A Rational Way To Dispose Of Counterfeit Designer Clothes: Donate Them To The Homeless

from the we'd-be-crazy-not-to dept

The narrative around counterfeit goods usually ends with their seizure. We rarely get to hear or see what happens to them afterwards unless some token burning or breaking is laid on for the cameras' benefit. That makes the following story doubly noteworthy: we not only find out where fake designer clothes go after they have been seized in the UK, we discover that they are put to an excellent use:

Instead of handing counterfeit designer clothes to customs or trading standards to be destroyed, they are being donated to a charity for redistribution to the homeless and vulnerable.
That charity is called His Church, and in the last six years it has managed to convince 90% of British Trading Standards Authorities, which have the job of dealing with counterfeit goods, to pass on the clothes for patching can't leave those labels visible and then for redistribution. That's good for the homeless people that receive them, and it's good for the British government:
Every year customs and trading standards spend a fortune on storing fake clothes while waiting for a court decision, and then once the items have been proved to be fake the authorities have to fork out further for incineration or landfill costs.

His Church has removed all such costs and pass on the high quality goods to some 250 homeless centres and women's shelters across the country.
This is such an obviously sensible thing to do you have to ask why the same approach isn't more widely adopted. Presumably it's from some residual fear that allowing fake clothes to circulate will "confuse" customers.

But as Techdirt has noted before, it's likely that people know exactly what they are getting when they buy counterfeits, and that they are not confused in the slightest. Moreover, there's no evidence that the sales of genuine designer clothes in the UK have suffered over the last six years as a result of all these fakes being allowed on to the streets: were there any, the scheme would certainly have been halted by now. So is there any good reason why other homeless and vulnerable people around the world shouldn't benefit too?

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and on Google+

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. icon
    PaulT (profile), Dec 16th, 2011 @ 12:34am

    Cue designers complaining that their brand is damaged by homeless people being seen wearing similar clothes and demanding that the clothes be burned instead...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 16th, 2011 @ 12:49am


    "Yeah, i'm wearing Gucci, just like that bum sleeping in the alley off 5:th."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Prisoner 201, Dec 16th, 2011 @ 1:02am

    Why wont anyone think of the lost sales?!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    A Guy (profile), Dec 16th, 2011 @ 1:14am


    That was my first thought too.

    If the designer wants the clothes destroyed, they should pay for all the associated costs and make a similar donation to charity.

    If that weren't to happen, I think a suitable remedy might be to set up a charity to create similar clothing without the label to donate to the homeless.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 16th, 2011 @ 1:18am

    There is no way the rightful trademark holders would allow that. They will not want anything that looks like their goods appearing on "undesirables". They don't want any negative connotations associated with their brand.

    I remember when I was working for CompUSA and the store was closing down, Bose would not allow any of their speaker systems to be put in the clearance sale, they bought them back instead. All because they didn't want the implied failure of a bankruptcy to taint their brand image.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 16th, 2011 @ 1:21am


    Would not be allowed in the US, I should have said.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    Violated (profile), Dec 16th, 2011 @ 1:57am


    The day homeless people fear most is when Lady Gaga gives her old clothes to charity. Then you would see the homeless walk around in bubble suits, crime scene tape, meat-like clothes and much more.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Andrew D. Todd, Dec 16th, 2011 @ 2:24am

    Declassing Clothes

    One might look at the Burberrys episode in England to get an idea of the ambiguities involved. Burberrys, a traditional upscale clothier which had started in men's clothing, and then gradually moved into women's clothing, broke the rule formulated by that ultimate dandy, George Bryan "Beau" Brummell, that clothing should be designed in such a way as not to call attention to itself. Burberrys' adopted a distinctive fabric, a particular kind of plaid, in effect a Scottish clan tartan of their own design, and copyrighted it, effectively declaring the existence of a clan of expensively fashionable people. The Brummell thing to do would have been to break the group of customers into an anonymous group, by discovering which Scottish clan each customer had the nearest connection with, and providing the appropriate cloth for each. For that matter, there are Irish tartans, based on county rather than clan, with all the various surnames parceled out among them. On this basis, most of the people in Britain have a claim to some plaid or other. Instead, Burberrys chose one pattern of cloth that they could own.

    However, some of their customers were "declassed public chavs," such as football players and show people. Someone like a football player or a rock musician can be simultaneously rich and a charter member of the underclass. Unlike a business or professional person, the football players and show people had lower-working class fan clubs. Granted, the fans could not afford to shop at Burberrys in general, but the Burberrys pattern was readily reproduceable, and garments in that pattern were illicitly sold on market stalls. In particular, this meant non-fitting goods, such as caps and handbags, more suitable than dresses to the lifestyle of the kind of people who get into trouble. Places such as pubs and clubs began excluding patrons wearing or bearing such garments, on the grounds that they were troublemakers. There had already been a pattern of excluding people bearing visible football club items.

    In the end, Burberrys' had to substantially cease using their distinctive pattern, while simultaneously using their powers of copyright to prevent anyone else from using it, until the connection between them and the chavs could be forgotten.

    The next chav fad has been the Blackberry. Digital electronics devices get cheaper at a Moore's law rate, unless the maker aggressively adds functionality. Unlike clothes, they don't have any kind of economic stability, and the manufacturers are forced to aggressively probe for new markets. The end result was the London Riots, in which the Chavs were using their Blackberries to run rings around the police.


    -------------------- ----------------------
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1023460/Burberrys-shaken-chav-image-fashionistas-favouri te-more.html

    To an American eye, the picture of Danniella Westbrook wearing Burberrys' plaid looks "goody-two-shoes," because American custom regards plaid as the uniform of Catholic schoolgirls. However, the lady is famous for her drug-taking, and serves as a role-model in that direction.


    Burberry's new (2008) collection, shown elsewhere in the article, seems remarkable for its extreme ugliness.

    http://www.slate.com/articles/business/moneybox/2006/07/t o_chav_and_chav_not.html


    http: //www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/showbiz/tv/x_factor/3073199/X-Factors-chav-Burberry-addict.html

    h ttp://www.house-of-tartan.scotland.net/irish/search.asp


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    Richard (profile), Dec 16th, 2011 @ 3:03am

    Re: Declassing Clothes

    I see a link here - don't give your product a name that ends in "berry".

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    peter, Dec 16th, 2011 @ 3:14am

    "So is there any good reason why other homeless and vulnerable people around the world shouldn't benefit too? "

    because every piece of clothing given away to a homeless person is a lost sale?

    Will no-one think of the billions that will be lost to the economy?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Dec 16th, 2011 @ 3:41am


    And if you look on BoingBoing or was it The Consumerist, you can find some outrage as they found stock being mutilated beyond just taking out the labels, and made unwearable to keep people from that awkward moment of walking into a party and seeing a screaming cat lady (ala The Simpsons) wearing the same dress. They companies promised to stop the practice... and were caught doing it again and again.

    So many things being wasted when we have people living in cardboard boxes. But then I wonder why we have people not getting enough to eat everyday while we export tons of food to other countries as aid.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 16th, 2011 @ 4:31am

    I for one cannot beleive the government is allowing the homeless to profit form counterfitting.
    I estimate it is costing the econemy 163 billions pounds annually, along with putting 19 millions jobs at risk from lost sales.
    We must act to stop this form of piracy!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 16th, 2011 @ 5:07am

    It's also not done because it eats away at clothing companies profit margins.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    Mike C. (profile), Dec 16th, 2011 @ 5:45am

    Re: Clothes?

    Yeah, but the donated meat dress would probably be cooked and eaten instead of worn. Just sayin' :-)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 16th, 2011 @ 5:47am

    Grant opportunity

    I think I'll apply for a grant as to how panhandling in designer duds affects outcomes.

    I'm thinking I'm probably less likely to give a buck to someone who is dressed more nattily than I...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Bilbert, Dec 16th, 2011 @ 5:53am

    I have been encouraging this for years

    I have been advocating this for at least 10 years now. I've contacted designers and manufacturer's, groups that collect clothing to donate, and so on. I have posted on blogs, forums, and news sites whenever an article about destroyed clothing appeared. Yet, I've never seen it done.

    The really sad thing is, I have argued for a simple means to prevent the resale of the fake items - dye or dye splash them. Take all the fake clothes, shoes, accessories and splash them with that purple anti-theft dye. It's permanent, and prominent. Then make the items available for free in homeless shelters, ship them off to the very poor in other countries, and so on.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Pixelation, Dec 16th, 2011 @ 5:59am

    Maybe we can give the homeless our counterfeit representatives from the House and Senate. Of course, we would only have one or two left.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    bob, Dec 16th, 2011 @ 6:53am


    Soylent Green is representatives? Talk about your contaminated food. Still, every idea has its time and this idea's time is now. It should also cover lawyers and bankers and ceos too.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. icon
    The eejit (profile), Dec 16th, 2011 @ 8:13am

    Re: Re:

    Yup, pretty much. Maybe we can turn them all into special pie. Like Mom's Congressional Pie. Or Mom's Senatorial Pie.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Richard, Dec 17th, 2011 @ 12:39am

    For sporting events, donating the losing team's championship clothing overseas

    On the issue of clothing that cannot be used domestically, the following may be of interest. For such sporting events as the US Super Bowl, it has happened where the "championship winner" clothing for the losing team has been donated to needy persons in Third World countries. (For reasons that are easy to figure out, making such clothing available domestically would be problematic.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    RonNYC, Dec 17th, 2011 @ 7:10pm

    This was done in the 1990s

    I worked for a private investigation firm; I was the net admin and everything else IT. They would bust companies that made fake Hard Rock t-shirts--that was the big shirt of the day--and then they would distribute them by the barrel to the homeless. Did this for years in NYC.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    chris, Dec 18th, 2011 @ 11:35pm

    That's perfect, since looking scruffy is in fashion now. Everybody I see sporting "designer" clothes looks like they came from the homeless shelter. It's as if they all watched Zoolander, but didn't realize it was a comedy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    Sam, Jan 26th, 2012 @ 8:15pm

    I used to work for a well known high end clothing company, and I know after every season is over, most of the merchandise gets transferred to an outlet store, and sold a little cheaper. I always thought that maybe after they get transferred out of the outlets, that maybe then, they could be donated... Because the way I see it, is people get judged on the way they look, someone who is dressed well might get a shot at a job before one who is not, now if nicer clothing got donated, although its "out dated" by maybe a year, those who don't have jobs, can interview for a job and have as much of a shot as anyone else... And not even just from "high end" companies, all clothing manufacturers in general... Maybe I'm just crazy, but I think it's a decent idea...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    Jane Doyle, Feb 27th, 2012 @ 11:37pm

    designer dresses

    Thanks for sharing your views on how to rationally dispose of counterfeit designer clothes. Ginger & Smart

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2012 @ 3:04pm

    my take on it is to discard all counterfeits, the homeless should not be wearing low quality substandard counterfeit products.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon
    Sarah S, Oct 31st, 2012 @ 7:56pm

    I think the idea of giving clothes to the homeless is great and of course needed. However, letting counterfeit clothes circulate isn't a good idea.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.