China has no doubt become one of the world’s biggest workshops. It is the leading exporter of the world with more than 70% of Chinese exports that consist of manufactured goods. Most western companies stretch their supply chain throughout China, encompassing thousands of suppliers who provide the required ecosystem for this manufacturing scale.
Unfortunately, the same ecosystem also supports counterfeit goods, whether directly or indirectly. There is no place in the world which is better suited for new/young brands than China. According to reports, it is the home of more than 80% of the world’s counterfeit goods. As the manufacturing infrastructure of China is state-of-the-art, many producers can easily mimic all manner of apparel. Furthermore, the rise of Chinese e-commerce platforms such as DHgate, Alibaba, AliExpress, and Taobao has made it easier to distribute counterfeit goods. In fact, finding product replicas of popular brands is almost as easy as shopping on Amazon.
Chinese merchants use e-commerce platforms (Taobao, Alibaba, etc.) to sell replicas of clothes in large quantities to other US retailers. They even go directly to consumers. So, any clothes you find at Taobao, AliExpress, or a flea market in China could be a fake or the real deal. The problem is that there are just too many products being sold so it makes it difficult to identify which ones are genuine and which ones are fake, apart from the price. The chances of getting fake clothes are also higher because the copyright laws of the country are relatively laxer.
“Taobao has recently deactivated more than 230,000 sellers’ accounts due to the violation of intellectual property rights”
Since the clothing brands are increasing in popularity on regular basis as well as the fact that there are more Chinese e-commerce sites today than ever before, many large and popular clothing brands face threats from brand pirates and counterfeiters who are trying to generate huge profits by illegally manufacturing credible duplicate products to sell at cheap prices. While the large clothing brands are more open to such threats, smaller brands such as Supreme and Common Projects are also vulnerable in this regard.
The Chinese authorities are well aware of this issue. E-commerce platforms in China are required by laws to respond to copyright infringement reports in a timely manner. Taobao is notorious for counterfeits, but over the years it has enhanced its reporting system. Now you can expect a faster response when you report a copyright infringement or a fake product on the site. Taobao has recently deactivated more than 230,000 sellers’ accounts due to the violation of intellectual property rights. Despite these actions, the chances of finding counterfeit products such as fake clothes, shoes, accessories, etc. are still pretty high.
Another reason why counterfeit products are available in vast majority is that most small brands don’t have the means to tackle counterfeiters. Even big brands struggle to rein in the black market for their products in China. If the manufacturing and distribution of counterfeit goods is to be stopped, a complete change in mindset would be required. The production of fake goods can only screech to a halt if their demand is stopped.