We live in interesting times.
Whilst perusing the stalls and the kitsch in Venice, I came across something amazing.
Something you need to know about me, before I tell you more, is that I'm a big fan of Threadless T-shirts (to be found at www.threadless.com). A lot of my wardrobe space is taken up with hoodies and shirts from this site, and I adore every one of them.
The 'something amazing' that I came across was a stall taken up with dozens of Threadless designs, some I own, some I have wanted to own, and some I-didn't-want-to-own-but-now-wanted-to-own-because-they're-awesome. So I paused, and remembered an event back when I started working at the cinema. A guy who I didn't know what wearing a shirt with this Threadless design upon it:
I was quite impressed, as you might guess, and approached said-guy. "You're a Threadless fan?" A look of bemusement crossed his face. In months to come I'd realise that the look of bemusement was a common one, and that said-guy was a complete douche, but at that moment, I still held out hope for our friendship. I pressed on: "Your shirt, from Threadless, right?" Again, bemusement, and he replied after a moment's hesitation: "No, I got this from Singapore."
And this was my first memorable, heart-breaking confrontation with the counterfeit culture we exist within. Copies are wrought within this world-- illegal pirate DVDs, films, albums, singles-- and apparently-- T-shirts. Where does the real end and the fakery begin? If people will steal designs from a not-so-mainstream website to get sales, where will they stop?
We're told that piracy is funding terrorism, and all this horrific "buzz-word-horror" that permeates our lives. Question: Who hasn't taken something they've wanted when the real product is too expensive, or too out of reach to really grasp? Sometimes, stealing is our only option. And are you saying that some bands can't afford for their fans to download their stuff? A true fan will purchase whatever they can to support their favourites. They'll go to concerts, buy shirts, CDs, anything, but in the short-term, does a download hurt?
I don't know. That's another thread entirely, and I digress.
The shirts I found were of a whole different quality all together. Yes, they were hypothetically cheaper, but you get what you pay for-- the shirt was thicker, the design almost iron-on. Did I consider buying one? Yes. But then I realised that there's a reason I buy from Threadless, and that's because I enjoy their products, and I don't want to perpetuate the idea of T-shirt-piracy. It almost seems idiotic when spoken out loud, but this is a microcosm-- or a maxi-cosm-- of the struggle rife in the mainstream. Films are recorded in the cinemas to be sold on or put up for illegal download. New CDs are pirated before they're even released, and that... is something that record companies are using to their own ends.
Like I said before, I don't know where the real ends and the fakery begins. That can't be a good sign, can it? If forgeries are evolving from simple pirate DVDs that you see being peddled on the streets of London, to T-shirts that are being made across Europe, then what's to stop so much more?
Us, probably. But when things are cheaper, and deceptively high-quality, do we care?
(Visit Threadless and wear something awesome. There's always a sale just round the corner, and there's a design for everyone.)