Why the Borrow My Balmain scandal is just a small part of a much bigger systemic issue


A failure on so many levels.

Wow. Upon seeing the latest articles about new Instagram upstart Borrow My Balmain lending fake designer dresses to influencers, I had no other words but ‘wow’.

Ah, what a good night’s sleep and a few Insty confessions can do to a girl’s word count, though. Now I have too many words.

Let’s unpack.

So, firstly, let’s start with the account itself. It has now been revealed that the account is run by singer Chloe Maggs, a regular on the social scene, and the girl who stepped in for Nicole Scherzinger as lead Pussycat Doll on the group’s Aussie tour.

The fresh new business has loaned a raft of designer goods to influencers for events including the Melbourne Cup.

Most notably, Steph Claire Smith at Cosmo’s Women of the Year Awards in one of the most obvious rip-offs that I’ve seen in a while (see Diet Prada’s stories for a few hilarious memes about *that* sun.)

Now, if I had seen Smith sashay past me wearing the dress, I’ll admit, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up. If I’d had seen her up close, I may have thought, ‘gee, Dior didn’t put much work into that cheesy sun-face, hey’. I certainly would never have thought, in a million years, that someone would be wearing a fake Dior dress to a high profile event.

And that’s the entire point.

The failure, on so many levels, of ANYONE to pick up that this skirt was a blatant counterfeit is actually mind-blowing.

According to Diet Prada’s Instagram stories (who originally exposed the scandal), stylist Suzy Eskanderworked with Smith on the look. Yes, the post may have been deleted now, but it seems screenshots last forever… So, a professional stylist, at NO POINT thought something was up? It’s kind of her job, right?

Ok, maybe she missed it. Maybe she wasn’t familiar with Dior – and that fact that she worked with a third party to borrow a Dior dress, when there is a Dior store in Melbourne, perhaps speaks of the fact that she doesn’t have a working relationship with the brand. Hey, maybe she was just excited by the idea.

So, the headcount rises to two.

At the track, well-known street style photographer Liz Sunshine (aka Streetsmith) didn’t pick it up either while shooting street style at the Melbourne Cup. Speaking on her Instagram account, the photographer pointed to her trust in those she photographs on a regular basis:

“I’ve been photographing the person featured in this image for years and would never have imagined questioning the authenticity of a garment she was wearing before now. I’m deeply embarrassed about delivering this image and can not even imagine how the people who wore the garments are feeling. This is a new level of deception and low for the Melbourne industry…”

According to Diet Prada’s original expose, Vogue then went on to publish images of owner Maggs, who was also wearing a knock-off Dior, as part of a street style wrap. (This image is no longer on their site.)

Headcount: 4.

So, you’re telling me that a ‘fashion’ influencer, a professional stylist, a fashion photographer, AND VOGUE BLOODY MAGAZINE at no point questioned the validity of a fake garment? I’d say the trust has been lost in a few others, beyond poor Smith, at the moment.

I believe there are multiple failings on the part of the industry here; as a stylist, it’s your job to ensure the authenticity of a designer garment for your client. As a fashion magazine, who actually works with these designers more than anyone else, it’s also your job to ensure you’re more educated than the general public on designer goods.

However, there’s also a failing of the influencer industry at play here, too. As more and more ‘bloggers’ enter the world of Instagram (and suspiciously grow to 30k overnight), often the general public follows based on an assumption of wealth and access.

I’ve spoken at length previously (see here and here) about the fact that we see way too much borrowed designer goods and not enough real style these days.

As influencers increasingly parade about in borrowed goods in order to project an air of affluence, it was only a matter of time until someone took advantage of that. I, personally, own two designer bags that took me many years to acquire – and I certainly can’t afford to pair them with a $5,000 dress.

Often, as a fashion writer, I’m trolled on my Instagram account for wearing high street, rather than designer. But the simple fact is, on a writer’s salary, I can’t afford to buy designer. That’s a fact.

And it’s a fact that has escaped many fans of influencers, who appear to revel in their cognitive dissonance.

Maggs has since delivered a statement about the scandal, declaring that a stylist was to allegedly to blame for the fake dresses fraudulently lent out to customers. However, if you catch Diet Prada’s Instagram stories before they disappear, you’ll see screenshots of DMs from Borrow My Balmain customers alleging that they, too, were sent fake goods.

And so, it seems, the headcount rises.

Follow Bianca’s mostly-owned, fairly cheap wardrobe choices over at @_thesecondrow, or listen to her latest podcast, which talks about whether the influencer is becoming a dying art, at @thefashionpodcast.

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