Tourists like you create the demand for souvenir products, so are you going to use your powers for good or for evil? Asia has become a magnet for people wanting fake designer products. If you have considered or bought these products while overseas, think honestly for a minute about why you might want a luxury or designer product, maybe an iphone or a Louis Vuitton handbag…quality, design, exclusivity, authenticity, status might be some of your answers?
Then consider why you would want to buy a fake version of these products…price right? But the result often feels and looks as cheap as the price would suggest. Or in the case of technology, doesn’t work five minutes after you get it home. So today I am making a case for why traditional, artisan handicrafts are better than counterfeit Chanel.
One of the reasons you may like to buy luxury goods may be knowing you have one of a small few, in a mass produced, homogenous world of products. Consider that by buying a handicraft you are part of an exclusive club that didn’t walk into a store and pick something off the shelf and pay for it. YOU got on a plane, went somewhere exotic and not only purchased the item, but likely saw how it was made and met the person that made it. Which comes to my next point.
Consider these two conversations, which is more compelling?
Conversation one: Person One “That is a beautiful Chanel bag.” Person Two with a smug smile “Thanks!”
Conversation two: Person One “That is an interesting necklace.” Person Two “Thanks. I spent some time in remote areas of Laos visiting tribes of ethnic minority groups and found one that had been practising silver smithery for generations. They were making this amazing silver jewellery inspired by their traditional designs. It reminds me of my trip whenever I wear it.”
Just like the master craftspeople of a designer label, local artisans have been practising their trade for many years and probably developed their techniques over a number of generations. Sure there are varying quality products available in a tourist market because travellers have demanded lower prices and the quality has suffered. Just ask around for recommendations on a good producer and be prepared to pay a little more, knowing you are getting good value.
Even if you do pay a little more for a true hand loomed silk scarf in Thailand, you are still paying less than you would for the same product with a big fancy label on it, plucked from the shelf of a glossy store in your home country. Plus you get the warm and fuzzies knowing your money is making a difference at grass roots level to people with minimal income.
That bogus Burberry isn’t fooling anyone! Those who know the true value of a designer product know the devil is the details. If the signature print doesn’t align at the seams and the hardware fails, it isn’t going to deceive the discerning individual. It certainly isn’t a reflection of the original design artfully captured by a thoughtful designer.
Support the local tribes and their arts, this is their livelihood made sustainable only by their unique traditional minimalist lifestyle. That which is partly what you went there to see in the first place! If they can’t do this, they will have to move to cities and find jobs, likely in factories churning out more sub-standard, mass produced, faux designer products into the world. Diversity is what makes travel so interesting and worthwhile so help sustain the cycle!
So get your very own unique, quality, head turning, conversation piece next time you are exploring the local markets of a far off locale, and skip the imitation Prada. Support minority groups and their artisanal skills by voting for authenticity with your currency. The power is in your pocket!
P.S.Download a copy of the Soulful Souvenir Guide with shopping tips & bonus global list of 133 souvenir ideas for 133 different countries here.