My Executive


    Sep 23, 2013

    In China, learn to tell fakes from real deal

    THE record summer heat left Shanghai's famed Tianzifang, an alley usually crowded with tourists and sightseers during the weekend, nearly deserted on a recent scorching day.

    But in a three-storey industrial-style loft building tucked deep in one of the alleys, the heat gave way to something more serious than shopping.

    It was the first luxury-appraisal class held in the city.

    The three-hour course, held on a Saturday afternoon when temperatures crossed 40 deg C, was organised by, a Chinese fashion-industry trade journal. It charged 200 yuan (S$40) a person for an "elementary-level" course to distinguish authentic luxury products from fakes.

    "The first day that enrolment was announced, the class was filled," said Mr Ye Qizheng, the site's co-founder and editor-in-chief.

    The original plan was to admit about 20 people, a number he said usually took weeks to achieve for earlier courses, such as fashion-trend prediction.

    But for the luxury-appraisal class, more than 40 people called and e-mailed from "all over China" on the first day, forcing Mr Ye and his team to take the notice off their site.

    Ms Yang Yijing, a 28-year-old course participant, said: "I browsed 50 pages of Google searches to find a course like this. I was thrilled to learn (that there was) one in Shanghai."

    Ms Yang, the daughter of a wealthy car dealer, said she had wanted to do business involving second-hand luxury goods after returning from Milan, Italy, where she finished graduate studies in luxury management last year.

    As she found that what she had learnt overseas had little practical use in her hometown in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, she decided to focus on something that was not only novel, but also profitable - selling expensive cast-offs, or "vintage luxury" goods. Her needs seemed to be well-catered for in the course.

    Ms Li Na, the 33-year-old lecturer, is a professional luxury appraiser who has been working in second-hand luxury stores in Japan for a decade.

    Sitting in front of her were some of China's richest women (and a few men), who carried bags from Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Dior.

    Mr Ye said: "Two thirds of the people came only to learn, with a simple thirst for knowledge. As more people are buying luxury goods, the wealthy want to distinguish themselves with limited-edition and vintage-luxury items.

    "Those are not found easily in official stores, and the risks of getting knock-offs are high."

    Ms Li said that although she now lives and works in Japan, she has to travel back to China frequently, to "go deep" into counterfeit-manufacturing sites in Shenzhen and Guangzhou so as to keep up to date with the highly volatile industry.