Sticking to fake: counterfeit trade on rise in Russia

Society in Russia splits over those who are chasing high couture brands and those who enjoy the fakes. While government tightens control over property and intellectual rights, demand for counterfeit goods is on the rise.

Denis Kataev is the proud owner of a fake Rolex. In fact, he does not understand why people even buy the real thing.

“I usually tell people it is fake. It is funny,” he said. “I think those who buy real Rolex watches and real luxury products are stupid for buying such expensive things. They are just showing off. I respect businessmen who wear cheap stuff.”

This mindset contributes to what analysts at Esper group call a thriving counterfeit luxury goods trade in Russia. They say shoppers forked out $15 billion on fakes last year and growth has risen from just about five per cent in 2008, to 15 per cent in 2009.

Owner of fake goods shop Mikhail Mitranyan has jumped on the opportunity and he swears by the quality of his merchandise.

“There are good and bad fakes. There are factories in China that made the real thing in the 90s and today use the same materials to make copies,” he said. “They are exactly the same. You do not have to pay a lot of money just for the stamp of a brand name.”

So, what is in a brand name? Different people have different opinions. But whatever the reason for consumer patronage of fake luxury goods, the fact of the matter is, the Russian market is a lucrative one and for as long as there is strong demand, it is bound to stay that way.

However, psychologist Yana Laputina warns that opting for an imitation could mean opening a can of worms.

“If you keep buying fake things, you will be living a fake life. You are trying to be someone you are not,” she said. “There is nothing wrong with reaching for something better. But if you do it through fake things, it is ridiculous."

Still, there are people like Denis who will stand their ground, even if their heels are fake.