Chinese designer fakes so convincing you need a microscope to tell they’re fake

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Counterfeit designer goods so close to the real thing that only a microscope could reveal they were fakes are being sold on a Chinese-run website for less than one percent of the retail price of genuine goods.

As part of an investigation into the online sale of high-quality copies of clothes, bags and shoes from luxury brands such as Chanel and Hermès, The Mail on Sunday bought four items for less than £160 which, they were bought from legitimate retailers, would cost almost £27,000.

The products – listed for sale by individual retailers on the DHgate online marketplace – are described as unbranded, illustrated, exclusive product replicas.

But thanks to word of mouth and social media posts, shoppers know that many products will arrive in boxes and dustbags emblazoned with the names and designs of the world’s top design companies. Some also come with authentic authentication documents.

Mail on Sunday reporter Molly Clayton (pictured) ordered copies of luxury goods from a Chinese website, including a Hermès bag, a pair of Louboutin shoes, a Chanel handbag and a Canada Goose coat

Counterfeit designer products so close to the real thing that only a microscope could reveal they were fakes are being sold on the Chinese DHgate site for less than one percent of the retail price of genuine products.  Pictured: Diane Wang, CEO of 'DHGate.com'

Counterfeit designer products so close to the real thing that only a microscope could reveal they were fakes are being sold on the Chinese DHgate site for less than one percent of the retail price of genuine products. Pictured: Diane Wang, CEO of ‘DHGate.com’

A handbag, advertised as a ‘classic premium genuine caviar leather shoulder bag’, was priced at £51 and, although unbranded, was the same shape and style as a Chanel Classic Flap handbag which usually sells for £7,140.

A Hermes Kelly style bag was described on DHgate as a ‘square shoulder bag’ and costs £9.58 – the original is £18,000.

A fake Canada Goose coat was available for £71 and advertised without branding or logos. The original costs £1,200.

And a pair of shoes advertised as ‘genuine leather red heels’ which cost £27 appeared, save for the missing branding, identical to a £600 pair of Louboutins.

When the products arrived in the UK they were all in branded boxes, dustbags and tags. They also had fabricated authentication receipts and serial numbers.

All transactions go through DHgate, a fast-growing company created by former Microsoft executive Diane Wang, making it nearly impossible to establish the identity of the original retailers or manufacturers.

The site, which works similarly to Amazon, offers thousands of these products, some discounted for bulk purchases and with free UK delivery.

Experts expressed their grudging admiration for contraband, with one saying she was sure a product was only fake when she studied it under a microscope.

A fake Canada Goose coat was available for £71 and advertised without branding or logos.  The original costs £1,200

A fake Canada Goose coat was available for £71 and advertised without branding or logos. The original costs £1,200

And a pair of shoes advertised as 'genuine leather red heels' which cost £27 appeared, save for the missing branding, identical to a £600 pair of Louboutins

And a pair of shoes advertised as ‘genuine leather red heels’ which cost £27 appeared, save for the missing branding, identical to a £600 pair of Louboutins

A Hermes Kelly style bag was described on DHgate as a 'square shoulder bag' and costs £9.58 - the original is £18,000

A Hermes Kelly style bag was described on DHgate as a ‘square shoulder bag’ and costs £9.58 – the original is £18,000

Alex Ibrahimov, founder of the Sellier resale platform for designer brands, said: “As a professional, I can see that these items are fakes, but with the naked eye or someone walking by street, these are good replicas.

There is a real problem with counterfeit products circulating online. This is especially true in online marketplaces where sales take place between private seller and private buyer, with no professional authenticator in between to verify the items.

DHgate has 2.2 million sellers and 31 million registered buyers from over 220 countries and regions, with 22 million products available.

It was founded in 2004 by Ms. Wang, 54, who is the Chinese representative to the G20 Business Summit and a member of the High Level Advisory Board of the World Internet Conference, an annual event that discusses security and online security.

Lawyers say it’s hard for designer brands to take action against fraudsters. Matthew Harris of Waterfront Law said: “One of the main issues is that this specific site is a marketplace, which means the main website only facilitates individual sellers. You can remove one and another will appear – it’s a mole game.

DHgate has 2.2 million sellers and 31 million registered buyers in more than 220 countries and regions, with 22 million products available

DHgate has 2.2 million sellers and 31 million registered buyers in more than 220 countries and regions, with 22 million products available

A handbag, billed as a 'classic premium genuine caviar leather shoulder bag', was priced at £51 and, although unbranded, was the same shape and style as a Chanel Classic Flap handbag which usually sells for £7,140

A handbag, billed as a ‘classic premium genuine caviar leather shoulder bag’, was priced at £51 and, although unbranded, was the same shape and style as a Chanel Classic Flap handbag which usually sells for £7,140

A Hermes Kelly style bag was described on DHgate as a 'square shoulder bag' and costs £9.58 - the original is £18,000

A Hermes Kelly style bag was described on DHgate as a ‘square shoulder bag’ and costs £9.58 – the original is £18,000

Leather accessories account for 42% of all counterfeit seizures, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which monitors the global counterfeit trade. Yet unless an intellectual property right, trademark or design is registered in China, it is difficult to take legal action against infringers.

“Some brands try to take legal action, but it’s usually a difficult task because for many countries it’s not a priority,” said Piotr Stryszowski, senior project manager in charge of the OECD Working Group on Combating Illicit Trade.

“Additionally, with complex global supply chains, it is difficult to define where the counterfeiters were and which enforcement units are responsible.”

DHgate claimed that the products on its platform are inspected by quality control professionals before shipment and the accounts of dishonest sellers are blacklisted and closed.

Chanel said it takes counterfeiters to court and its work with law enforcement in 80 countries last year resulted in the seizure of more than 7.5 million cheap imitations of its products . A spokesperson added: “The fight against counterfeiting is a major concern for Chanel.”

DHgate declined to comment.

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