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Klarna brings buy now, pay later to e-commerce

In a fresh bid to harness the impatience and impulsiveness of the modern consumer, a number of online retailers have signed up to an e-commerce payment service which allows users to buy now, pay later. Klarna, a Stockholm based e-commerce business, are the intermediary offering the service which gives shoppers the option to defer payment by up to 30 days, as well as giving them the ability to “slice” larger orders into more manageable instalments. So far a number of retailers (mostly high street giants including the Arcadia group, size? and JD) are offering the payment option, though some luxury brands are available through Lyst. E-commerce giant ASOS are also trialling the service.

What is Klarna?

Klarna started in Sweden in 2005 with a mission to ‘simplify buying’ and, after joining with SOFORT in 2014 to form the Klarna group, they’ve made significant strides in the payment services market. Though they only received their banking licence in June 2017, Klarna Group claim to be “one of Europe’s biggest banks”, with the company valued at $2.3bn in December 2015 after their latest round of investment (they’re backed by the likes of Sequoia Capital, Visa, Permira and Bestseller). That same year Klarna achieved $325 million in sales, and are now processing over 650,000 transactions per day (including over 40% of e-commerce transactions in Sweden) – numbers which suggest that they’ve struck a chord with modern consumers.

So how does Klarna’s payment system work?

The secret of Klarna’s success is it’s ease. Unlike traditional checkout processes, shoppers don’t need to create an account or fill out any long-winded forms; Klarna simply asks for an email and delivery address before using an algorithm to determine whether a customer is creditworthy or not. Klarna then pays the retailer (bearing the risk that the customer will default on their payment) before starting the 30 day timer for the customer.

Klarna offers three checkout options: Pay now, Pay later, or Slice it.

Co-founder and CEO Sebastian Siemiatkowski says that the idea comes from the traditional way of buying things in Sweden:

“‘In Sweden the way of paying was the bill. You’d order some things, get them to your house, look and feel and then if you want them you’d send a cheque to the mail order company. Of course with that comes a risk that the customer won’t pay, so when ecommerce came along, these companies found credit cards a much smoother way of operating. But the customer demand was still there. Not everyone feels comfortable with a credit card, or has a credit card. They worry am I going to get the goods I ordered?’”

Sebastian Siemiatkowski, Co-founder and CEO of Klarna

In the same interview with Management Today, Siemiatowski went on to discuss the three potential roadblocks that Klarna faced when promoting their service to merchants:

“We identified three things they were worried about: the risk of not being paid, having to do lots of admin and cash flow. When we ranked those, we realised the first two were much more important to them than the third. We said we’ll solve for the risk and admin, but when it comes to getting paid, you have to wait until we get paid. They were okay with that.”

So why is this taking off now?

Klarna addresses a very modern problem for online businesses, specifically the final hurdle in an e-commerce funnel; online checkout conversion rates. According to the Baymard Institute, cart abandonment currently stands at around 69%, which represents a lot of missed sales. How many times have you clicked all the way through to the final page of the shop checkout only to get cold feet? When a customer gets to that point, no amount of money spent on social media, affiliate marketing or paid advertising campaigns will address the apprehension a customer has before pressing the ‘Buy’ button – but Klarna’s novel approach manages to increase customers’ willingness to commit to an online purchase. Their results suggest that it’s a winning formula, with Finery reporting that basket sizes grew by 15% and the number items per basket increased by 20% after introducing Klarna’s buy now, pay later service.

What’s equally promising for the service is that over 60% of its business today involves mobile shopping, a figure which was under 10% two years ago. Some estimates put mobile cart abandonment rates as high as 85%, so there is significant room for improvement in the mobile field.

Klarna on the Topman website

High street giant The Arcadia Group offer Klarna payment options through a number of their brands, including Topman

So far, a number of brands have signed up – though most of these would be considered high street retailers. However, some luxury brands (such as Burberry) are available on Lyst, who are also a partner. It stands to reason that the concept could translate just as easily to other luxury brands’ e-commerce platforms, making impulse buys that little bit easier. The option of spreading payments for purchases over a number of months might be more popular with luxury customers (particularly aspiring millenial consumers), as a finance option for the latest Louis Vuitton wallet or Bottega bag will make luxury more accessible. It’ll be interesting to see how luxury brands react to the service, especially as some brands still have significant catching up to do. If a big player like Net A Porter decided to trial the service it could have a big impact on the balance between the booming e-commerce sector and the struggling retail sector. ASOS are marketing the service as “bringing the fitting room home with you”, which suggests that they anticipate an even greater number of returns as customers are encouraged to load up their online baskets. The knock on effect of this could mean that sales figures be stunted as the increased cost of returns eats into any gains. Whether this approach translates to luxury buyers who are spending hundreds or thousands of pounds on individual items remains to be seen. Nevertheless, we’ll be keeping an eye on the uptake of Klarna across online retailers over the next few months.

5 Men’s Puffer Jackets for AW17 and Where to Buy Them

Drole De Monsieur Padded Jacket

The 90s revival isn’t going anywhere this winter, and the puffer jacket looks set to replace last years oversized wool coat as the go-to outerwear for the season. If you’re in the market for a statement jacket, you’ll find that you’re well catered from both luxury brands and fast fashion alike (though we’ll avoid the latter in this round-up). We pick the best of the bunch.

Drole De Monsieur – Padded Jacket – £364

Drole De Monsieur Padded Jacket

Drole De Monsieur‘s AW17 collection is a pastel delight, with beige autumnal tones featuring throughout. Started by two friends with no prior design experience, Drole De Monsieur have generated a dedicated following online, thanks in part to their signature phrase: “Not From Paris Madame”.

This oversized padded jacket (which comes in a navy too) has impeccable proportions, with a subtle branded patch on the left sleeve. Check out how they’ve merchandised it on their site – the cut of their yellow trousers are incredible (and check out the rest of their excellent AW17 collection while you’re there). These won’t hang around long so be quick. You can currently buy direct through their website or on Farfetch.

Drole De Monsieur puffer jacket

Sunnei – Beige Puffy Jacket – £925

Another young, independent menswear brand set up by friends with no design background, Sunnei are a Milanese brand who design clothes with streetstyle in mind, rather than the runway. Since starting out in 2015, the brand have achieved success in a number of markets, including a strong following in South Korea and a growing interest in America. The founders, who have a background in digital marketing rather than fashion design, have achieved steady organic growth a simple, modern formula; create desirable products for a switched on audience, share them with the world through social media, and make them available to buy through online stores (though Sunnei are stocked in a number of retailers, too). Speaking to Forbes about their growth, co-founder Simone Rizzo offered:

“We’ve never spent any money on marketing and all of our marketing efforts take place across social networks…Till this day, almost everybody who buys our product will say that they found us through Instagram”.

It’s worked well for them so far, with a womenswear collection in the pipeline. For now, they continue to produce fantastic menswear, and their Beige Puffy Jacket is sure to be a bestseller.

A post shared by SUNNEI (@sunnei) on

Their Puffy Jacket (with removable sleeves) embodies the laissez-faire, streetwear-meets-haute-couture look that the label has become known for. A blue and white stripe edition is also available, but the cream wins out for me.

A-COLD-WALL* – Cement Heavyweight Down Puffer – £750

Founded by the London-based designer Samuel Ross in 2015, A Cold Wall is currently riding the luxury streetwear trend to the top. According to their Hypebeast, the “melancholic aura of ACW stems from the dire mood of Britain”, and this jacket typifies that statement. A premium down interior is wrapped in high quality nylon to protect the wearer from everything the British winter can throw at them, whilst retaining a DIY streetwear ethic (featuring no less than three embroidered logos). The elongated zip and boxy fit ensures this jacket stands out from the crowd.

The North Face – Nuptse 1992 – £250

The North Face 1992 Nuptse Jacket

Credit: The Idle Man

There’s not much we need to say about The North Face‘s 1992 Nuptse jacket. It’s one of their most iconic styles and is engineered to meet the high standards of their technical outerwear (it’s stuffed with 700 fill goose down insulation), so it’ll keep you warm whether you’re in Shoreditch or up Scafell Pike. The jacket has achieved even more prominence thanks to TNF’s collaborations with New York skate brand Supreme, keeping the design fresh and relevant to a younger audience.

The North Face X Supreme FW16

Credit: Jack Donlon & Pause Magazine

Now celebrating it’s 25th birthday, TNF have released the jacket in it’s original block colourways. Check out their celebratory video below.

Balenciaga – C Curve Trapeze Puffer Jacket – £1,445

Of course a Balenciaga puffer jacket was going to make this list. Last years’ Swing Puffer was probably a factor in the resurgence of down jackets, so i’m not going to pretend that the AW17 men’s edition is anything resembling a hidden treasure.

Balenciaga Mens Puffer Jacket

That doesn’t change the fact that this is a fantastic example of a 2017 puffer jacket. Demna Gvasalia’s ability to cater to the luxury/streetwear scene is second to none, and the design and fit of this jacket is no exception. Duck down and feather padding provide the substance to match the style, and the high neck and raised front set this slate jacket apart from would-be imitators. It’s not currently available on their online store, but Matches are stocking it.

Balenciaga rebrands as it gears up for growth

Balenciaga's new logo

In the latest example of a creative director stamping their authority on an iconic fashion house, Balenciaga have debuted a new logo at their SS18 show in Paris. Created in-house, the luxury brand’s new typeface has been inspired by the not-so-luxury “clarity of public transportation signage”.

It isn’t a radical departure from their previous branding, with a new two-toned logotype replacing their previous elongated, thinner-texted design. The motivations behind the refresh are unclear, though it’s worth noting that as more people interact with luxury brands through mobile devices, replacing the older, delicate logo with a bolder, more recognisable logotype addresses a pragmatic issue of the mobile age. It’s an issue Apple recognised in 2015 – as screens and devices get smaller, traditional typography becomes harder to render and see – which led to the development of their now ubiquitous San Francisco typeface. For Balenciaga, the result is a shorter logo which appears more as a stamp, increasing the text’s surface area with a timeless typography – let’s face it, Kering are certainly winning the digital race when it comes to luxury fashion. Gucci alone posted online sales growth of over 60% in H1 2017. 

Interestingly, products with the old Balenciaga logo are still available on their website.

Balenciaga's old wallet appearing on current stock.

Creative direction and the obsession with rebranding

As custodians of an iconic brand, it seems that redesigning the logo has become the in vogue way for creative directors to ensure their tenure is as memorable as possible. While Hedi Slimane’s controversial redesign of Yves Sant Laurent’s branding wasn’t universally well received, Raf Simons and Jonathan Saunders have both had a go at updating the logos of Calvin Klein and Diane von Furstenberg respectively.

Mobile messaging opens a luxury gateway in Asia

Luxury marketing on WeChat

WeChat leads the way for mobile luxury in Asia

Earlier this year WeChat announced their performance figures for Q1 of 2017. The results were impressive, with the social network posting a whopping 889 million monthly active users. The social network has gone from strength to strength in recent years, continually innovating with new features to promote deeper engagement with their users. For the luxury sector, WeChat’s recent performance figures will have turned some heads in the digital departments (especially after a 2016 Bain & Company survey found that around 60% of users identify the platform as their online source for information on luxury goods). WeChat in 2017 looks ripe for luxury brands, both in terms of marketing and sales potential. There aren’t many Western social media platforms that provide both a marketing and sales channel in one – so how is WeChat different, and why is this year relevant to luxury brands?

 

Luxury fashion brands are already familiar with WeChat. Burberry has been using the platform to connect with Chinese consumers since 2014, broadcasting the AW14 Womenswear show to WeChat users who were able to unlock exclusive content and personalise pieces from the collection. At the time, Christopher Bailey commented that “WeChat opens up a huge new world of opportunity in the digital space”, allowing the brand to present their story in a “deeper and more meaningful way”.

 

Last year, over 10% of WeChat Pay users were spending over 5000RMB (£550) per month on the platform.

 

US luxury brand Coach are another brand to have run marketing campaigns on the platform, including their #MyFirstCoach campaign and a loyalty scheme for Chinese consumers. Chanel have an account too, using the platform mostly for content marketing, and Mulberry have also invested in the platform with the help of Hot Pot Digital, a digital agency which specialises in marketing to China.

 

 

So if brands are already familiar with the platform, why should they be even more interested in 2017? Well, deeper and more meaningful connections with consumers are great, but some of those campaigns are a few years old now. While the marketing potential on WeChat is great, it’s another part of WeChat that represents a big opportunity for brands: WeChat Pay.

Social + Commerce = £$¥

WeChat Pay is WeChat’s mobile payments service – a platform boasting over 600 million users – and one which has seen huge increases in per capita spending over the past 12 months. The ability (and willingness from consumers) to spend money through the app has created a perfect storm for luxury fashion.

Mobile payments in China are currently booming. Last year, digital payments through WeChat Pay hit $1.2 trillion (yes, trillion) – a huge increase from the relatively meagre $11.2 billion spent on the platform 5 years ago. The amounts being sent over WeChat Pay are increasing year on year, with around 10% of WeChat Pay users (around 50-60 million people) spending over 5000RMB (£550) on the platform per month. This represents a thriving ecosystem for luxury brands looking to enhance their digital presence; WeChat is a platform which is trusted as a source of luxury news, with an audience that are evermore willing to spend large amounts of money via their mobile phone. In fact, between WeChat Pay and Alibaba’s competitor AliPay, Chinese consumers sent over $3T through mobile payments in 2016. That’s nearly 50 times more than US consumers spent via mobile payments.   

 

Louis Vuitton have recently opened a Chinese e-commerce store. Credit: Getty Images

With the region bouncing back after the recent slowdown, both Gucci and Louis Vuitton have opened new digital channels in China. Gucci, who previously ran an online store on Alibaba’s Tmall, launched a brand new website for Chinese consumers this July, with Louis Vuitton following suit a few weeks later. The Louis Vuitton store (which accepts both AliPay and WeChat Pay) is available in 12 cities including Beijing and Shanghai, as well as more regional cities such as Dalian, Haerbin and Wuham. This focus on tier-2 and tier-3 cities indicates a long term investment from Louis Vuitton, as a recent report by Morgan Stanley identified these cities as the driving force behind a predicted Chinese consumption growth from its present levels of $4.4 trillion to $9.7 trillion in 2030.

 

It won’t just be brands keeping an eye on WeChat but retailers and developers too. With a big increase in digital from most brands – whether that’s in social or setting up e-commerce stores – the digital market place is hotting up. Any lessons that can be learnt from WeChat should prove valuable as brands continue to experiment with accessing new customers through digital.

 

Gucci accelerates their e-commerce offering with a Mr. Porter capsule collection

Gucci X Mr Porter Capsule Collection

 

With Gucci’s capsule collection for Mr. Porter landing this Thursday, we take a look at the stand-out pieces that have been designed exclusively for a digital release.

The collection itself is an extension of Alessandro Michele’s technicolor baroque vision, with a variety of outfits catering to Mr. Porter’s traditional tailoring roots as well as the ever-growing streetwear movement. The capsule consists of 43 pieces – identifiable by the yellow tags – with Gucci’s popular floral and animal motifs appearing throughout. There’s a range of accessories and shoes in the capsule – including variations on the signature horsebit loafers – alongside belts, ties and sunglasses.

The collaboration represents another milestone for Mr Porter, having successfully sold crossover collections from Lanvin and H&M subsidiary COS. It also showcases an evolution to Gucci’s digital strategy, utilising existing e-commerce solutions rather than trying to build their own à la LVMH.

 

Gucci’s digital strategy enters a new phase

The collection itself is part of Gucci’s wildly successful digital strategy and represents a new direction for the brand. While LVMH look to build their own e-commerce behemoth, Kering appears to be tapping into the already established online giants to further extend their digital dominance.

E-commerce has been a driving force behind this ascendancy, with the brand posting the best sales figures since the Tom Ford days in April. Gucci’s organic sales increased by a huge 48.3% this year compared to performance in Q1 2016, thanked largely due to a 60% increase in online sales.

Partnering with Mr. Porter is a smart decision as it allows Gucci to maintain their ubiquity, whilst offering supporting stories to the brands’ main collection. It’s clear that an e-commerce strategy is going to be a key driver moving forward for Kering, highlighted by comments made by CEO Francois-Henri Pinault to investors in April:

 

“Tomorrow’s luxury isn’t based on heritage and artisanal excellence; there must be creativity,” Kering CEO  announced in April. “But creativity is not good enough. The implementation must be huge. Each team has to deliver to our customers, and organic growth will be amplified by the growing role of e-commerce in a cross-channel approach.

 

This isn’t the only partnership planned, as the brand look to launch a 90 minute delivery exclusively through Farfetch. We’ve already looked at how far ahead Gucci’s digital performance is to Prada, so it’ll be interesting to see how other luxury brands attempt to make up the lost ground. For the time being, the Gucci revolution is showing no signs of slowing.

The Black Madonna provides the soundtrack for Louis Vuitton’s Cruise Show

Louis Vuitton Cruise Collection

What a year it’s been for The Black Madonna.

Since being chosen by Mixmag as their 2016 DJ of the Year, The Black Madonna has jumped head first into 2017 with shows across the globe including sets at Berlin’s Panorama Bar, Paris’ Concrete, Ceremonia Festival in Mexico and the Circo Loco opening party in Ibiza. Not to mention a return to Smart Bar in Chicago – where she’s Creative Director – and a star-studded 3 month residency at XOYO.

She’s quickly establishing herself as the DJ de jour for the fashion industry too. Earlier this year she was asked by Raf Simons to provide the soundtrack for Calvin Klein’s New York Fashion Week show, followed up by a set at the afterparty.

The Black Madonna, Raf Simons

The Black Madonna with Raf Simons at the CK Fall 2017 afterparty

This time it was Nicolas Ghesquière who got in touch to invite her to Louis Vuitton’s Cruise Show at the spectacular Miho Museum in Kyoto, Japan.

This was one of Ghesqière’s most daring collections, with outfits featuring mixed animal prints, sequined Kabuki dresses (designed in collaboration with Kansai Yamamoto) and monogram chain belts. The Black Madonna’s remix of Robyn’s Indestructible was chosen to soundtrack to close the show.

So honored to hear my remix for @robynkonichiwa closing the brilliant @louisvuitton show in Kyoto today. 🌸✌🏻

A post shared by The Black Madonna (@blackmadonnachi) on

Listen to the full track below. The Black Madonna’s schedule is hotting up as we approach festival season – it’s one set that you won’t want to miss. Buy tickets to her remaining shows at XOYO here.

Featured image credit: Franck Robichon/EPA

Prada joins the e-commerce party to stem global slowdown

Earlier this month, Prada announced it’s worst profits since its Hong Kong IPO in 2011. It didn’t take them long to announce how they were planning to stem the bleeding and – in a surprise to no one – an increased investment in e-commerce looks to be the answer.

In an online space which is moving at an increasingly fast pace, Prada’s take-it-slow attitude has come at a significant cost, as net revenues declined 9% over the same period last year.

“Omni-channel integration” key to Prada resurgence

In his notes, Prada CEO Patrizio Bertelli outlined Prada’s plans to reverse this trend. The assembly of a “new team” to bring “further expertise to [Prada’s] digital strategy” suggests that Bertelli recognises that they are behind the rest of the industry when it comes to their digital strategy.

 

Bertelli offered a brief insight into what Prada’s digital strategy will consist of, chiefly “the roll out of [a] new global digital platform, collaboration with e-tailers, and in-store integration” – a tactic which has proved fruitful for a number of Prada’s competitors. Bertelli added: “I am confident that our creative vision combined with investment in online and offline engagement with our customers put us firmly on the path to sustainable growth.”

 

Chiara Tosato, formerly a commercial director at Italy’s largest commercial broadcaster Mediaset, has been hired to lead this new team at Prada’s HQ. Tasked with the aim of bringing the brands’ full product offering online, there will be a complete redesign of Prada and MiuMiu’s websites, as well as an increased focus on localised e-commerce sites in China, Korea, Australia. New Zealand and Russia. This investment can’t come soon enough, with revenue drops across the globe ranging from -5% in Europe to -12% in Asia Pacific and the Americas and -13% in Japan.

Prada’s existing e-commerce shortfall

Prada, who currently only offer a small selection of bags, shoes and accessories through their online store, have provided further evidence that the offline-only approach to brand exclusivity is a fading concept. Gucci this week announced a 86% increase in online sales this quarter – thanks largely to the popularity of Alessandro Michelle’s designs, as well as a sustained investment in e-commerce and online marketing. It’s no surprise to see other brands following suit.

 

 

Prada’s current website only features a small selection of bags, shoes and accessories.

 

In Gucci’s case, their significant investment into social media and e-commerce has translated into a 48% increase in sales for Q1 – their strongest growth in 20 years. Partnerships with online retailers (such as exclusive capsule collections for Net-A-Porter, and a planned 90-minute-delivery service via Farfetch will only contribute further to their huge online sales. 

 

In recent weeks, LVMH have launched a new digital lifestyle and e-commerce platform, offering their exclusive range of wines, champagnes and liquors to a thirsty online audience. With brick-and-mortar retailers filing for bankruptcy at a record rate, e-commerce and digital looks to become one of the most lucrative and competitive spaces for the luxury industry. 

 

If all goes to plan, expect news next year that Prada are enjoying a record resurgence – perhaps it won’t be long before we see the likes of Chanel and Hermes expanding their e-commerce offerings.

Young Marco’s Selectors tour hits Birmingham

Young Marco at The Rainbow Venues, Birmingham

Hitting the circuit for the launch of Dekmantel’s second selectors compilation, Young Marco arrived in a cold and damp Birmingham for the seventh stop of his European tour. The Rainbow Venues in Birmingham played host for the night, with Young Marco supported by Dekmantel Soundsystem.

As Dekmantel celebrates it’s tenth birthday, Dekmantel Soundsystem stayed true to their roots and wasted no time laying the pace for the evening. An already energetic room was amplified by the intimacy of the venue, with the Soundsystem boys showing the best of their crate digging credentials well as their eye for modern classics. A few highlights of their set include Peggy Gou’s awesome Day Without Yesterday and Tough City Kid’s Cole Rabies Beats from their 2015 release on Permanent Vacation. 

With a solitary red light scanning the dancefloor, the basement venue provided an intimate but laid back atmosphere that was perfectly in tune with Young Marco’s signature airy house vibe. His set was a typically eclectic affair, toughing on genres including house, techno, disco and afro-beat.

Young Marco at The Rainbow Venues, Birmingham
It’s been a busy few months for Marco Sterk. As well as the selectors EP, he’s released a second album alongside Gigi Masin and Johnny Nash as part of the Gaussian Curve, as well as properly launching his Safe Trip label with not one but two albums exploring Italian Dream House classics between 1989-1993. Earlier this year Safe Trip also released an EP for Private Eyes – a duo made up of Amsterdam’s Interstellar Funk and Jeroen.

Below are a few of the other tracks played on the night. 2017 looks like it’ll be another busy year for Young Marco.

 

Demna Gvasalia’s AW17 Balenciaga show brings streetwear subversion to the office

Balenciaga Triple S trainers

It’sBalenciaga AW17 Menswear show been a busy couple of years for Demna Gvasalia. While the stratospheric rise of his Vetements brand has been well documented, today’s Balenciaga show (his second menswear show as creative director) provided Gvasalia with an opportunity to showcase a different side to his style.

In a venue plastered in a monotonous grey – complete with dull blinds that wouldn’t look out of place in a call centre – Gvasalia’s collection provided an odd subversion to a very executive collection.

Overcoats, shirts and blazers came in a range of colours, including plain greys and brown checks. Branding was predominant within the collection, with a main talking point being a Bernie Sanders inspired design and the prominence of the Kering logo on hoodies and coats.

In doing so, Gvasalia presented the not-so-glamourous side of the industry for all to see – showcasing the reality that the luxury fashion industry is made up of conglomerates chasing quarterly growth, rather than alluding to the traditional image of master ateliers crafting beautiful clothing by hand. In this way, the honesty and playfulness of the collection really shone through.

The odd choice towards the branding was a theme that ran through much of the collection. In typical Gvasalia fashion, jackets were oversized, proportions were played with and silhouettes were twisted to create a recognisable but eery working wardrobe.

Balenciaga AW17 Menswear collection

Personally, one of the highlights of the show were the trainers – which are sure to be a hit with the Vetements crowd. Dad-trainers are enjoying a particular resurgence at the moment – especially with the popularity of Raf Simons’ Ozweego 2s and Nike’s AirMax 95 – and the Balenciaga sneakers definitely compliment this trend.

Balenciaga trainers hit the mark

Where to cop? We explore the underground online market of counterfeit fashion.

Vetements and Supreme replicas on sale on Taobao

Most streetwear fans have a few options when it comes to buying an in-demand item from a favoured brand. The first option involves queuing up around the block, often spending hours waiting patiently for the opportunity to shop. The second, more expensive option involves paying through the nose in an increasingly inflated secondary market, where £148 Supreme hoodies re-sell on Grailed or Depop for over double their retail value. Online bots represent a third option, but even these can greatly increase the cost of a purchase while not fully guaranteeing success.

supremecopy

With these difficult sales conditions, it’s no surprise that a huge market has opened for fakes. Replicas of products from streetwear brands such as Off-White, Supreme, Palace, and Anti-Social Social Club are freely available to buy online – typically from Chinese websites AliExpress and TaoBao (both of which are operated by the Alibaba group). If you haven’t heard of these sites before, /r/RepSneakers (a subreddit of over 33,000 users dedicated to fake trainers) offers this introduction:

Taobao is often referred to as “the Chinese eBay”. Basically, it’s a marketplace for sellers to post stuff for sale. But, because of more lax laws I don’t know anything about, they’re much more lenient on selling replica\counterfeit things, that would never fly on eBay.

Enter the name of any popular brand on one of these websites and you’re sure to find a huge array of counterfeit products, available at a fraction of the retail cost. Churned out of factories in China to global demand, these products move in vast volumes before being removed, presumably by moderators from the respective websites.

A typical post on /r/FashionReps

A typical post on /r/FashionReps

The gateway to western shoppers comes via web forums, the most popular of which are on Reddit. Subreddits, such as /r/FashionReps or /r/DesignerReps are incredibly popular, and for good reason; they make it incredibly easy to buy clothing that appear to be from brands that are notoriously difficult to purchase from. /r/FashionReps, a subreddit dedicated to finding and rating the best streetwear fakes available, is a community of over 30,000 users, many of whom post reviews of products or are requesting information on where to cop (or ‘W2C’) a certain item. The subreddit is so popular that it added over 5,000 subscribers in the weeks it took to research and publish this article.

Visiting these parts of Reddit require a crash course in jargon with users seeking the holy grail of a ‘1:1’ replica of much hyped pieces, frequently asking W2C in the hope that someone has started producing replicas or asking for a QC on a product they’ve found. There are often discussions as to which rep offers the best replica, with frequent debate as to whether ‘David’ or ‘Edith’ provide the most convincing Yeezy 350 copies. Users pour over details in the stitching, pattern and sole to see how the fakes hold up to the retail versions.

retaildavidedith

Ask most people on these subreddits why they purchase replicas and the majority will tell you that it’s not to do with the cost but with the convenience. Why disappoint yourself trying to buy a Supreme hoodie when there’s almost certainly going to be a rep selling them within a month?

Vetements and Supreme replicas on sale on Taobao

Vetements and Supreme hoodies on sale on TaoBao for $32.51 and $28.53 respectively

screen-shot-2017-01-09-at-21-41-07

Delve a little deeper and users will tell you that the best fakes are on TaoBao, but the difficulty with this is that purchases from TaoBao can only be made with a Chinese bank account. This has given rise to the use of ‘agents’ – people (presumably Chinese) who place the order on the users behalf and organise shipping, taking a small cut for themselves – and users frequently posturing over who is the best person to purchase from. From the /r/FashionReps subreddit:

What is an agent?

Plain and simple, an agent is someone who will act as a proxy for you. You pay them, they buy the item. When they get it, you pay them to ship it to you, and, as expected, they ship it to you. Agents charge a fee, which is how they make money. But even with the agent fee, the final total generally ends up being much less anyway.

These individuals are accessible through their own web stores which are hosted directly on Taobao, with most communication carried through the Chinese messaging app WeChat. It’s not uncommon for breakdowns in communication, or for a product to simply not turn up. Thankfully moderators of /r/FashionReps have a list of recommended agents, making it incredibly easy to access a huge market of knock-offs.

But it’s not just streetwear brands that are being counterfeited. Increasingly, luxury brands such as Gucci, Balmain and Louboutin are being copied and sold on these Chinese websites.

Fake Louboutin's for sale on TaoBao

Fake Louboutin’s for sale on TaoBao

 

 

Looking at the feedback sections on the product listings on AliExpress and TaoBao indicate that this trade isn’t limited to one region or country. Shoppers from Canada to Russia appear to be taking advantage of this unregulated market of knock-offs – activity which hasn’t gone unnoticed by the brands who are being counterfeited.

Kering, parent owner to Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and others, have taken Alibaba to court in the past, with mixed results. In a statement last year, Alibaba commented that “[they] do not tolerate or condone those who steal other people’s intellectual property” whilst claiming to have taken down 380 million counterfeit product listings and closing over 180,000 stores on Taobao in the 12 months leading up to August 2016. Prior to this, one of China’s main commerce regulators released the results of a 2014 survey which found that nearly two-thirds of goods sole on Taobao were counterfeit. 

This doesn’t seem too much an issue for shoppers either, as Alibaba’s 2016 Singles’ Day sales passed $14bn in revenue – more than double the $5.8bn in sales of Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the US. One can only imagine what percentage of that was made up of counterfeit goods.

While a clamp down from Alibaba is unlikely, there have been recent efforts by media outlets (notably Complex and Highsnobiety) to educate their target demographic on the consequences of buying counterfeit fashion. Even without delving into the ethical issues, there appear to be links between the sale of counterfeit goods and the funding of terrorism and other illegal activities. However, until there are tougher sanctions on online reps, it doesn’t look like the trade is going anywhere soon.