September, 2017

US consumers embrace upmarket fake sneakers from China

Original article: The Los Angeles Times

Adidas's fashionable Yeezy sneakers are hard to come by. Designed by rapper Kanye West, they sold out almost immediately after hitting the market. Few consumers can afford to pay $1500 a pair, about 7.5 times the original retail price. 

Chinese counterfeiters have stepped in to fill the void. A fake pair of Yeezy's from China only costs about $120. That's not cheap for a knockoff pair of shoes, but enthusiasts say that it's next to impossible for a layman to distinguish them from the real thing. 

Experts who can make that distinction say that the fake sneaker trade is booming.“When I’m in the city, I like to pay attention to what people have on their feet, and I’ve never seen more fakes ever in my life,” sneaker designer Jeff Staple told The Los Angeles Times.” “There’s no shame in the game anymore.”


A select group of counterfeiters manufactures fake Yeezys in Putian, the Fujian Province city known for its footwear industry - both legitimate and fake. According to The Los Angeles Times, there are just a half dozen manufacturers in Putian capable of producing convincing fake Yeezys. They rely on technicians with years of experience in the legitimate sneaker business to reverse-engineer the coveted shoes. 

Unsurprisingly, the counterfeiters have allies in Adidas's China factories. Those people provide samples of the shoes to the counterfeiters. As a result, they can make near-exact replicas. 

Meanwhile, a change in consumer attitudes - at least in the United States - has made it acceptable for sneaker buffs to wear counterfeit Yeezys proudly. The people buying the fakes know very well what they're doing, and they have no qualms about it. They say that Adidas created the problem by only producing 40,000 pairs of each Yeezy style; typically, sneakers are produced in the millions. 

Brands have their reasons for producing limited-edition products. Sometimes the boost to brand cachet is worth a bit of backlash from disgruntled consumers. 

Interestingly, Adidas has yet to crack down on Yeezy counterfeiters. That could be because the genuine shoes are guaranteed to sell out, so counterfeit sales don't hit the company's bottom line. In fact, since the average person can't tell a good fake from the real thing, the bogus Yeezys may even raise brand awareness. “To the untrained eye they are still billboards for the brand,” sneaker expert Elliot Curtis told The Los Angeles Times.