WO’s man in Hong Kong, Jon Rollason, just got offered a heap of fake Troy Lee kit for peanuts. How does it compare to legit kit … and is it an issue?
Here are my new shorts. They are Troy Lee Motos in fluro yellow. They cost me 240 Hong Kong Dollars brand new. That’s 20 quid. And they weren’t made by Troy Lee.
A friend of a friend, we’ll call him Terry, added me to a WhatsApp group called “TLD jersey China made”. After some emoticons, the pitch came: “For those who want original and have a lot of money to spend this is not for you. These products are made from China helping a friend. OK”. Then came a catalogue of pictures showing what looked like much of TLD’s MTB clothing range. Shorts for £20, jerseys for £18 and gloves for £15.
For journalism and cheap shorts, I picked the Motos and messaged Terry. A month later I caught up with him to swap dollars for my new shorts.
It’s said that almost 2% of World Trade is in counterfeit goods and that the vast majority of it originates in China. Reportedly $25billion (£17billion-ish) worth of counterfeit goods make their way into the US and EU every year. When you think that the UK cycle trade is said to be worth £1.3billion a year, that’s massive.
“£17billion worth of counterfeit goods make their way into the US and EU every year”
So, how are they? Pretty good. The heavy fabric and the elasticated panels feel right. The fastenings are the same as TLD’s own and the label details and badges are identical. They are comfortable, a good fit and basically convincing.
Look a bit closer though. The cutting has gone wrong on the front, they aren’t symmetrical. TLD would have rejected the stitching, which is purposeful rather than neat. Someone has made a hash of copying the tag and the features of the shorts are mislabeled. The least convincing bit is the hip pads: roughly-cut bits of insulating foam dangling on a velcro tab. TLD’s Motos don’t even have this feature.
“Someone has made a hash of copying the tag and the features of the shorts are mislabeled.”
So not a perfect copy and strong evidence that these are a rip-off job rather than an extra batch from TLD’s supplier being sold out of the back door.
Chain Reaction want £59.99 for a genuine pair without VAT. Local shop Bull Bikes has them for £68. A quick browse of massive Chinese online marketplaces TaoBao.com and AliExpress.com shows immediately that fake TLD is big business. Thousands of knock-offs, trading around the same price level. There are shorts, jerseys, gloves. A huge wave of fake products sweeping out of China.
Is this a problem? It cuts TLD’s profitability – some wearers of fake TLD shorts would otherwise buy new ones. If cheap fakes are available, selling full-price in many markets will be impossible. Dubious quality damages reputations. Ultimately, it hurts the bottom line, threatens someone’s job or makes someone sad. So yes, it’s a problem. But TLD’s gear is made in Chinese factories. It’s a bargain with the devil: cheap manufacturing, but many in China reckon intellectual property is a con, and enforcing yours through the Chinese legal system is borderline futile. Safety is obviously the biggest concern. Would you trust your brain in a counterfeit “Troy Lee” that hadn’t been through the strict tests that a legit D3 had?
For me, there are two sad things here: First, buying fakes of a brand spoils that brand a bit. If you want TLD, buy TLD. Second, there are some talented short-makers in China wasting their talents making knock-offs. If they put in the effort that TLD do designing great shorts, they’d sell plenty. But probably not at 20 quid. Designers aren’t free.
Would you buy fake it if was available? Have you ever bought fake in the past?