Current Issue
This Month's Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

2 minute read

Watch A Designer Teach Pirates How To Knock Off His Luxury Bags

And in doing so, prove that you can never counterfeit quality.

What do you do when pirates continually knock off your company's luxury bag designs? If you're Saddleback Leather, you hit YouTube and turn the design piracy of your "competitors" into a marketing tool that teaches consumers what they're giving up when they buy off-brand.

Saddleback Leather's eccentric and charismatic CEO is Dave Munson, an outspoken guy with a good sense of humor who got into leather bag design after being nearly mauled to death as a gringo bullfighter in Mexico. Saddleback Leather prides itself on a no-compromise approach to bag design, and Munson's personal mission is to make heirloom-quality bags, wallets, cases, belts, and more that your children will inherit. For Munson, only the highest quality leather, materials, and construction will do. The result is Saddleback Leather's products can be expensive, and so the company has become the target of knock offs.

Munson has responded by releasing a 12-minute video that walks pirates step-by-step through the process of counterfeiting one of Saddleback Leather's bags, pointing out the various ways one might save money recreating his designs. Turns out, this is a clever promotional tool for his company, because—surprise!—the only way to save money on a knock-off is to eliminate the quality that makes the product worth buying in the first place.

To start, Munson catalogs the plethora of inferior leather and vinyl products that you can use in the bag, deftly explaining the failures of each cheap material. He then points out that wasted material is a big expense when constructing a luxury leather bag, and while Saddleback Leather's popular briefcase is made of just 52 different pieces of leather, any knock-off artist is going to want to use much smaller pieces to construct his bag, to eliminate waste: the smaller the pieces you use, the less you need to redo if you mess a single piece up.

But with smaller pieces composing the bag, you get lots of potential weak spots. A high-quality bag is double stitched together with a continuous filament polyester thread to keep the stitching strong, but Munson says a design pirate won't want to bother with that: just use cotton thread, which is half the cost. In fact, why even stitch it, when you can just use rivets everywhere to staple the bag together? And don't bother with structural support like polyester straps sewn through the bag's belts and straps so that the leather doesn't stretch. Who even cares if your knockoff bag falls apart in a few years? Design pirates have no brand to protect: the only thing that matters is if it looks good on store shelves.

At the end of the video, Munson calls the design pirates who make up the video's design audience grave robbers and wife beaters. They're probably not that bad, but Saddleback's video is still a reminder that you get what you pay for.