Not too long ago, someone slid into my Instagram DMs (on my brand A-Morir's business account, to be clear: I'm married!) to explain to me that the actual cost of a certain pair of sunglasses I make was $8 to $12, so selling them for $400 was ridiculous. Now, Internet Survival Rule #1 is never feed the trolls. And I keep it professional on IG. But I was tired and having a moment.
Look, I understand that, thanks to overseas slave wages, stolen photos, and shady manufacturers selling hot knockoff garbage, you maybe think that your favorite independent designer's prices are too high. But that's exactly why I'm here to remind you that there is an actual person behind the products you're coveting, a person who has continually worked their ass off and sacrificed a lot, only to be told their product should be sold for pennies. I know A-Morir price points aren't for everyone. But premium materials and expert construction (by hand!) have a tangible cost. Buying knockoffs—and buying into knockoff pricing—has actual consequences for independent businesses like mine.
If you've ever been curious about why things cost what they do, let's go back to that DM. A few weeks prior to that, I noticed the number of pending messages on my business account went up. I always have a few in there; I don't know what happens if you delete a pending message (does it block the sender? Can they ever message you again? Why do I care about this so much?) but when I finally checked, a woman was asking about my Currie tassel glasses. After confirming the price—and letting her know about our mailing list discount—she asked, "Why so expensive?" Allow me to explain.
These glasses are $440. Which isn't inexpensive. But they also aren't cheaply made, and so their price point is fair. They also aren't out of line with the price of other designer brands (do people ask these questions to Chanel? Versace?), and that's why these kinds of questions frustrate me. But I do understand that not everyone gets how the sausage—or the sunglasses—gets made. Like all of my pieces, the Currie is made with premium materials. In this case, a crystal chain that is custom made with specific stone colors and unique black metal plating. Plus, there are accent stones in six sizes that I have to special order, along with the cost of frames and lenses.
The second cost factor, which I pride myself on, is that each one of my pieces is hand-embellished in my NYC studio. The Currie frame has an original hanging tassel design with six different points of execution for assembly. The entire piece requires over two dozen individual steps to complete. It takes a long time to do this perfectly. Hours! Someone gets paid for that labor. I pay the artisans who work for me well—because they deserve it—and when I make a piece, which I genuinely love doing, I get paid for my work, too.
Of course, I told her to reach out if she had any more questions. Well, she did—and I lost it. Even after having had me tell her why I need to charge the prices I do, she replied that she'd seen a product that was identical to the Currie selling for $8 to $12 wholesale, so charging $400 is "a bit much."
ARE YOU TELLING ME IT COSTS $8 TO MAKE WHAT I MAKE?!
I've been in business for 10 years, and I've been getting knocked off for nine of them. I know how these shady bootleg manufacturers work. It's why that meme of "what you ordered vs. what came in the mail" exists. I let her know that anything that looks "identical" to my designs is a case of someone stealing my image, that I had personally taken, to sell their bootleg goods. This woman asking me these questions worked in the beauty industry, so I asked her: How would you feel if someone stole photos you took of your work and used them to imply that quality of work was available for pennies on the dollar? She apologized. Hopefully, she understood. I should have felt better, right?
WRONG. I couldn't let this go without a reverse image search (thanks, Google). There I found 10 (!!!) pages of sellers using a stolen photo of mine to sell knockoffs that might be passable to the legally blind; these web hustlers were using my photo at the top of a carousel to sell mass-produced, poorly made, glue-covered sunglasses with cheap crystal chains for $20 tops. And I was livid.
I wasn't mad at the stolen photos. That's the nature of the beast. (Before you say "Hire a lawyer!" know that almost all of these companies are international, and it would cost tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars to get the photos removed, only so more could pop up in their place.) What hurt me—really hurt me at my core—was the idea that, thanks to fast fashion culture and knockoffs, someone would think that my original work should cost $8.
The problem with knockoffs is both ethical and economical. If you're buying a pair of shoes for $30, for instance, there are two things happening: the materials are crap, and whoever made them is getting paid like crap for their work. Slavelabor runs rampant in the fashion industry, and it's something I have no interest in supporting. I have always kept my supply chain local, have hired and trained artisans who are paid well for their skilled work, and do my own bespoke work with a husband and wife in Canada who built their own eyewear workshop from scratch—and I have paid a lot of money to do so!
Each A-Morir piece takes hours to execute perfectly. Beyond mere materials and construction, these designs don't come out of thin air. I have been painting and sculpting for over 30 years, and designing eyewear professionally for the last 10 of them. Three decades of active creativity and research have made my designs what they are. I call my work museum quality because my work has been in museums multiple times (currently at the NMNI's "Fashion & Feminism" exhibit for any Irish readers!) Listen, I understand that a $200-to-$1,000 price point isn't for everyone. But I hope everyone who reads this understands why my pieces cost what they do, and hopefully understands why independent brands don't charge fast fashion prices.
So, yeah, when someone slides into my DMs to "well, actually" my business practices, I can't let it slide. If one person thinks that way, there are others who think it too. If you want to pay $8 for knockoff A-Morir—or any other hardworking independent business—that's completely up to you. We've all been suckered by the ease of fast fashion at one point. Just know that you are without a doubt supporting art theft and sweatshops.
And if that's not bad enough, I promise you: You'll look like a bootleg fashionista, too.