A Swiss watch, a Hermès bag or Prada rubber boots. Using a magnifying glass, Zhang Chen carefully examines logos, stitching, and serial numbers to distinguish the originals from the copies.
China is the world’s first showcase 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. Offers expert advice on a copied bag to 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 500,000 million euros. But the market for second-hand products takes off in turn. It is much more modest. It moves about 2,000 million euros, but it has doubled between 2019 and 2020.
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 who became an expert on luxury in Japan. Knowing how to distinguish the typeface of a logo can make it possible to “recognize a third of the copies on the market,” he adds.
For Xu Zhihao, a 31-year-old trader, investing in second hand is good business, as customers are willing to buy the object of their dreams without spending too much. “A good bag can sell very well,” he says.
A large Louis Vuitton bag from the Neverfull range is easily resold for more than 1,000 euros after two years, 80% of the original value, while a Gabrielle bag from Chanel easily maintains 60% -70% of its value. Obviously, they have to be in good condition. “Be careful with fingernail marks,” warns Zhang Chen. “Manicures are all the rage right now.”
Among his students, he 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.
The expert also 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. Some have started equipping them with electronic chips to guarantee their origin. However, Zhang is not afraid of being out of work. “All technology has its Achilles heel,” he says.