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World Keeping it real: appraisers sift China second-hand luxury market for fakes

07:40  02 may  2021
07:40  02 may  2021 Source:   afp.com

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Fake markets aren’t present in all of China , because being an exclusively tourist attraction they are concentrated especially in the cities of Beijing and Shanghai. As far as Beijing goes, the most visited one with the widest variety of products is the Silk Street Market (秀水街, Xiushui Jie) located at 8 This is the third tourist attraction in Beijing and was opened at the beginning of the Eighties and today is host to more than a thousand vendors inside. After the conversion of the Ya Show of San Li Tun to the fake market shopping center, the second most famous fake market in Beijing is probably the Pearl

The second - hand luxury market only accounts for about 5% of the Chinese luxury industry in 2019. If a trading platform keeps on failing to identify fake goods, it would lose consumers’ trust, he affirmed. To tackle the problem, Secoo, which started as a second - hand luxury trading platform 12 years ago and has grown into one of the biggest of its kind in China , set up Asia’s largest luxury goods appraisal center in Beijing, sprawling over an area of 8,000 square meters, with more than 80 senior global appraisers .

It's the world's biggest market for luxury goods -- and their counterfeits -- so an expert eye for telling a bona fide Chanel handbag from a bogus one is a skill set in hot demand across China.

An expert eye for telling a bona fide Chanel handbag from a bogus one is a skill set in hot demand across China © WANG ZHAO An expert eye for telling a bona fide Chanel handbag from a bogus one is a skill set in hot demand across China

Enter the "luxury appraiser", an eagle-eyed diffrentiator of real from fake, trained to triage handbags, belts and garments for dodgy serial numbers, stitching and logos.

China's factories churn out huge quantities of luxury goods, much of which is destined for a domestic market worth about four trillion yuan ($620 billion), according to market researchers UIBE Luxury China.

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In addition to fakes sold on China ’s “gray market ,” the maturing tastes of Chinese consumers have also encouraged the secondhand luxury market to emerge as the bargain-hunting middle class seeks discounted luxury goods in the country. These two booming industries have together spurred the illegal circulation of counterfeit goods—and as a result, have incubated the strong and growing demand for luxury In response to the increasing popularity of luxury appraisal , numerous secondhand luxury sale giants recently held events with a focus on authenticity identification in downtown Beijing.

Chinese consumers have traditionally shunned buying second - hand out of concerns including that the item might be fake . But in recent years platforms have launched to bet on a mindset shift. Sun promotes products for sites including Plum, a Beijing-based company which specializes in selling secondhand luxury goods. Hundreds of staff at its headquarters examine the authenticity of piles of products. Some have to examine up to 200 to 300 handbags a day. Plum says business is booming since shopping has shifted from physical stores to online platforms, a shift given extra impetus by this

a group of people looking at a cell phone: Trainees practice methods of verifying the authenticity of a handbag following a class at the Extraordinary Luxuries Business School in Beijing © WANG ZHAO Trainees practice methods of verifying the authenticity of a handbag following a class at the Extraordinary Luxuries Business School in Beijing

Now the second-hand luxury market is also booming as those unwilling to part with thousands of dollars for a handbag seek out the prestige at a discount price.

But a vast shadow trade in counterfeits lies in wait for the bargain-hunters.

Many are fooled by "good imitations with little difference" from the originals, said Zhang Chen, founder of the Extraordinary Luxuries Business School, who tools his graduates with the gift of detecting fakes.

a group of people in a room: Zhang Chen, founder of the Extraordinary Luxuries Business School, teaching a class in Beijing © WANG ZHAO Zhang Chen, founder of the Extraordinary Luxuries Business School, teaching a class in Beijing

His seven-day course teaches students how to detect forgeries, value second-hand goods and learn the skills needed to appraise luxury products.

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While second - hand platforms like ThredUp and Depop have taken off in the West, China 's resale market has been stunted by fears over counterfeiting, the social status attached to new goods and even superstitions around wearing other people's clothes. Can China look past counterfeits and superstition in its burgeoning second - hand fashion market ?

Chinese consumers have traditionally shunned second - hand goods, though that has undergone a shift over the past decade or so led by younger, more environmentally conscious consumers looking for affordable high-end goods. "Compared to completely new products, second - hand products are more Sales growth at Plum have averaged over 25% month-on-month in the first half. The actual size of the Chinese second - hand luxury goods market is small, luring platforms such as Plum, Ponhu and Feiyu which are betting on strong growth over coming years. A joint report by China 's University of

And while the fee is 15,800 yuan ($2,400), Zhang says it is a price worth paying as it provides a foothold in a second-hand luxury market that is only just taking off.

China's second-hand luxury market value reached 17.3 billion yuan in 2020, almost double the previous year, according to consultancy Forward Business Information.

"Chinese people buy one third of the world's luxury goods, but the circulation rate of three percent is far below the 25-30 percent in Western countries," he said, referring to the percentage that is later resold.

Tricks of the trade

Zhan drills the rules of luxury into students who are hooked onto his every word.

"The lining of a black Chanel handbag must be pink," he says.

Trainees check ID cards on handbags from the French luxury fashion chain under a special ultra-violet light.

"Two letters will light up, and that's the secret," said Zhang, who learned his own skill appraising luxury goods a decade ago in Japan.

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Fakes . It is impossible to teach anyone what is old or what is modern academically, only years of buying, selling, collecting and handling can teach you, but hopefully the advice I give below will help you along your way. Chinese ceramic production has a very long history, countless kilns, a glittering array of shapes, glazes, periods, and so on. With the rapid development of capitalism & a market economy people in China are gradually realizing that antique Chinese porcelains will become more and more valuable over time due to their long lasting, expensive, rare and non-renewable characteristics hence

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Knowing which letters in the Chanel logo use a rectangular rather than square font can "detect a third of the fakes on the market", he added.

His class are all affluent but from a variety of backgrounds, including the former editor of a fashion magazine from Shanghai and a bartender looking for a fresh start after his business was hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.

"I realised that second-hand luxury bags could be sold at a very good price," said 31-year-old stock market trader Xu Zhihao.

A Louis Vuitton Neverfull handbag bought two years ago can still be sold at 9,000 yuan on second-hand platforms, a 20 percent discount, while a small Chanel Gabrielle bag goes for about 60 to 70 percent of the counter price.

"I think the logic behind the sales is very similar to the financial products I'm selling now."

But the condition of the bags can have a heavy impact on value.

"Pay special attention to the scratches around the buckle, as a lot of people get manicures these days," Zhang warns, identifying grazes from long nails.

And seasonality is essential, with red -- the colour of good luck -- selling quickest over Chinese holidays.

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His school has even attracted former counterfeiters as students, he added, many wanting to build on existing skills but shift to less disreputable work.

Block the fakes

In most cases it takes Zhang around 10 seconds to tell if a product is real, he says, holding up a genuine Hermes bag.

Some clients send pictures of watches, trainers and clothes for an online diagnosis.

Verifying luxury products is set to become more high-tech with fashion houses introducing chips to trace pedigree.

Louis Vuitton announced in 2019 that it will launch a blockchain platform called AURA to record its goods.

Microchips have been inserted in the sole of women's shoes made by Italian brand Salvatore Ferragamo, while Burberry has experimented with Radio Frequency Identification technology (RFiD) in its goods -- a technology that uses radio waves to identify a tagged object.

But with the tech still in its infancy, Zhang is unconcerned about the threat to his analogue line of work.

"Any technology has the possibility of being cracked," Zhang told AFP.

"The market for identifying luxury products will always exist, it's just that the methods will have to adapt."

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