Alibaba-owned Chinese e-commerce site Taobao boasts 529 million monthly active users on its platform, making it the largest internet e-commerce platform in China by any comparison. According to The Wall Street Journal, over seven million vendors operate on the e-market, offering cosmetics, electronics, apparel, and even YEEZYs. While many of the vendors are tendering authentic products to ensure positive user feedback from buyers (just like eBay), more than a few bootlegs are slipping through the cracks.
We partnered with LTD. to analyze ecommerce data from 100 Taobao stores with YEEZY listings, to find out how prevalent fake YEEZYs are on China’s biggest e-market, presented with illustrations from Dan Freebairn. Over the last year, Alibaba reportedly removed more than 380 million counterfeit product listings and shuttered around 180,000 Taobao “shops” selling inexpensive Rolex watches and Louis Vuitton handbags, moreover the website’s search function no longer registers results for specific phrases like “gaofang,” which means “high-grade copy.”
But when it comes to arguably the most hyped ongoing sneaker collaboration, our data shows that for every one authentic Kanye West x adidas Originals YEEZY sneaker sold on Taobao, roughly six fake pairs change hands. See the full breakdown below.
From May to August 2017, the tally of fake to real “Zebra” YEEZY 350 V2 sales comes to an approximate ratio of 6:1, with a massive rise in bootleg sales occurring in July and August. When adidas re-stocked the “Zebra” colorway on June 24, a subsequent spike in sales can be seen across the following months, with sales multiplying nearly nine-times over from May to July.
According to our sources, most fake shoes are made in the region of Putian in Fujian Province, which is the base of many fake shoe factories that can manufacture between 3,000 and 4,000 pairs per day. Many of these factories are able to produce bespoke bootlegs on demand, in nearly any color and amount the client wishes. Not only do the factories in this area produce fake shoes, but they even offer educational courses, teaching sellers how to best operate as a Taobao vender purveying bootleg shoes, which makes it a true “one-stop shop” for counterfeit goods.
While bootleg sellers are shifting greater quantities, obviously authentic YEEZYs are still fetching higher prices per pair on Taobao, and on the wider resell market. Whether you’re buying in China or anywhere in the world, one rule of thumb remains clear; if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is, and you’ll never find authentic YEEZYs for $52.
While the numbers clearly show that Taobao shoppers are buying more fake YEEZYs than real ones, it’s still up for debate whether or not customers are familiar enough with the hallmarks of fake product to make well informed buying decisions in the first place. The existence of a fake YEEZY store in the city of Wenzhou could indicate that some Chinese shoppers are not in fact doing their research before making a purchase, but to find out more from Chinese sneakerheads themselves, make sure to read our round-table discussion “What Do Chinese Sneakerheads Think About YEEZYs?”
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- Illustrations: Dan Freebairn