“In Greece, Chanel is more valuable than cash”, was the tragic headline of an article in the Washington Post. As counterfeiting finances terrorism, promoting the value of real high end creation has become a cause to fight for by all, including UNESCO for the first time.


Did you know that one of the Kouachi brothers responsible for the 2015 Charlie Hebdo terrorist massacres in Paris had been financed with a counterfeit sneaker business? Terrorism lives on counterfeiting. And, we, in Western countries, are its customers, insisted Elisabeth Ponsolle des Portes, Director Genral at Comité Colbert, at the opening presentation of the new campaign to combat counterfeiting of luxury brands with the support of UNESCO for the first time.

Luxury goods as heritage assets

Counterfeiting is a persistent scourge. And it does not only worry the major luxury brands: UNESCO gets involved for the first time. At the dawn of the 2015 summer tourist season, the campaign to fight counterfeiting luxury, was organized jointly with the organization, the Comité Colbet and the French customs authorities in the magnificent Baccarat Museum.

The chosen weapon: spreading the message of the need to defend heritage assets through the promotion of creation. Should luxury products therefore be considered as heritage assets? A choice of high quality for a long lasting good does result from a peculiar story at work: the alchemy of exceptional skills of master artisans and the creative vision of designers. It was thus decided to stop taking to make consumers feel guilty of buying counterfeit products and rather opt for a constructive approach based on a positive message: “promoting creation as a unifying message for young people”, said Sydney Toledano, President of the Colbert Committee’s Public Authorities Commission, and President of Christian Dior Couture.

No doubt we are referring to luxury heritage brands, mainly major luxury brands, at least those that are distributed internationally and whose interests are defended by the Colbert Committee throughout the world. In short, luxury houses with an international aura. In common, they are confronted with the danger of this plundering of creation and must ensure the sustainability of master craftsmanship and the heritage of tomorrow.

The acceleration of time:  TURNING LUXURY GOODS AS heritage ASSETS right now thanks to art collaborations

We might as well accelerate time and transform contemporary creation into heritage assets now. No longer wait for the work of time to transform a luxury product into an iconic vintage piece.  Decide to create products that will become collectors right away, such as the Louis Vuitton “icons and iconoclasts” collection in 2014.  Imagine a monogrammed bag celebrating the 160th anniversary of the legendary company born of collaborations: Karl Lagerfeld, Christian Louboutin, Rei Kawakubo, Frank Gehry, Cindy Sherman or Mark Newson. This example among many others underlines the search for giving a heritage value to luxury products right away. At the heart of these products behind-the-scenes :  a meaningful story of creation with luxury craftsmanship and a reinterpretation for the houses’s rich archives. 

spreading the message that Terrorism is financed by the counterfeiting market

UNESCO, which was celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Convention on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, explains its collaboration with the Comité Colbert by the desire to design a large-scale campaign to be deployed over several years, in line with the challenge, according to UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova: “The theft, looting and illicit trafficking of cultural property are a pure and simple negation of peoples”. She concluded:

“Culture is an agent of creation, inspiration and surpassing, and each of us can help to bring it to life”. 

Édouard Planche, Programme Specialist of UNESCO’s Division of Heritage, explains:

“Our approach has been motivated for several months by the destruction and looting taking place in the Middle East, which is almost equivalent to the destruction of the Second World War. There is an extremely worrying rate of destruction and annihilation of cultural identity. We are launching this campaign through the protection of heritage and the promotion of creativity, which we hope to continue with our actions with the Colbert Committee through the fight against counterfeiting and illicit trafficking in cultural property.”

Today, he adds, in Syria and Iraq, most World Heritage sites are in the hands of terrorists.  He concluded:

“The struggle has become an international security issue, because little by little, bridges between East and West are disappearing.” 

It is “fundamental” to convey the message of this threat of Iraqi, Libyan and Yemeni heritage, it is a common heritage. “It is them today, it may be us tomorrow, the cause is common and the struggle is on. Aside from the impact of the looting of intellectual property from commercial and cultural goods on the European economy, Elisabeth Ponsolle des Portes reports: “In Europe, one in three jobs are in industries that rely heavily on intellectual property.  Protecting intellectual property therefore means protecting jobs and enabling growth. These are two fundamental words for Europe, but also in the world”.  Another telling figure: “In Europe, intellectual property also represents 26% of direct employment in Europe and 39% of the European Union’s GDP”.

a call for all of us to GET INVOLVED in spreading the message by the hashtag  #Committedtoheritageandcreativity

But what does this mean in practice? Promoting heritage and creation means addressing buyers, for the counterfeiting of luxury goods are located in Paris, London, Brussels and Geneva. It is in the northern economy that buyers reside while heritage properties in the Middle East are in demand by buyers around the world.

In 2015 and 2016, the anti-counterfeiting campaign will be launched in the Member States and in all national languages if necessary. France hopes to take the lead in convincing member states around the world to join in this fight to seize trafficked cultural property. The  ambition is to undertake actions to develop European and international law.

In the end, this a priori surprising collaboration between such distinct entities, luxury brands and UNESCO  is better understood.  Who better than luxury brands to convey a message than luxury brands?  The hashtag #Committedtoheritageandcreativity is launched.  To be passed on because, even if it seems very little to us, says Édouard Planche, know that on the spot, at the moment, in the Middle East, experts and archaeologists are fighting to protect heritage at the risk of their lives, and they are also seeking the support of the media as well. Let us be a comfort to them.

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