Knockoff handbags are "gateway drugs" that lead to purchases of pricey designer goods, according to new research. Two studies show that counterfeit designer bags boost sales of the real thing, because as women became attached to their "phony Vuittons," they become more and more willing to pay for the real thing to replace their fraying counterfeits. Like any gateway product, the fake bags serve as a "potent sampling tool." A Northwestern University economist found out another "dirty little secret": Fake handbags are effective, free advertisements for the high-end versions. Is it time designers embraced knockoffs?

No, they bring down the brand: Even if phony handbags increase the number of designer bags sold, says Cory Doctorow at BoingBoing, the brands still lose value. Prada handbags are "positional goods," which are valuable because of "what they say about their owners." When these goods are knocked off, the message conveyed by the legit versions is tarnished.
"Counterfeiting can be good for luxury goods sales"

Plus, counterfeiting is still a crime: Intellectual property theft is "actually wrong," says Jenna Sauers at Jezebel. And in the case of these bags, the production of counterfeit goods takes place under "atrocious" conditions. Those who push the products are often criminals involved the drug trade, and human trafficking. Everyone in this racket deserves "to be punished to the full extent of the law."
"Are knockoff bags helping to sell the real thing?"

The research seems overblown, anyway: "Isn't the point of buying a fake to save money?" says Nicole Fabian-Weber at The Stir. The sort of people who buy knockoff bags in the first place can't afford a "fancypants" original. These customers will remain resistant to the "gateway drug" of counterfeits, and won't be "living like a Rockefeller" anytime soon — or owning any real Prada purses.
"Why fake designer bags cost you more in the end"