Limited edition sneakers simply don’t make the cut in terms of demand — that’s the sales model they’re built on — so it’s no surprise that knockoffs, fakes, counterfeits, black market — whatever you want to call it — pairs have wedged and solidified their portion of the proverbial “pie.” Holding astute value within various brands and models of knockoffs are coveted Kanye West YEEZY models from adidas; to the point where China opened a fake YEEZY store and brands like Skechers copied the design and colorways. So what happens when a fan of the sneakers can’t obtain a pair at retail price over and over again? They finally submit to the temptation of a non-authentic pair, a pair that costs half of retail instead of five-to-ten times retail on the resell market.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, a 22-year-old Riverside resident named Kevin shamelessly detailed the story of how he came to own fake “Pirate Black” YEEZY BOOST 350s. Like many others, he had to turn to China when he couldn’t get them for retail and couldn’t afford to pay resell. “If I could readily buy a pair of Yeezys at the store right now I wouldn’t buy fake ones,” he said.
To find information on fakes, Kevin turned to Reddit and a forum called Repsneakers. On the website there is a multitude of photos and details documenting every detail of the sneaker all the way down to the right amount of fuzz on a suede patch. So for $120 USD, Kevin picked up a pair of fake “Pirate Blacks” which were made in China, marketed on social media and sold over e-commerce sites where it takes a sneaker expert to notice that it’s fake. “These aren’t fakes, they’re replicas. It looked like they were using the same materials as the retail shoes,” he thought at the time.
When Kevin discovered the forum in 2015, there were 3,000 subscribers. Today, there are more than 56,000, clearly proving that there is a demand and interest in the black market. This black market forum is where the community directs its anger and scorn towards adidas producing such a limited stock of the sneakers and attempts to fight back. “The sneaker world in its current state is being controlled by people who [use] bots. These people aren’t buying to wear, they’re buying to make profit, which then drives the price up for people who genuinely want to buy to wear,” is the comment made by Spencelord, a Repsneakers subscriber.
To move product, users connect via Skype, WeChat or WhatsApp and pay through services like PayPal or Western Union. Buyers even post and review their fakes for others to inspect. Other posts in the forum document what to do when you are called out and there’s even a segment on “1:1,” a perfect replica. On the flip side, Chan, a Singaporean national, is the one wheeling and dealing these pairs out of Putian, the center of China’s counterfeit manufacturing outlet.
27-year-old Chan admits that Repsneakers is crucial to his business and that he accumulated over 10,000 customer contacts on Skype and that he can sell between 20 to 30 pairs on a slow day with 120+ pairs on a new release. He also makes it clear that it is actually very difficult to reverse engineer a pair of YEEZYs and that factories which produce the fakes need to send a mole into the two adidas factories that make the real version.
“There are unofficial working relationships between these two factories and counterfeiters,” Chan reveals. “I have heard a factory boss brag that he has a team of workers… on his payroll to leak information or parts whenever they can.” Since the economy in the area relies on the production of fakes, even a crackdown won’t stop them. “When there’s a crackdown, the whole industry will stop for a couple days or just stay low key. After awhile, business resumes as normal,” he says.
Due to the method in which these fakes are getting into the hands of consumers like Kevin — via the internet and e-commerce — it is extremely hard for governing bodies to track and prevent. “The internet is a very big challenge, to say the least. The ease of of purchasing something that’s shipped directly to your house is a significant problem for rights holders and customs. It’s a dramatic shift that’s very difficult to stop,” said Bob Barchiesi, president of the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition.
Since brands are still getting play and recognition from fakes, there’s little reason they would crack down on it and thus the cycle perpetuates itself. Let us know your thoughts.