Knockoffs vs. The Real Thing: AliExpress Pentagram Playsuit Review
Disclosure: This lingerie was purchased with my own money. All opinions are my own.
It seems to be a milestone in most lingerie designer’s lives: counterfeit versions of their designs appearing on websites like AliExpress and eBay.
I first noticed these at the start of my design career. My strappy harnesses and frame bras appeared on these websites with alarming frequency. Whilst one could argue these were generic designs in the first place, the offending sellers were actually using my product photos and lookbook images to sell their products - the very definition of counterfeit.
The first time I saw this, it was like a kick in the stomach. All my hard work, blood, sweat and tears - reduced to a $10 copy. In my early design days, I was angry. I’d spend hours reporting every copy I found and taking it down.
Although designs can’t really be copyrighted in practice, actual photos certainly can. The problem was, with every copy I took down, 5 more would spring up in its place. It was an exercise in futility, and I quickly gave up.
You could say I’m disillusioned, but I’ve honestly just stopped caring about these cheap copycats. At the end of the day, the customer who spends $10 on a knock-off panty isn’t going to be the kind to drop $150 on mine. Chasing them down took too much energy with no real returns.
Truth be told, I’d mostly forgotten about these websites. However, someone recently sent me a link to a copy they’d found of my signature pentagram thong playsuit. They were filled with outrage on my behalf, but it just made me smile.
But then I started to wonder: what was this $10 playsuit actually like? What could $10 really buy you and how would it compare to my own design? I grabbed my credit card, placed my order and awaited my bargain parcel from China.
Fabric and Construction:
The first thing I noticed is that a lot of the extra design details I include for aesthetics, comfort and improved fit, have been done away with: the adjustable straps, the ring designs, the built-in lined French lace knickers and the hook fastening at the neck.
These are all expensive and time-consuming details, so it’s little wonder they were throw away. The counterfeit is also offered in only one size, so I was curious how it would fit, if at all.
Each ‘point’ of the pentagram shape has been stitched to a ring. That differs from my version, where each strap is carefully cut, pinned, and stitched into place to make the shape. My way is a very time-consuming process requiring a lot of accuracy. By using rings at each star point, this seller doesn’t have to bother with nearly as much accuracy. Straps can just be cut in a fixed length and stitched to the rings.
The copy playsuit took just over a month to arrive from China to the UK. It came in a small mailing bag inside a polythene plastic bag. As soon as I took it out of its packaging, I was confused. There was simply a tangle of satin elastic straps.
Before I tried to unravel the tangle, I decided to study the workmanship up close. Each strap was stitched to a large, silver toned ring (bigger than the product photos suggest) with a straight stitch. The raw edges haven’t been particularly trimmed and have a tendency to flap about.
The stitching isn’t entirely accurate either, with many of the straps not quite lining up 100% to their own folds. It’s worth noting taht securing a stretchy elastic strap with a lockstitch is not a good idea, particularly if you’re leaving a raw edge. The elastic is likely to fray over time, and the lockstitch will not be enough to prevent the seam from disintegrating. A bartack or zigzag stitch would be more suitable.
Fit and Size:
When I finally disentangled the piece and tried it on for myself, I was again confused. I thought I had more familiarity with this design than most people, yet I couldn’t make heads or tails of this garment. Eventually, I realised why: there was one excess strap which made absolutely no sense. With that in mind, I finally discovered how to put the garment on. The result wasn’t pretty.
Obviously, there was a big mistake made in the construction of this playsuit. That additional strap doesn’t belong there and pulls everything else out of tension. To me, this suggests quality control was non-existent.
The playsuit is a very poor fit. The unadjustable hip straps cut in and the unadjustable halter does not have the appropriate tension for the rest of the garment. The pentagram shape at the back doesn’t lie well.
The whole playsuit is a bit of a mess, really. But honestly, I wouldn’t expect anything better for $10. The original design which this piece copies is complicated, time consuming, and difficult to sew. It wouldn’t be possible to reproduce it at such a low price point.
A Few Last Thoughts:
When I first entered the industry, I used to get angry and upset when I’d see my designs copied like this. Years later, I’ve stopped caring. Getting to experience one of these copies for myself just confirms why. My garment and this AliExpress are two completely different garments, and there's not really any point in comparing them.
The customers that purchase the copy are not going to shop with me, and that’s absolutely fine. Furthermore, I know the customers who bought my original design have received much better value in the long run.
Readers: Have you ever purchased a copy of a luxury designer? How did the quality compare?