Inside China’s Booming Industry For Fake Designer Goods

If you haven’t heard already, China has an actual name for its collective industry of knockoff products — fashion items included — that continues to thrive thanks to a cult-like following.

The word is “shanzai,” which literally translates to “mountain fortress.” According to Shanghai-based site Hacked Matter, it was first used in 2005 to describe companies that produced counterfeit phones, such as “Anycoll” and “Nakia.”

Today, shanzai products extend to cover items from every possible brand, and the fashion industry is no exception. There is room to make profit from bags, clothes, shoes and everything in between.

The creators of shanzai fashion are usually female, SupChina noted. On e-commerce site Taobao, for instance, over 50% of the shops are owned by women, and they also sell through WeChat and Weibo.

With such a strong social media presence, followers can easily browse items, send order requests and flaunt their purchases in selfies after delivery.

Interestingly, shanzai fashion designers also post behind-the-scene production photos of their products, which could help boost customer trust.

Image via Wikimedia Commons / Gohnarch (CC BY-SA 3.0)

However, the items are often sold in limited edition sets. In deciding what their next product should be, shanzai designers crowdsource ideas from customers who will most likely buy the item once available.

With this set-up, it’s not difficult to imagine how such goods continue to sell despite the possible health risks and legal consequences.

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