Quick quiz, who is the more dangerous pirate?
Long long ago, on a planet far, far away (otherwise known as Xanga), I wrote about a Fortune article which talked about China's counterfeiters and the famous Italian clothing brand, Zegna. Through the magic that is Google, I can find the title, but have yet to be able to find a version, that said the title is, "China's Cheap Fakes Driving West Up the Wall." The article discussed one member of the Zegna family's surprise when he saw clothing with his family's name on them in China. The surprise wasn't that counterfeiters would fake Zegna clothing, it was at the quality of the fakes. While the fake Zegna pants couldn't be sold for US$250 or so like a real pair, the fabric, stitching, etc was of good quality and could garner a high price if branded properly (ie not as a fake product).
Anyways, thoughts of that long ago article and post came back to me when I saw Saturday's NY Times article that spells out an upcoming attack on piracy in China. When it comes to pirated goods, I'm more of a cd/dvd guy, I love clothes, but its more about the quality than anything, something you just aren't getting when buying the fake stuff. I can't understand the fairer sex's obsession with buying Vuitton,Gucci, Burberry etc purses, either you lay out a whole lotta cash to have a bag that looks the same as everyone elses (who got a fake that was 100 times cheaper) or you buy the fake which only fools people from a distance and ends up falling apart after a month or two (why am I humming Kanye's "All Falls Down" as I write this?).
I guess I'm ruining my own argument with the above discussion, but still, back on topic. The reality is that when it comes to the fake clothing you see at the new Xiushui (ie "Silk Alley") or Hongqiao (ie the "Pearl Market") or Xiangyan (though I guess it doesn't exist anymore, so where do Shanghainese and foreigners go to buy their fakes?) are, like the Zegnas, of pretty decent quality. If instead of slapping a Zegna tag on the clothing and instead throwing on some Chinese name, spending some money on marketing, and selling them in decent department stores across China, that person could make considerably more money than they would on those fake goods.
Trying to stop piracy in China is nearly impossible, period. Its funny to walk around Xiushui
and see a copy of a court order (can't remember what court it was) declaring that fake goods couldn't be sold and would be punishable by law in the upper corner of every stall and still see the stalls packed with fake goods. When Giorgio Armani was in China, he bought a fake Armani watch and took it as a "compliment" that they would make such good fakes of his goods. He didn't see it as a threat, at least he didn't say so publicly. More brands should take a nod from Armani and let everyone do their own thing. At the same time, if some in China stopped wasting their time on counterfeiting Western brands and started working on building their own domestic brands, it might be possible to make a lot of money and kill 2 birds with 1 stone.
Then again, when it comes to Armani and his watches, the damage is far less than for a Burberry or Vuitton where everyone carrying the bag has thus "cheapened" it and taken away the "status symbol" aspect of it. When the high paid woman worker walks into her office with a (real) Burberry purse, she doesn't want to see every secretary walk in with a similar looking (fake) Burberry purse. Ahh, the problem that just won't go away...
ps: If you made it this far, sorry for the bad pirate jokes!