Minds Blown Over New “Palessi” Shoe Event

Some days I have to drag out the old blog and give her a ride around the block. Today I’ve been shocked out of designing fabrics, writing and painting to weigh in on this story. As a blogger who has been privileged to receive invitations to amazing experiences and behind the scenes events, I’ve got some insights on this whole influencer thing. This particular public relations occurrence has been a hot topic today, blowing minds throughout fashion, public relations, social media, and all the adjacent professions that cause sales to happen.

Now that I’ve regained consciousness from the shock of how telling this type of “gotcha” advertising is, I have some thoughts. I have extensive experience in the blogging/influencer sphere, years of fashion retailing/merchandising, and through my interior design education, I know how to spot quality in a textiles and skins, so a few things come to mind:

Number One: If you don’t know how to spot the difference between real and fake leather and call yourself a fashion expert, you are a complete fraud. If you don’t catch that part of it, a hard plastic sole with “Made in China” stamped into it should also be the dead giveaway. I’ll give it to Payless, though – Christian Siriano’s designs are very well done for the price. Payless does a great job at what it does, and their branding company should be given whatever award can be given for stirring social commentary. But Payless is NOT a luxury brand, and anyone who understands the difference would not have taken that bait. No one knew enough at the Payless party to say “The Emperor has no clothes.”

Part two: The brand management that made a decision to embarrass these influencers got great viral videos, screen grabs, hashtags, and lots of exposure for Payless, but at what cost to everyone involved in the brand / PR / influencer triangulate? I’ve been a guest at many events like this, and I always try to have good manners. One tries to say nice things about the host. This also conjures up a real mistrust between the influencers and the PR firms who invite them. I realize that the point was to make folks see how there’s no difference in designer originals from their thirty dollar versions, but the ripple effect is that if the influencers have a real following, as opposed to fake paid follower bots, this could cause trust issues all around.

Which leads me to point three: Today, two conglomerates own almost every single international design house on the manicured streets of Beverly Hills, Paris and Tokyo. Your Louis is no longer actually a Louis unless it’s a bespoke trunk – everything else is made by the conglomerate. With the exception of the occasional artistic triumph, it’s all the same stuff. I’ll even go so far as to give the nod to the use of PU, the more recent faux leathers in ready to wear, but real leather is still the finest. If you pay $600 for a pair of vinyl shoes, joke’s on you.

Please don’t think I’m knocking inexpensive clothing and shoes. I buy more pairs of shoes from wholesalers in downtown LA as I do Rodeo Drive. I love that legit designers are doing exclusives for affordable brands, and I own lots of pieces from these collections. I love to buy a cute trendy thing and not pay a lot for it, but I don’t like designer FAKES. Frankly, I’ve always hated the idea, because I am a designer and have been down the road of someone stealing my designs. It doesn’t feel good and it definitely affects the bottom line, a line created from YEARS of education and experience. Case in point: I was gifted an almost perfect faux Hermes Kelly bag, but the pretending makes me so nervous that I cover the logo with the straps at the twist clasp so that the gold leafed “Hermes” stamp doesn’t show. I only use it when the yellow gold color of the bag is perfect with an outfit. I don’t want to be a fraud and pretend that I spent $15K on a handbag – I’d die of embarrassment if someone noticed. I guess I don’t need to worry about that a whole lot anymore.

My final takeaway is that it’s really easy to find a bunch of fake fashionista influencers who aren’t able to spot fakes. Advice to the PR firm attached to this event: if an influencer shows up to your event and says nice things about your brand, don’t embarrass them by pointing out their lack of knowledge. Advice to anyone aspiring to be an influencer in any realm, please – know your stuff. Do the work to learn, and only go to the event if it makes sense to your own brand, even if they’re paying you.

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