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Bali’s Fashion Trap: The Strange Story Behind ‘Discounted’ Ralph Lauren Stores



To all prospective travellers: Discover why buying Ralph Lauren clothes in Bali can be a mistake. Here’s the surprising truth about those enticingly low prices.

We all know that Bali is full of eccentricities. Just think of its newly rebranded ‘New Moscow’ town or its ‘cruel, rotten’ local coffee blend. What you may not have known, however, is that there’s a strange, unwieldy story behind one of the island’s most loved and popular brands: Ralph Lauren. While the island — and Indonesia at large — is littered with Polo stores, all may not be quite as it seems…

Illusions Of Authenticity

When you’re on holiday in Bali and come across what appears to be a Polo Ralph Lauren store, the allure of high-end fashion at a fraction of the retail price you’re used to seeing back home can be very tempting.

However, what you see may not be what you get. Despite the authentic-looking storefronts — complete with the classic colonial architecture and official brand logos — these shops are almost always selling counterfeit merchandise.

But when we say ‘counterfeit’, these stores aren’t just straight-up rip-offs in the way you probably imagine; there’s a complex legal history underlying Bali’s plethora of Ralphy stores. @chrisgiacobbecomedy summarises better than we ever could…

The Reality Of Counterfeit Goods

Many tourists find it difficult to believe that these immaculately polished stores in popular areas like Seminyak, Kuta, and Ubud aren’t genuine. The exteriors are convincing, and the items are neatly displayed. But look closer, and the discrepancies quickly become apparent.

Prices are suspiciously low, marketing materials are outdated, and the branding is subtly incorrect. Items are often packaged in plastic, and price tags may be handwritten or non-existent; these are surefire clear signs that these are not official Ralph Lauren products.

One of many lookalike stores in Bali. Image: Guide Your Travel

Tourist Traps

While the underlying legal situation may be complex, the scams that drive tourists into these shops under the impression that they are ‘real’ Ralph Lauren stores are not; in fact, they’re part of a wider tourist scam in Bali. Local drivers and tour operators often bring groups of unsuspecting tourists to these shops, receiving tidy commissions for their efforts. Many of these drivers have arrangements with store owners, ensuring a steady flow of potential customers who might not realise they are buying fakes.

This issue is not new. Ralph Lauren has previously taken legal action against imitation brands in the Asian market, including Indonesia, but with limited success. The presence of these stores continues, misleading countless tourists each year.

What To Watch Out For

If you’re determined to buy Ralph Lauren products while in Bali, be prepared to be disappointed. None of the stores, even those in the international airport, are selling legitimate Ralphy gear for the reasons outlined in the above video. The quality is far below what you would expect from the real brand, and despite the lower prices, you’re still paying too much for what is essentially a knockoff.

The below images show a knock-off, Balinese Ralph Lauren polo shirt (top)side by side with the real deal (bottom). Take a look at the poorly sewn buttons and differences in neck labels; these are the tell-tale signs you need to keep an eye on.

A poorly sewn button on a fake Rlaph Lauren polo shirt, with neck label.
Poorly sewn buttons and dodgy neck labels are classic telltale signs. Image: Guide Your Travel
A genuine Polo Ralph Lauren neck label.
This is what a genuine, well-sewn Polo Ralph Lauren neck label looks like Image: Heddels

For genuine Ralph Lauren items, your best bet is to shop online through authorised retailers like Zalora, or wait until you get home. The few extra dollars spent will ensure you get the quality and authenticity you’re after.

If you feel like showing your appreciation to the plucky young writer who saved you the embarrassment of a fake Ralphy, drop me an email; I take a size Large…

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