Image via BoingBoing
A study by MIT professor Renee Richardson Gosline (via BoingBoing and others) shows that people who buy “fake” handbags—those branded without authorization—sometimes go on to later buy “authentic” ones.
Gosline interviewed hundreds of consumers who knowingly bought fake luxury apparel, many at “purse parties” where such goods are sold. Gosline found that within two years, 46 percent of these buyers subsequently purchased the authentic version of the same product — even though other people could not necessarily tell the difference. Such behavior is another twist on Veblen’s thesis: For some status-seeking people, at least, the social power of luxury goods means that consumption must not just be conspicuous, but real.
That seems somewhat incredible (Felix Salmon calls it “astonishing”), but it fits well with NYT Magazine Consumed columnist Rob Walker’s contention that we are own primary audience for our consumption displays. We can’t fool ourselves with a fake.