Counterfeit Tommy Bahama Pants

I went out sourcing to the local GW and found these pants. Since it was dollar day, and I was in a hurry, I just did a quick lookup on Ebay, found it was selling, tossed them into the basket and continued the hunt.

Then I checked it out later, and it just looked suspicious. Mainly, it was the font for the brand.

The fabric also felt wrong: the tag said 100% silk, but it felt like rayon or some other synthetic fabric. It might be a blend. Here’s a closeup of the fabric. You’ll need to search online to find a sample of the fabric that Tommy Bahama uses – it’s not as smooth looking.

It didn’t feel cheap; the material was just a little too heavy to be silk. It also lacked both the lustre and fuzz that you feel from silk.

Some of the details were all wrong.  Here’s the inner label.

It looks like they did a good job on the graphics on the right side, of the label, then just blew off the left side of the label. They probably ran out of time.

The real Tommy Bahama logo is completely different. It’s in script. Here’s a screenshot from the Tommy Bahama website. The labels in and on the clothes also use this type treatment, and it’s “perfect” – the stitching is small and tight, and it looks like the logo, but pixelated.*

 * Logo for identification only. Use does not imply any endorsement by Tommy Bahama.

In Defense of Fakes

Overall, the pants were decent pants. They were as good as anything from Dockers and better than what I saw from Old Navy.

A lot of websites and videos say that fakes will fall apart in the wash, and are made super-cheap. They’re lightweight and crappy, they say.

I have to disagree.  I’ve accidentally picked up a few fakes, partly from ignorance, and partly just because I was in a hurry.

Compared to premium, genuine product, they are inferior.  Premium products seem to defy physics:

  • fabric that feels heavy, but only adds one ounce to the weight of the garment
  • fabric that’s incredibly sheer or thin, but sturdy
  • fabric that’s thick, but still breathes
  • dyes that remain vibrant
  • clothes that rip, but don’t keep ripping, and can be mended
  • clothes that fray, but hold on, for years
  • fabrics like linen and silk that wrinkle beautifully

More common clothes aren’t like that. Thick things are heavy and don’t breathe. Thin things rip and fall apart. Damage tends to expand and the whole thing falls apart, defying repair. The dyes fade within the year.

These fakes, while they don’t use the great fabrics, are well constructed, and built to resemble the genuine product.  These fake Tommy Bahama pants had to feel, to the buyer, at least as good as a comparable pair of shopping mall brand pants. That level of “feel” would convince the shoppers who were familiar with a $60 pair of pants.

I found a fake Balenciaga shirt that was almost indistinguishable from the original, but for the label. The fabric and construction were better than a regular dress shirt from Ross.

I found a pair of fake Pepe Jeans, and they were well made enough to pass for, at least, Levis.  There were definitely some Levis out there that were made of thinner material.

I found a pair of fake Evisu Jeans, and they were the worst fakes I’d come across. They were about as good as a pair of thin off brand jeans from Ross, which is to say, a shitty pair of pants.

How Can They Do It That Well?

Well, think about this: it’s impossible to make a pair of pants inexpensively without a small factory. Experts tailoring a pair of pants by hand takes four hours.  Jeans take even longer, and require special needles and machines.

Timed Making is a website that explores how long it takes to make clothing. It takes a long time.

A factory makes it feasible to produce pants. So, these fakes were made in a factory, using rapid production techniques.

The weird thing is that I suspect those fake Pepe’s I found were made here in Los Angeles.  They wouldn’t need to go through customs, or get smuggled across the ocean. They could be driven from the factory to the store, in an hour or less.

There are denim experts in this city, companies that sew for Lucky, Guess, AG, Big Star.  There’s also a supporting industry that makes labels, hardware, and imports supplies. So, there’s a lot of scrap material and unused skill.

There’s also a large garment district where people buy factory direct. The sewing companies open a shop and sell stuff. What do they sell? Stuff they made up, with some made-up name on a tag. These companies are all trying to get better contracts. You find signs for “designer jeans” at many of the shops. They’re probably fake. The cops bust the area all the time.

There’s also a large supply of genuine product. It’s over in places like Beverly Hills. So someone can buy a pair of pants to copy – and it includes tags to copy.

I think LA is a good place to be a counterfeiter.

But, Why Make them Here?

The following is, as far as I know, entirely fictional. I made it up, based on just a few random observations.

You find some “Made in USA” apparel around some parts of Los Angeles. It’s not at the Target, or even at the Macy’s, but if you go to little, cheap shops that sell to immigrant communities, you find it there. They aren’t necessarily stylish, and some are downright out-of-style. They are generally well made, and not the cheapest item in the store, because the stores often have t shirts at 3 for $10, from Honduras, and customer returns, from department stores, for sale.

I don’t think they’re lying about being Made in the USA. This is probably clothing made in factories when there isn’t a contract, made using leftover material. People need to work, and the factory needs to make some money, even if there isn’t a contract that day. So they bring out the old patterns they actually own, and get some discount fabric, and sew.

Why would someone buy this stuff?

I think a person who works in a sewing factory would immediately recognize the value in a garment made of decent materials, sewn well, even if it wasn’t in fashion.

So, there is only one kind of place where to sell these clothes: to the same people who make the clothes, and can ignore the lack of a known brand.

Now, imagine that you own the sewing factory.  You didn’t get the gourmet jeans contract… but you know how to make them.  You have some downtime and a connection for good denim.  You either make “Mr. Generic” jeans and sell them downtown, or you can make fake designer jeans, and command a higher price.  The temptation is there.

Still Not Going to Sell Them

I’ll wear fakes, but I won’t sell them. They are not allowed on Ebay, and it’s also illegal to sell them anywhere.  Besides, nobody wants to buy Tommy Bahama and then get a fake, even if it’s a decent fake.

Author: John

I can be reached at johnk@riceball.com.

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