Ex-Hermes workers risk prison over fake handbags

The trial of a large traffic of fake Hermes by organized gangs between 2013 and 2014, several of which are former workers for Hermès, will take place in Paris on June 24, 2020. (AFP/Stephanie De Sakutin)
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Updated 26 June 2020

Ex-Hermes workers risk prison over fake handbags

  • An inquiry uncovered a clandestine operation in which the suspects at their homes allegedly crafted dozens of counterfeit “Birkin” bags
  • Ten people went on trial this week, including seven former Hermes employees

PARIS: Paris prosecutors sought prison terms Friday for the leaders of a ring accused of making and selling fake handbags from iconic French luxury house Hermes, including some former employees.
The network, which targeted Asian tourists in Paris but also clients in Hong Kong in 2013 and 2014, was uncovered when French police wiretapped the home of a man suspected of selling stolen handbags in Asia.
An inquiry uncovered a clandestine operation in which the suspects at their homes allegedly crafted dozens of counterfeit “Birkin” bags, the most coveted — and profitable — item produced by Hermes.
Named for French-British actress Jane Birkin, the bags have long waiting lists for customers ready to pay 40,000 euros ($45,000) or more for versions made with crocodile skin.
Ten people went on trial this week, including seven former Hermes employees.
Prosecutors said they took in around two million euros a year by selling the fakes for 20,000 euros to 30,000 euros each.
The Hermes workers would make the bags with crocodile skins from an Italian supplier, using zippers and other components smuggled out of Hermes workshops.
A woman now aged 52, born in Cambodia but living in France since 1980, was tasked with selling the fake bags as well as genuine “Birkins” resold to clients at a markup.
She told investigators her clients knew that they were buying fakes, the court heard this week.
One of the employees, accused of orchestrating the counterfeiting ring, was just 18 when he began working at Hermes.
“At the time, I didn’t realize the seriousness of this,” the now 45-year-old told the court.
As the trial wound up Friday, prosecutors sought prison terms of up to four years and fines of 100,000 euros to 200,000 euros for the three ringleaders, and suspended sentences and fines for the others.
Hermes lawyers have also asked for two million euros in damages. The court is expected to announce a date for its ruling later Friday.


Startup of the Week: Jawa 7alawa, a cruelty-free makeup brand

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Updated 04 August 2020

Startup of the Week: Jawa 7alawa, a cruelty-free makeup brand

  • Jawa 7alawa will continue to launch more makeup products in the coming months

With the plethora of make-up brands introduced onto the market over the past few years and a growing public awareness regarding the controversial testing of products on animals, young startup brands are increasingly incorporating a cruelty-free approach into their ethos.
Jawa 7alawa, a Saudi cruelty-free makeup brand launched last month, is the brainchild of social media influencer Rahaf Jambi.
The name ‘Jawa 7alawa’ is Hejazi slang used to compliment girls of Javanese descent — ‘Jawa’ being a term used to refer to Javanese people and ‘7alawa’ meaning sweets or candy. The number 7 is used in Arabized English to substitute a pharyngeal letter nonexistent in English.
Jambi has launched three items: The faux-mink Rahaf and Hatoon Lashes, and an eyeliner pen that acts as an adhesive glue and that also contains magnetic properties for those who wish to use magnetic clip-on lashes. 
The lash sets were inspired by Jambi and her sisters —  Rahaf, Hatoon, Jumana, Hams and Kenda — representing each of their respective personalities.
Rahaf Lashes are bold, dramatic and daring, while Hatoon Lashes are described as soft and sophisticated.
Jambi started developing the brand during quarantine, when she felt that she finally had the time to realize her goals.
“I’ve always wanted to create something for myself. I used to continuously postpone this idea, but during the quarantine, I felt like I had the time to sit and think and actually get something out of this pandemic,” she told Arab News.
At the heart of Jambi’s brand is a desire to shed light on animal rights and environmental sustainability.
“Whenever I try to buy lashes, they always turn out to be mink lashes. It’s not cruelty-free, and it’s against my values. I wanted to achieve the same sort of high-quality lashes, which feel like mink lashes, without using cruel practices.”
“One percent of the profits will go to animal charity organizations. You’re not only buying, you’re giving back,” she added.
The lash containers are candy-shaped and are sustainable as well.
“One of my brand’s main values is sustainability. It is a pretty container that can be used well after the lashes are gone, instead of just being thrown away,” she said.
The brand stressed the importance of including all types of eye shapes so that no woman has to struggle to find the perfect lashes.
“I have hooded eyes, a common Asian characteristic. It’s hard for me to find something that’s of good quality and that I actually like and can use multiple times. There is usually only one type that suits hooded eyes, but with Jawa 7alawa, I created a wide variety of lashes to suit every shape and style,” Jambi said.
She added: “The materials used are soft, luxurious and of high quality. I wanted to add something new to the market.”
Jambi has experienced cyberbullying as a social media influencer interested in beauty.
“I’ve been told my features weren’t pure Saudi and comments of that sort. I’ve even heard comments from people saying I wasn’t proud of my roots. I feel like I took something I was insecure about and I turned it into something powerful,” she said.
 Jawa 7alawa will continue to launch more makeup products in the coming months. Keep up with the Saudi brand on Instagram (@Jawa7alawa).