Reselling contract of luxury brands clearly states that all modifications of the items by resellers are forbidden!
And I add here one of the companies producing counterfeit goods and selling them in Galerie Lafayette and Printemps (FRANÇOISE Paris – Printemps) dare even to add their own label on these modified items, as if these items (fabrics with the logos) were manufactured by them.
ILLEGALTWICE! Only modification without authorization of the brands has been done by this company, but nothing has been produced by them.
BY LUXE / MONOGRAM – Counterfeit goods seller in Galerie Lafayette, or Mary, Mary, quite contrary, How does your counterfeit grow?
BY LUXE / MONOGRAM – Counterfeit goods seller company in the vintage department of Galerie Lafayette. The famous Levis jacket with Hermes scarf, and Levis jeans with Louis Vuitton back pocket, and Chanel buttons on front pockets are their production among others. The company, founded by Beverly Sonego, sells vintage items, having in-store and digital sales. The counterfeit concept was announced by Beverly Sonego in May 2021, and largely advertised on the company instagram. The counterfeit items appeared in Galerie Lafayette already in August 2021. The counterfeit items were prepared mostly for the period of Paris Fashion Week, and obviously “proudly” presented.
Owner of Monogram Beverly Sonego started her adventure in vintage in 2017 under the name “By Luxe”. The idea of counterfeit didn’t come to her right away. In 2021 she paid massive advertising for her activities. Several articles in different French media outlets, even the reportage in France 2 national TV channel were “to die for”.
She praised herself for the achievement, for production of counterfeit in vintage I suppose: “We are a team of women and I am at the head of this company as a business leader but also as a muse… We will see ourselves in ten years with international renown, as the main players in responsible luxury consumption.” (article in La Provence). In article to Paris Capital, August 20, 2021, Beverly Sonego explained that “This entity intends to make the luxury market accessible to as many people as possible, by offering items at attractive prices from historic houses (Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Hermès … ) and pointed claws ( Jacquemus, Off-White, Yeezy …)… Also to discover: a line of jeans and denim jackets customized with buttons, canvas cutouts and inserts from luxury houses.”
Another publicity / article came in Fashion United, in September 14, 2021: “The Galeries Lafayette launched (Re)Store , a space entirely devoted to second hand and responsible fashion. Among the companies that feature in this space is Monogram, a major player in the second-hand market.”
In this article I found some very interesting detail: “In 2018, Monogram announced a turnover of around 500 000 euros; In 2019, it rose to more than 2 million euros and the year 2020, with the arrival of the health crisis, this figure has doubled to reach 5 million euros. “Today in 2021, we are targeting 10 million euros”, anticipates the founder.” These numbers didn’t come from somewhere, they were given to the media outlet, as it is clearly stated, by Beverly Sonego herself.
Strangely enough 1 month later, on October 18 2021 Beverly Sonego gave completely different numbers of her “grow” to France 2 TV, she said that today her growth in 2020 is 60 million euros. 1 month and such a fast “grow” – from 2 to 60 millions euros. Checking the public records and declaration of this company (Infogreffe records) I see that turnover for 2018 is 1,4 million, for 2019 the declarations were not even filed, and for 2020 the declarations are not available to the public.
Talking about providing “false information” and the real financial state of the company…
Couple more questions I might add: Is that all fake and counterfeit in Monogram by Beverly Sonego? Is this growth planned on production of counterfeit goods or not? How long will this company plan to fool the public? And how long will it take after reading these numbers for Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Hermes to start legal actions against this company for production of counterfeit goods?
Hands Up!!!! Applause to the legal department of Galerie Lafayette! Legal department probably didn’t see the counterfeit goods of Monogram at the beginning, but they are checking their sellers from time to time, so they spotted counterfeit items rather quickly, and demanded Monogram to remove them sometime in October. Seller explained to me that Galerie Lafayette’s legal department demanded the removal of these “fancy jeans and jackets” with Chanel and Louis Vuitton “because you understand… it is Chanel… but not Chanel”.
So the understanding that they produce counterfeit goods is here, even by the salesmen. But apparently Beverly Sonego and her associates didn’t understand that her production is illegal. Removing counterfeit items from Galerie Lafayette – is one thing, but having them in their showroom available for purchase is another. The seller at Monogram store said to me that I “can still buy these “fancy” jeans and jackets in their showroom”. So even the counterfeit items are no longer presented in the Galerie Lafayette, but they are still offered in Monogram store, and offered to buy in their showroom.
Department store Printemps also got a counterfeit goods producer company in their vintage department, as if it is some sort of “Counterfeit Pandemic”, or “ Counterfeit Bacteria” maliciously distributed by some Bureau of Style to the companies. But from where did this “Counterfeit Bacteria” come from? Who produced it? It was produced in France by French, 3 years ago, made its world tour and came back to France.
I’ll come to it in the next chapters.
FRANÇOISE Paris – Counterfeit goods seller in Printemps, or “Rare Luxury Sourcing”
The beautiful place, the new wonder of Printemps, 7th floor dedicated to luxury vintage, designed with love and given with care to the wonderful vintage luxury pieces archives, and to young tailors and artists. Diversity and creative approach of this new space in Printemps with a terrace is breathtaking.
And therefore this is saddens even more to find in this great place a producer of the counterfeit goods – FRANÇOISE Paris (3615 FRANÇOISE – 2018) by Johanna Senyk. She is definitely so happy to be there: “This 7 th floor project is the largest vintage and ethical fashion edit in the world. FRANÇOISE Collection is made in France with rare luxury sourcing,” – announced Johanna Senyk on her instagram.
What exactly does she call “rare luxury sourcing” you might ask? The counterfeit! She indeed produces, or to be precise badly sewed pieces together – the hybrids Dior / Burberry, Celine / Adidas, and very highly priced. And by the way the so-called “collection” is not made in France, as pieces she uses from Adidas made in China, Burberry pieces she uses are made in England. Yes, she sewed them in France. But she didn’t make them, to start with. Although she doesn’t hesitate to put her label on all these counterfeit items.
And I can’t applaud the legal department or direction of Printemps. Johanna Senyk also introduced her “rare luxury sourcing” for Paris Fashion Week in September. And all counterfeit pieces are still there. No one from the Legal Department of Printemps checked the activities of 7th floor.
Johanna Senyk opened her counterfeit goods production under the name FRANÇOISE Paris in 2018, although since then she never declared her accounts (Infogreffe records). So it let’s us assume that she goes completely “pay – black” and doesn’t declare how much she earns from selling counterfeit goods.
Shocking, isn’t it?
How could these kind of sellers even exist in Galerie Lafayette and Printemps, you might ask?
There’s a perfect explanation for that.
How Francois-Henri Pinault, CEO of Kering, released “Counterfeit Bacteria” on the world, and how counterfeit goods designer Dapper Dan became sponsor of New York Fashion Week and honored with lifetime achievement award
François-Henri Pinault, French businessman, the chairman and CEO of luxury fashion group Kering, in 2017 invested in counterfeit goods tailor Dapper Dan known in Harlem in 1990s.
In short designer, or more appropriate tailor, Dapper Dan in 1990s was taking logos from the fashion brands like Louis Vuitton and Gucci, printed them on the fabrics, or he purchased jackets or dresses or other luxury items from Louis Vuitton and Gucci, and then “re-modeled” them, and tailored the custom outfits – sportswear bombers or long t-shirts with the Louis Vuitton and Gucci logos for the druglords and rap singers. He was doing EXACTLY what these little French companies in vintage departments do today in Galerie Lafayette and Printemps (so this counterfeit concept is not new). Fashion brands filed massive lawsuit against him, he was chased by FBI, and finally they were able to close his atelier in Harlem, and reclaim the penalties for his illegal actions, violations of their intellectual property rights. Read the story about the counterfeit in 1990s and who is Dapper Dan HERE.
In 2017 Francois-Henri Pinault took a decision to unite Gucci (luxury brand which belongs to Kering) and Dapper Dan and relaunched Dapper Dan as a by-appointment studio for custom pieces. Dapper Dan himself was even starring in Gucci’s new men’s-tailoring ad campaign.
My understanding of this investment in Dapper Dan, which caused the results we have today and counterfeit problem:
I’m asking myself a question – is that some strange way of Kering to “outsmart” LVMH? Gucci belongs to the Group Kering, Luxury goods company. Louis Vuitton belongs to LVMH – another Luxury goods company. And back in the 90s Dapper Dan used mostly Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Fendi logos, mixing and matching them up. It is known that Kering and LVMH for more than 50 years had a war for territory in the luxury market. So when in 2017 Gucci invested to re-opened an atelier in Harlem for Dapper Dan, invested to clean up his reputation, paid media (and specifically to one), made him sponsor of New York Fashion Week, there is a reason for that. Tailoring method, or as Dapper Dan calls it “designs”, which were used with Louis Vuitton logos today remade with the logos of Gucci. Is it another way, quiet pervert I might add, to take territory from LVMH? The perversity of it all, mind games if you like, would be this investment in Dapper Dan of François-Henri Pinault, CEO of Kering, with desire to “outsmart” Bernard Arnault, CEO of LVMH, and take the “territory” which is definitely outside of law, in the dark side, belonged to LVMH in the past. Although this mind game of Francois-Henri Pinault has a very dark outcome. He didn’t think about circumstances, how it’ll affect sociality, and what destructive results it could bring worldwide just 3 years after. Bringing Dapper Dan to the light side, paying the media to clean up his reputation, naming him “true genius”, made him sponsor of New York Fashion week, give him lifetime achievement award by CFDA in 2021 opened up a path to legitimize all illegal producers, counterfeit designers. And started “Counterfeit Pandemic”.
In 2018 Vogue became promotion outlet for Dapper Dan, in 2019 Vogue invited as a guest of honor Dapper Dan to The Met Gala, invited stars to visit his atelier in Harlem. And in 2021 Pepsi proposed to create the collection Pepsi x Dapper Dan and offered sponsorship to New York Fashion Week organizers.
The shadowy business of counterfeits has taken over the globe to become a $1.2 trillion industry. Despite extensive and expensive efforts by brands, by law enforcement, efforts of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (“OECD”) and the European Union Intellectual Property Office (“EUIPO”), this shadowy business became the center of the attention during this New York Fashion Week 2021, and the most known designer / tailor of counterfeit goods Dapper Dan was honored by lifetime achievement award for his counterfeit goods production in 90s from its organizer CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America). Read the story HERE.
From 2017 to 2021 it took only 3 years for the “Counterfeit Bacteria” to spread up and become a “Counterfeit Pandemic”, which we are facing today in the department stores in Paris like Galerie Lafayette and Printemps.
Michael Kors and Fendace concept (Fendi and Versace collaboration) against Counterfeit
What is the story without happy ending? Michael Kors didn’t accept the new politics of American Fashion Federation (CFDA), didn’t approve the nomination of a counterfeit goods tailor with lifetime achievement award, his sponsorship of New York Fashion Week. He predicted the “Counterfeit Pandemic” and decided to confront it in the most creative way – with the concept. Capri Holdings Limited, a multinational fashion holding company, founded and owned by American designer Michael Kors, since 2018 owns Versace – the most popular luxury brand, and the one being the most exposed to counterfeit.
Michael Kors proposed a concept to Donatella Versace and Fendi to create a mix-match collection and united their logos and styles. If public want to see Versace and Fendi logos in one luxury item, so let’s create it for them in one outfit and by these brands. This absolutely brilliant concept had a huge success during Milan Fashion Week this September. The collection Versace and Fendi got a name FENDACE. Donatella Versace leaded this project. Michael Kors even flew to Milan for the show. Read this story HERE.
For the sake of an argument, Francois-Henri Pinault in 2020 showed the concept of united Gucci and Balenciaga, the luxury brands he owns, in one collection and mixed logos. But from the looks of it, this was not an action of a man who understood what a “Counterfeit Pandemic” he spread into the world, and tried to fix it. It was an action of a man, who carelessly played with his toys, or some sort of another “Fashion Frankenstein”, in which he putt together the body parts of the dead men. See this collection HERE.
We can obviously should hope that department stores in Paris like Galerie Lafayette and Printemps will be able to stop this “Counterfeit Pandemic” at least in their stores. And they could be the “final frontier” where this pandemic stops. Inviting emerging designers, or young concept store owners to participate and create together beautiful space is a wonderful idea. And it could be protected and free from any counterfeit. And here we all are…
Eleonora de Gray, Editor-in-Chief of RUNWAY MAGAZINE