A Swiss watch, a Hermès bag or rubber boots with the Prada signature. Using a magnifying glass, Zhang Chen carefully examines logos, stitching, and serial numbers to distinguish the originals or copies.
China is the world’s No. 1 market for luxury, but also for counterfeits, so Zhang’s expertise in the second-hand market is doing school.
Most people are fooled by “good imitations that are barely distinguishable” from the original, acknowledges Zhang, who founded the Great Luxury Goods Trade School in Beijing.
The man offers expert advice on a copied bag before a packed class.
The price of the seven-day course is 15,800 yuan (2,000 euros). A worthwhile fee according to Zhang Chen, if you want to survive in a booming second-hand market.
The Chinese luxury market represents an astronomical sum of 4 trillion yuan (500,000 million euros), according to the market research firm UIBE Luxury China.
But the market for second-hand products takes off in turn, although in comparison, it is modest – only 17,300 million yuan (a little more than 2,000 million euros) but has practically doubled between 2019 and 2020, according to the Forward Business agency Information.
– Recycled counterfeits –
For those who like bargains, knowing how to recognize imitations is essential to avoid scams.
“The lining of a black Chanel bag should be pink”, says the teacher to his students, young people of both sexes very concentrated.
Under an ultraviolet lamp, students examine the serial numbers of the French brand.
“The secret is that there are two letters that shine,” explains the specialist, who became an expert on luxury in Japan.
Knowing how to distinguish the typeface of a logo can “recognize a third of the copies on the market,” he adds.
For Xu Zhihao, a 31-year-old trader, investing in second hand seems like a good deal, as potential customers are willing to buy the object of their dreams without spending too much.
“A good bag can sell very well,” says the young man, who considers the market “similar to the financial products that I sell today.”
A large Louis Vuitton bag from the Neverfull range is easily resold for 9,000 yuan (over 1,000 euros) after two years, 20% less than the original value, while a Gabrielle bag from Chanel easily maintains 60% -70% of its value.
– Ten seconds is enough –
Obviously, the products have to be in good condition.
“Be careful with fingernail marks,” says Zhang Chen. “Manicures are all the rage right now.”
Among his students, the teacher has identified former counterfeiters, but is reassured: they come to recycle themselves in honest trades.
Zhang Chen says that generally it takes him 10 seconds to determine whether a product is authentic or a counterfeit.
In addition to these courses, the expert performs online diagnostics. Some clients send you photos of watches or clothing for you to give your verdict.
But the trade evolves and the big brands are betting on technology to defend their products, which some have begun to equip with electronic chips to guarantee their origin.
However, in Beijing, expert Zhang is not afraid of being out of work. “All technology has its Achilles heel,” he says. “The market for luxury product identification will always exist, even if the methods have to be adapted.”
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