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June 19, 2012

Hermes employees implicated in French counterfeit ring bust


In and of itself, news of police busting up a counterfeit handbag ring is not exactly breaking news. Enormous luxury brands put pressure on authorities in Europe and America to stanch the flow of fake bags into their markets, usually from Asian manufacturers and distributors unaffiliated with the mainstream luxury industry in any way. Police bust the rings fairly regularly, proudly displaying crates of confiscated goods on the news, only to have more sprout up in the defunct rings’ places. If you’re interested in high-end handbags, you probably know this narrative well by now.
When I heard about a counterfeit Hermes ring recently raided in France, which was first reported in Women’s Wear Daily last week, I expected the story to be much the same. What I didn’t expect was that Hermes employees would also be implicated. So far two have been dismissed, although it’s not clear if they were also among the dozen arrested, and the company thinks that several more employees might be involved. Care to guess what they were doing?
The details aren’t entirely clear from Women’s Wear Daily‘s reporting (They apparently didn’t think the inside job angle was that interesting; I think it’s the real story here.), but the article mentions that as a part of the crime ring, clandestine French workshops full of luxury leathers and materials were busted. I can only conjecture, but stealing your company’s raw materials and trafficking them to counterfeiters seems like just the thing to get you both fired and arrested.
And then, of course, someone had to be making the bags, so it’s possible that all or some of the people implicated were artisans, who could have been doing anything from supplying patterns (propriety materials, for sure) for outside workers to follow to taking part in actual assembly. Again, WWD provided precious few details on the crimes of the Hermes employees arrested, their involvement with the counterfeiters or their positions within the French luxury house. With Hermes employees involved (and according to the Daily Mail, actually running the operation) and company materials seemingly used, though, one can’t help but wonder – what exactly makes an Hermes bag an Hermes bag?
The bags were manufactured in France and apparently disseminated through distribution channels in the US, Europe and Asia, with one branch of the ring’s sales estimated to be worth $22 million alone. If more details about the Hermes employees’ involvement with the ring become public, we’ll be sure to update you.

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