updated 13 Jul 2014, 19:33
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Tue, Feb 18, 2014
The Korea Herald/Asia News Network
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Make way luxe brands, 'swag' is now in vogue

The fashion industry has long viewed anything that's a knockoff as "fake", and immediately dismisses them as low-class.

But the popularity of imitation brands in South Korea has become such that people no longer seem ashamed of wearing or carrying knockoffs.

This is the so-called "swag" trend.

Trendsetters are strutting the hippest neighbourhoods in the country with canvas bags that are knockoffs of Hermes' Birkin Bag, topped off with T-shirts or baseball caps that choose to spell Chanel as "Channel".

Even celebrities have joined in the fun, as seen in G-Dragon's fake Givenchy brand, "Giyongchy".

And faux fur has gained renewed popularity as fashion houses rush to roll out fake fur clothes and accessories, claiming that it's not just about the price, but also about protecting the rights of animals.

There has always been imitation, but the recent swag trend contains an additional factor - knockoffs are now considered an independent fashion style.

"Swag" is a slang term that originally meant "stolen goods", but can refer to showy accessories in modern colloquial English.

Dr Kim Nan Do, a professor at Seoul National University and author of Trend Korea 2014, said "swag" was one of the top 10 influential keywords in domestic consumer trends this year.

"The younger generation seems to favour swag, and think that the better-known designer brands go against the so-called swag spirit," Dr Kim said in his book.

"The swag phenomenon is about clinging to one's original style and refusing to endorse conventional luxuries."

Some designers and trendsetters have taken the further step of satirising designer brands and their followers.

Among them is Brian Lichtenberg, a contemporary fashion designer who came up with a series of mock luxury brands such as Homies for Hermes, Ballin for Balmin, Bucci for Gucci, and Feline for Celine.

As his works gained fame, secondary copycats started to appear in the market and authorised distributors stressed the "genuineness" of their "swag goods".

There may be disputes about the authenticity of these mock luxury goods, but one thing is for sure: That fun is a key factor of swag, or "fake fashion".

The rise of fake fashion is also attributable to the changing consumer trends that prioritise practicality over prestige.

This has also benefited speciality retailers of private-label apparel such as H&M, Zara and Uniqlo. To lower costs, expand circulation and respond to fast-changing consumer trends, these brands often display fake-fur materials or fun-design items, including python- patterned nylon shoes and fake collars.

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