Lawsuit Accuses Kering of Falsely Labeling China-Produced Eyewear as ‘Made in Italy’

Eyewear boutique Selima Optique filed a lawsuit against Kering S.A., the owner of such brands as Gucci, YSL, and Alexander McQueen, accusing the French luxury goods holding company of false advertising, unfair competition, and fraud when it claimed that its China-produced eyewear had been “Made in Italy.”

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Manhattan, New York, on June 13 and included defendants Kering Eyewear and Kering Eyewear USA.

Selima Optique, which owns stores in New York, Santa Monica, California and Paris, states in the complaint that while the products are labeled as having been made in Italy, “in truth, their products, or substantially all parts of their products, are made in China, and (at best) shipped to Italy for final assembly and packaging, and then exported.”

Italy passed a law in 2009 stipulating that only goods “entirely made” in the country, according to the complaint, are allowed to use the label, “Made In Italy.” The law was intended to protect the reputation of Italian luxury and craftsmanship.

Image via official website of YSL.

Addressing Kering’s practice as a “bait-and-switch scheme,” Selima Optique claims the company has been engaging in this deceitful practice since September 2016 when it established Kering Eyewear to design and distribute eyewear products.

The deceptive packaging and labelling of Kering-branded products, the plaintiff claims in the class-action lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of a class of eyewear manufacturers, has done harm to all wholesalers and retail consumers who have been cheated into pay premium prices for goods that are not entitled to the price tag.

In the filing document, Selima Optique also explained the process of uncovering the alleged misconduct by Kering in detail. On February 9, 2017, the boutique chain received a package with YSL-branded eyeglass frames but found that there was a “Made In China” mark on the one side and “Made In Italy” mark on the other. When they contacted Kering Eyewear, they were told that it was a manufacturing mistake.

While the luxury group has yet to file an answer to the complaint, it has denied all of the allegations to The Fashion Law. “Kering Eyewear denies all allegations made by Selima Optique, Inc,” said a spokesperson for Kering. It further stated that its “luxury products are made in Italy and are labeled in compliance with all applicable law.”

The complaint concluded that this covert practice is quite common among luxury goods produces, and especially prevalent in the premium eyewear market. 

However Kering formally responds to the complaint, the case puts the spotlight back on the long-standing ethical debate over the practice by some luxury brands of outsourcing production to factories in developing countries such as China to exploit the low cost of labor there.

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