Why Some Vintage European Designer Brands in Australia are Worthless

Licensing.

An industry trend among European designer brands, originally started by Pierre Cardin in his heyday, was the selling of licenses to produce goods under that brand’s name in countries that the brand itself didn’t service.
A slew of big names in couture and prêt-á-porter soon followed.
It was an easy way to rustle up some extra cash flow, without having to expand operations.
No financial outlay for expansion, no need to oversee more operations.
Great for the brand at first.

However, the licensing gave the licensee the ability to make whatever they wanted, at whatever quality level they chose, with the original brand having little to no say over it.
In Australia, this gave rise to a slew of rubbish being produced under legitimate names.


Some of the most venerated names in designer land fell prey to this in Australia.
A range of garments can be found bearing these names, and usually the price premium that would at first be associated with them.
However, closer inspection will often reveal that the garment is not up to scratch.

Men’s ties are perhaps the most common example of this that I come across.
It doesn’t stop at ties, however, as tailoring was also produced under license.

The easiest way to differentiate between one of these poor quality licensed goods and the higher quality pieces whose creation was overseen by the brand/designer themselves is easy;
check the manufacturer’s tags.

If the brand name is a notable European designer, but the manufacturer’s tag says either ‘Made in Australia’ or ‘Made in Australia Under License’, you’ll know that you’ve happened across something that’s likely not worth having.

Below, I have compiled a list of brands and names who have been licensed out to low end Australian manufacturers, and whose names on a garment indicates that you need to double check what you’re getting.


Tailoring

Pierre Cardin
As with neckwear, accessories and just about any possible thing that can have a brand stamped upon it, Pierre Cardin is the name most likely to be made under license.
Cardin made a fortune from licensing when he first acted upon the idea, and licensees tarnished his name to the point that the name isn’t really associated with high quality and hasn’t been for years.

Yves St. Laurent
YSL is another designer whose tailoring isn’t worth touching in Australia, due to licensing.
Jackets and suits bearing the YSL tag bear notable resemblance to cheap Stafford Ellinson models from past times, and the make tags often resemble those of the old Fletcher Jones pieces.
High levels of synthetics are often seen in the fabrics and the jackets are always cheaply constructed with fused chestpieces.
I’ve also seen shirting made under license.

Hugo Boss
While not an issue with more contemporary make, Hugo Boss’ first entrance into the Australian market was actually as a product made under license.
If you happen across vintage Boss pieces online, in vintage stores or thrift stores, check the tags.
Some of them will show as Made in Australia, and the main Boss brand never had operations in Australia.
What they did have, however, was a licensing agreement with an Australian manufacturer who produced low-end garments similar to the quality level (or lack thereof) of the licensed YSL and Pierre Cardin tailoring.
I’m told that the licensee for Boss was originally Flair Menswear, however in the absence of any concrete corroboration this can only be treated as presumption.


Ties

Here’s where the real Australian made under license fiasco shows it’s ugly head.
I’ve seen just about every big name in fashion design plastered all over horrible polyester neckties that aren’t worth the cheap fabric they were made with.
Below is a list of names I’ve seen on these ties, and below that will be some pictorial examples.

  • Paco Rabanne
  • Yves St. Laurent
  • Valentino
  • Bottega Veneta
  • Givenchy (multiple lines)
  • Hugo Boss
  • Nino Cerruti
  • Hardy Amies*
  • Christian Dior
  • Versace
  • Balmain
  • Anthony Squires*

*License still owned and operated by Stafford Ellinson in Australia

This isn’t an exhaustive list, as I’m no expert in the field.
However, all of the above are names I’ve seen on made under license garments that don’t live up to the aura of quality that the name projects.

Below are some pictures of a licensed Givenchy tie that show what to look out for when examining the garment.

Givenchy Made Under License Tie - Not Worth Buying!
Givenchy Made Under License Tie - Not Worth Buying!

The giveaway is located under the main tag, to one side, as above.
The licensee isn’t always listed, in fact, this is one of the rare instances where the licensee has opted to name themselves on the tag.
Either way, it’s not a real Givenchy tie, nor will it command the value of the real deal.

In my experience, most items made under license in Australia have been of considerably inferior quality.
It’s a stain on the name of the actual brand, as their reputation decreases with the quality of what we see.
You won’t come across many recently manufactured items in this vein, as most big name brands have learned the lesson about image control.
Most of the items like I’m discussing in this article are relics from the period that taught this lesson, and taught it painfully.

Don’t let it catch you out, as a buyer or a potential reseller.


To me, made under license items exist in the uncanny valley between fake and genuine.
Despite being technically legitimate, the quality is often such that it’s more resemblant of a counterfeit.
If you’re buying or buying to sell, it’s vitally important to check any vintage designer garment to make sure you have the real deal, rather than a made under license piece.
The licensed item usually won’t be worth the money.
The name doesn’t automatically make it a gold mine.

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Beginning to blog at the start of his menswear journey in 2019, Sam founded this site to reflect the journey. Sam is now heavily involved in the Adelaide menswear store Beg Your Pardon, also co-launching Sartorial Social Club in 2021.

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