Counterfeits as a fashion brand building tool

Gomorrah – A Personal Journey into the Violent International Empire of Naples’ Organized Crime System
By Roberto Saviano

P. 42
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Besides, the clans weren’t ruining the brands’ image, but simply taking advantage of their advertising and symbolic charisma. The garments they turned out were not inferior and didn’t disgrace the brands’ quality or design image. Not only did the clans not create any symbolic competition with the designer labels, they actually helped promote products whose market price made them prohibitive to the general public. In short, the clans were promoting the brand. If hardly anyone wears a label’s clothes, if they’re seen only on live mannequins on the runway, the market. slowly dies and the prestige of the name declines. What’s more, the Neapolitan factories produced counterfeit garments in sizes that the designer labels, for the sake of their image, do not make. But the clans certainly weren’t going to trouble themselves about image when there was a profit to be made. Through the true fake business and income from drug trafficking, the Secondigliano clans acquired stores and shopping centers where genuine articles were increasingly mixed in with the fakes, thus erasing any distinction. In a way the System sustained the legal fashion empire in a moment of crisis; by taking advantage of sharply rising prices, it continued to promote Italian-made goods throughout the world, earning exponential sums.
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Steve Madden NYC Meat Market billboard

Steve Madden NYC Meat Market billboard on Little West 12th

This Steve Madden billboard is installed on Little West 12th Street, off of 9th Avenue.

Back in 1967, the Jefferson Airplane’s Grace Slick sang of pills that make you larger. How very long ago that was becomes obvious by glancing at this Steve Madden billboard. The contemporary Alice of the city streets isn’t interested in expanding consciousness. What she wants to grow are her breasts, her head, and her feet — with the focus on the feet.

This Steve Madden Big Head Girl ad is using a different concept than the ones from the ’90s. Those images portrayed adult women with the Big Head feature expressing interaction. When speaking with someone — or even just gazing at a person with the hope of conversation — one looks at the face. Then, the head nearly fills your field of vision with the rest of the body foreshortened. The new graphic is a surreal representation of a child.

The billboard shows a pre-adolescent girl trying on her mother’s hat and shoes. Magically, though there’s nothing in the picture to lead us to think that her brain is brimming with ideas, the auburn haired head has blown up like a balloon to fill the hat. Similarly, the feet — erect and stiff with straps — have swollen to fill the shoes. With the ramped-up footwear the little lady of 2011 is a big girl now.

It’s sad to think that any adult woman is haunted by her body image as a twelve-year-old, like a physical version of the Flowers for Algernon artificial genius Charlie tortured by the presence of himself as a challenged child. And isn’t this the great horrible doubt that torments the American Faith’s belief in the After? That all those Befores alone by the telephone in the nation’s night will send in their coupons only never to be Charles Atlas or even the Life of the Party.

As the New York City Meatpacking District’s streets are paved with rough cobble stones, there’s no better place to view the injury that women inflict on themselves by wearing high-heeled pedal monstrosities. Barely able to keep from falling while trying to cross the uneven streets, women so ball and chained often need to be physically supported by their male companions. The contrast between the marketing’s illusory promise of somehow morphing into a strong woman — miraculously becoming like William Gibson’s female enforcer Sally Shears, who wore heavy boots for a “job” in Mona Lisa Overdrive — and the insulting reality of fashionable foot binding disguised as self-improvement is stark. This is similar to cigarette advertising’s Marlboro Man false offer of rugged individualism when tobacco’s truth is dependency and infirmity, a complete reversal of fact, a Big Lie.

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For some time, the lights over this sign did not turn on at night, and so the ad was only visible during the day. As the winter daylight hours are short and the area’s night life is active, the lack of nocturnal visibility was not easy to understand. Did the advertiser forget to pay the electric bill? Did a squirrel chew through the wire? Was it just a long time before anyone ever checked to see if the lights were working? This evening (01/07/11), just one light out of 3 is providing illumination.

Aldo Times Square billboards

Aldo Times Square billboard

This ad involved tremendous expense at every step: developing the concept, taking the picture, producing the billboard, renting the space, and installing the billboard. Nothing in the image is a chance element. As the only purpose is to sell shoes, the why is clear. Right now, we can start to discuss the what. The how is a big question that will need much more data and thought.

The picture shows an attractive and happy young woman whose feet are bound by shoes with extensions / protrusions that are intended to make her taller, more erect. She’s not standing, but instead is squatting while manipulating with her fingers a delicate musical instrument that has an orifice and a lip. The model is wearing skin-tight shorts and a very military-style (if not some actual uniform) jacket.

Clearly, with the wearer to one degree or another crippled, high heels have no practical value. For the current crop of heavy leather foot armor, there’s nothing delicate or pretty. (Cinderella surely didn’t dance in any of these.) This style of footwear is a dramatic exploration of sado-masochism, a ceremonial jousting match between women out in the aura.

Aldo Times Square billboards

The complete installation of the Aldo billboards in Times Square.

The top image shows female and male legs sticking up from underneath a pile of candy-colored inflatable mock musical instruments. To the left, there’s a man mounting a piano and a woman sitting on a juke box. From top to bottom, from initiation to consummation, the images form a clear series. As the models all have the echo of one (wo)man bands, there’s a don’t ask, don’t tell tone to the collection. The viewer’s subconscious can accept the message any way that it prefers.

With your feet ball-and-chained by Aldos, you might not be ready for running, but the images create the strong suggestion that you will be perfectly prepared for running around.