Faux designer face masks booming on Instagram

Tyne Lexy Clarson in a 'designer' face mask. Image: Tyne Lexy Clarson, Instagram
Tyne Lexy Clarson in a 'designer' face mask. Image: Tyne Lexy Clarson, Instagram

Awesome Merchandise has warned that counterfeiting of designs has become a growing trend during lockdown, including rip-off designer face coverings.

The Leeds-headquartered merchandise specialist said that the trend for ‘fake prints’ was also being fuelled by Instagram influencers unwittingly posting links to suppliers of fake designer printed goods.

This includes face masks featuring designs that are the trademark of Burberry and Louis Vuitton. The face coverings market has boomed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

One seller of £120-a-piece designer face coverings featured on Instagram by former Love Island contestant Tyne Lexy Clarson states on its website: “Please note we have no affiliations to the brands we use. Every item is bespoke, custom made art.”

Amazon has removed some listings of ‘faux’ designer face masks featuring copyrighted luxe brands.

Last month the BBC also reported on a raid by Trading Standards at an online retailer in Liverpool selling printed garments such as sweatshirts with fake designer branding including Gucci and Balenciaga.

Clarson is among a number of influencers that feature in the report.

Awesome Merchandise founder Luke Hodson said: “Counterfeit products are nothing new, but it’s not surprising the community is growing particularly on Instagram due to the easy access of printing and free versions of design tools.”

The trend is known as "copy culture".

The boom in counterfeit goods has the potential to cost the legitimate UK economy of designers and makers millions of pounds.

Awesome Merchandise also cited the example of one of its customers, Glasgow-based design studio Social Recluse.

The studio creates art inspired by football, music and fashion and sells t-shirts and prints featuring its designs.

It recently found a counterfeit operation in the Far East selling knock-offs of its original work.

Designer Robert Chambers commented: “Whilst we are only a small studio and shop in Glasgow, we do have a good reach with what we do worldwide. The downside to that is that people copy our products and ideas. This happens largely in the UK and further afield, as far as Malaysia. We have a very loyal following on Instagram, and an online community that looks out for each other.”

He said the studio had decided to expose the fakes by sharing them on its social media channels “putting them in front of our followers, to raise awareness of the problem”.

Research by analytics specialist Ghost Data found that the number of accounts selling counterfeit goods on the platform had jumped by 171% since its previous study in 2016. It found that in 2019 the top three source countries for counterfeit goods sold on Instagram were China, Russia and Indonesia.