The manufacturing, importing, and selling of counterfeit apparel and accessories—fake designer clothes, sneakers, bags, sunglasses, watches, and other items passed off as the real thing—is a staggeringly complex industry, encompassing a dizzying global network of suppliers, distributors, and sellers. It has proven itself to be a highly adaptable industry, too, making use of emerging online platforms to hawk everything from bootleg Yeezys to fake Rolex watches and bypassing the traditional import-export channels to slide past customs in small packages shipped directly to consumers.
It’s also very lucrative. According to the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition (IACC), the total projected value of the global trade in counterfeit goods in 2015 was $1.77 trillion, a number that is roughly equal to the GDP of Brazil.
That amount of money, much of it almost impossible for authorities to trace, attracts criminals looking to fund other illegal activities.
Steve Dool in Complex on the counterfeit economy.