When Prada Becomes Nada:
China’s knockoff market increases in quality, technique; legitimate brands left with financial issues

By Liliana Salgado


From counterfeit bags, to sophisticated replicas of iPhones, the illegal market of knock offs has been a major issue in China. At half the price, or even less, a consumer can walk away with a fairly identical item from that of the original brand. The amount of brand goods which are duplicated are countless and the appearance of authenticity seems to increase over time.

The Chinese knockoff market grows as rapidly as its name-brand market. Photo by Liliana Salgado

According to Ted Fishman, author of the book China Inc, some of the items being illegally manufactured are: beers, computer software, auto parts and even food; along with many others. Each company experiences financial loss from the counterfeit market and its buyers. Ted points out for example, the $720 million loss in sales of Nintendo due to cloning of their games. Other companies whose products vary from clothing to electronics, experience the same kind of money issues and yet the manufacturing does not seem to cease. Respect for  Intellectual property only decreases, especially in China.

But do the consumers know that they are being fooled or are they simply looking forward to look legitimate without spending the high price? Name brands are extremely popular and important in China; especially if they are 100% authentic. So is the counterfeit market necessarily targeted to them?

Zane Hill, an American student who is studying abroad in Shanghai, expresses his opinion on the question.

“A lot of people are aware,” he said. “The people they want to attract are the foreigners because the Chinese want the real stuff.”

Fashion accessories are very popular to replicate in China’s black market. Photo by Sarah Pringle

And it is true, while observing the vendors in a crowded area, one can notice that they tend to pull aside non-Asian shoppers. From his experience, he has noticed that if you speak Mandarin, it is most likely that they will lower the price immensely. As a foreigner however, the beginning price will start higher than what it should be. Zane commented on his belief that the quality of knock offs has actually increased in the last 10 years.

From his stay in Shanghai, Zane Hill also expressed an ironic discovery about the counterfeit market.

“They have signs outside one of the knock off buildings that says to not buy fake items, only to push away government attention.” At last he ended with, “You know, it’s funny that you ask because I was just going to one of those places since these are my last days here.”

Without a doubt, the black market is mostly popular on producing handbags and other fashion accessories. However, these items are not as troublesome to the consumer as the electronic goods that eventually stop working.

Ares Zhen, a worker for a repair shop of Apple products, spoke about his frustration with the people who falsely accuse him in his own legitimate store.
“I feel so angry because a lot of people do not trust us now and they ask me, ‘is this fake?’ He did not seem happy at all about the issue, especially with the fact that electronic repair is his area of study and specialty. “They come here and and we cannot fix it because it is fake. They are so surprised and I feel bad because they trusted these people,” he adds.

The crime is growing, and so is the quality of the replicas. Leading companies are being affected immensely and in some cases, so are the consumers. But beauty and fashion are always a major factor to one’s happiness, especially when it is cheap. Regardless of that fact, one must always be aware that counterfeiting is a crime and eventually one may end up “from Prada to nada.”

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