Laguiole® means authentic stuff, yet…


…we’re living in globalized times and you can never be sure of anything, can you? Feel free to follow my un-packaging of a nice box of Laguiole knifes, bought online at a good, competitive price. The – wooden – box contains a cook’s knife, a bread knife and a smaller all-purpose-cutter; all the tools have wooden handles, copper elements, they definitely look like real French handicraft, like real tradition, they’re looking great, don’t they?

Looks like real: a real wooden box with real knifes.

Southern France in your hands: well, not really.

Let’s check Wikipedia for Laguiole knives: “The Laguiole knife is a high-quality traditional Occitan pocket-knife, originally produced in the town of Laguiole in the Aveyron region of southern France.” That’s what I had thought. And so I happily went on unpacking my brand-new knives.

Good knives, hiding a dirty secret: and if they weren't French?

I pulled them out admiring them, weighing them in my hands, turning them – just to find a sticker on their back saying either: “Made in China” or “Made in P.R.C.”. You might know that the latter stands for “People’s Republic of China” and was invented as a brand mark after the first poisonous toys “made in China” had hit the world market. Concerning the knives, I could have seen it right away because it’s stamped on the back of the gift box:

P.R.C. just means: made in China.

Now please don’t get me wrong: I admire China, I don’t share the Western high-brow-attitude towards the country at all; I’ve travelled it all over in recent years, I’ve made friends with locals, I’m convinced that Chinese workers are well able to craft high quality products. But, and this is a big BUT, what I really don’t like is Western brands raising their profits on the basis of a local, rural, provincial, authentic image  while they’re in fact riding the surf of low-cost-globalization. It is, in fact, impossible, it’s appalling that Laguiole knives should be “made in China” – and I really want you to have these things in mind next time you come to Paris and let yourself be charmed by one of these extremely charming Laguiole boutiques…

The affair is not the fault of the village in lovely Aubrac (it only counts 1200 inhabitants). The village council tries to get rid of these name-harming practices. In fact, they’ve hired a Parisian lawyer to get the case sorted out. But that has already proven difficult. In the early 1990s, a Mr. Gilbert Szajner had sort of bought the “Laguiole”-brand and reserved the rights to use it for knives and lots of other stuff, tableware, clothes, barbecues, even lighters – and the Laguiole council filed a suit against him. Mr. Szajner lost first but finally won his case by the end of the 1990s. He will do so again, I’m afraid, when it comes to Laguiole knives “made in P.C.R”. One clever entrepreneur is able to kill the reputation of a decent French village and a prime brand. It’s a shame.

4 comments

  1. Georg

    That would be a disappointment for me too. I may be wrong and even if you took up the cudgels for China, the labelling “Made in China” is for me still a synonym for products of inferior quality.

    By the way we have the same problem right on our doorstep. I live in Solingen which is quiet well known for cutlery and the home for companies like Pott, Wüsthof, Zwilling and Böker, just to name a few. “Made in Solingen” or just the name “Solingen” on a knife promises (and mostly keeps that promise) good quality and it’s consistent to protect this brand. So the so called “Solingenverordnung” has been issued but nevertheless it’s not a big coincidence that the Museum Plagiarius “Innovation vs. Imitation” http://www.plagiarius.com/ is here in my hometown.

    • Thanks for the link, Georg, very interesting!
      Concerning knives and stuff – in the end they are just hardware. Good for us that the real goods, like Roquefort or Parmiggiano or even “Lübecker Marzipan” are pretty well protected in the meantime. Thanks to the European Union by the way…

  2. Thomas Moeck

    Why faked Armani and Gucci are no good, but faked traditional crafts are OK? It’s all about good ethics and good culture. Folks, the beautiful life around you is there thanks to the original culture, not something made in P.R.C. They can skin alive small animals, but not the traditional craftsmen and craftswoman around your corner. Wake up before it’s ways too late.

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