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“Designer label” is a term most often used to describe luxury goods that bear the brand name of an iconic designer. These luxury goods typically include such items as: clothing, shoes, and handbags. Other designer items might be fragrances, cosmetics, and home furnishings. While some designer labels place the logo or the name of the designer prominently on their products, others feature their branding more discreetly, such as on the inner tag or packaging only.
Whereas brand name and designer label products were once considered a luxury only afforded by the wealthy, the wide availability of credit and increased manufacturing and importing of imitation brand name goods has made designer labels available to the masses. In the last few decades, some expensive designer labels have even become associated specifically with low-income consumers who wish to portray an image of wealth. Although manufacturing and selling imitation goods or “knock-offs” is illegal, these goods are still widely available and sold online, from street vendors, and even at certain retail outlets. Some knock-offs imitate the designer label product so expertly that the difference isn’t apparent to most people, while others imitate the brand name design or logo but feature a slight variation in spelling.
In a depressed economy, the designer label industry is one of the first to suffer a financial hit from declining sales. Unlike recession-proof industries that provide basic necessities and services, brand name and designer labels provide mostly luxury products. Even designer products that are considered household staples, such as towels and sheets, usually can’t sustain the same level of sales in an economic downturn. Consumers are instead more likely to purchase the same products offered by no-name or generic brands, which are priced much lower.
One of the biggest controversies concerning designer labels is that some labels manufacture their goods in sweatshops, giving workers below-minimum wages and sub-standard working conditions. Sweatshop manufacturing of designer label goods can occur both in developing countries as well as developed countries. In Italy, for example, a high number of Chinese immigrants are regularly recruited to manufacture designer label goods which bear the description "Made in Italy." Certain high-profile fashion houses occasionally outsource their hand-stitching of handbags and garments which may then be sub-contracted to a factory that exploits its workers.