I never pay attention to fashion and brands. I wear what I feel is comfortable and convenient. Decades ago, my 10-year-old Italian nephew asked me for jeans from Canada when I visited.
Upon seeing them, he exclaimed they were not Levis. "What does Levis mean?" I asked naively.
Later, I was preparing to come to China when my Sichuan friend ordered jeans for her daughter. "You mean Levis, I guess?"
"No, Benetton," she said.
Living in China I realize the impact brands have on people here. Once I bought a pair of sandals because I needed sandals. More non-Chinese than Chinese told me, "Wow! You wear them? You have money!" I didn't know why they thought 150-yuan ($22) sandals - obviously fake - were for wealthy people. I had never heard that brand name (which I can't remember) before.
While visiting my family in Canada, we were talking about false-fraud-fake products in China. I assured them I would never buy imitations. As a writer, I don't accept that readers pirate my books and I would consider myself a thief if I ever buy counterfeits.
A young relative once asked, "What about your purse?"
"What's the problem with my purse?" I countered.
"It's a Yves Saint-Laurent; do you mean you paid the full price?"
"How can you think I bought a YSL? I bought it because of size, color and price."
She picked up the purse and pointed to the steel YSL on the flap. Believe it or not, I had not noticed it till then.
When Hong Qiao Market (Pearl Market) used to sell fake watches, I happened to need a watch and went there for the large choice they offered. What I wanted was a watch to see the time, I insisted.
They had no Chinese brands, only Cartier, Citizen, Seiko, Rolex. Desperately, I finally bought a Gucci for which I paid 20 yuan, bargained down from 168 yuan. It still works after 14 years.
Two years ago, a family member needed an inexpensive watch with a blue plastic wristband for a special occasion, "something that looks nice on a little girl," she said, adding "a local, not-famous brand".
Hong Qiao was the market for children's watches. Having refused several ming pai copies, I was leaving without buying when I saw a blue plastic one.
"Diesel, what a strange name for a watch," I thought. Wasn't diesel something that went into a gas tank? The transaction went quickly; I offered 35 yuan and left with the watch.