The plethora of counterfeit designer handbags readily available for rock-bottom prices throughout China’s cities are certainly a major headache for global luxury brands, but one thing that can make them rest easier is the fact that most are typically of shoddy quality. When a fake Chanel or Louis Vuitton bag falls apart after a few days of use, the higher price for an item that may last decades seems like a smarter investment.
However, one type of “fake” rumored to exist in China may poke a hole in that sense of security—extra bags that are actually a luxury company’s real products produced in the brand’s China factory, but somehow snuck away to be sold clandestinely for cheaper prices.
Known as yuandan (原單) goods, these black-market luxury items can go for around $100 to $300. To find out if they actually exist, a recent Chinese-language report on Sina takes a look at the prevalence of sellers of these types of bags, and its findings can make luxury brands rest easier—sort of.
According to the report, higher demand for quality among Chinese consumers means there’s been an uptick in sellers claiming that their bags are from the brands’ actual factories. Sellers make claims that bags were made of leftover material or failed to pass inspection thanks to small discrepancies. However, the article finds that most of these sellers have turned out to be somewhat unscrupulous, actually selling genuinely fake goods and passing them off as the real thing.
Despite the fact that “factory extras” may not be as readily available as some are led to believe, the luxury industry does have high-quality fakes to worry about. The sellers often get away with their claims because not all fakes are created equal—while many that you’d find out in public for extremely low prices are obviously poor quality, some fakes are good enough to fool even the experts.
Sina outlines an informal classification system that has emerged around Chinese fakes—five levels that range from “1:1” (一比一), “Super A” (超A), “A”,”B”, and “C”. B and C are what you would find at a “night-market stall” says Sina, but A-quality and above can get pretty convincing. While there are ways to distinguish A and Super A-quality as fake, the 1:1 bags are difficult to tell apart from the real thing even for the most seasoned eyes.
The web of deception spun by fake bag retailers goes all the way down the line, according to the report. Sellers of 1:1, Super A, and even A bags often claim that they’re yuandan items, while A sellers try to pass items off as 1:1 and low-quality fakes are portrayed as better than they really are.
When it comes the fabled yuandan, however, Sina cites an “industry source” who says they “don’t exist.” The luxury good industry is “very strict,” according to the article, so “even one blemish means it can confiscated by the manager and destroyed. Subcontractors wouldn’t want to risk the cooperation opportunity for the small benefit of selling yuandan goods.”
Jasmine Lu contributed to this article.