Luxury for the Many: Politics and Virtues of the Knockoff
The object and subject of this paper is the luxury knockoff. Cheap, primitive, fragile and shiny, the fake’s omnipresence makes luxury logos common, it instils doubt at the sight of what was designed as undeniable proof of wealth. Though theirs depends on the existence of exclusive desirables, the analysis shows by way of examples how different types of counterfeits – such as Yuandan goods – come to question the nature and notion of luxury. It examines fakes in their materiality: textiles and labels, the language of misspelt brand names that Lin and Tatarsky read “as a subversion … of Western cultural imperialism”. It then considers their reproduction, tracing back the spillage and trajectories of counterfeits’ diffusion from their birthplace – the Pearl River Delta region in China, for the most part – across cultural and physical borders. An argument is made for thinking counterfeits’ consumption through Jean Baudrillard’s notion of hyperconformity: as a “refusal by over acceptance” of neo-colonial consumerism. The aim is to demonstrate that the destabilising potential of fakes does not rely on the motivations and intentions of the humans who produce and consume them, but that objects produced and consumed in response to a culture of extreme materialism may inadvertently become allies in the resistance against global capitalism, and the system of values of Western import that it imposes.