Just as real as it seems: meanings and practices arising from consumption of counterfeit fashion goods

Marcia Christina Ferreira

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Consumers actively interpret the meanings in advertisements, brands, retail settings and consumption goods, incorporating them into particular lifestyles and identity projects. Consumption meanings are important for consumers not only because they support identity projects but also because they help consumers to experience social realities that are mediated by particular historical, political and economic processes. Fully aware of the risk in illegally acquiring counterfeits, consumers still use them to mediate social expectations and their desire for idealised consumption goods that are sometimes not available in local markets.

Previous research has demonstrated that consumers of counterfeits use these products together with genuine items as vehicles for self-expression. For further theoretical development, this research adopts a Consumer Culture Theory approach in order to investigate consumers’ social experiences with counterfeit goods and to better understand the meaning creation processes arising from consumption of these goods. Using a Grounded Theory approach, this work analyses how materiality and risk intersect and influence counterfeit consumption meanings and practices. An emerging market, Brazil, was chosen as the research context based on its large market and easy access to counterfeit goods.

This research offers two key theoretical contributions. First it demonstrates that the motivation for consuming counterfeits is consumers’ desire for fashion, not necessarily for luxury only. In putting together their fashion ensembles, consumers consider a wide range of fashion products: originals, imitations and counterfeits. By evidencing this practice, the research demonstrates that consumers’ goals for acquiring and using counterfeits may be achieved through non-luxury products, and even through non- branded imitations. Second, the research identifies that processes of materialisation and consumers’ risk management practices converge into four strategies: 1) authenticating actions; 2) creating constellations; 3) constant monitoring; and 4) developing competencies. The findings describe how consumers implement these strategies in shaping their social identity and experiences around consumption of counterfeit goods.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Maclaran, Pauline, Supervisor
  • Cappellini, Benedetta, Advisor
Award date26 Oct 2016
Publication statusUnpublished - 2016

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