Dolce and Banana

Nov 19, 2010
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When in China, don't knock all knock-offs.


52 Bucksstar Coffee in China


Weird Asia News recently wrote:

Shamelessly, China has dubbed itself as “the king of counterfeiters” and the city of Nanjing, east of Shanghai, prides itself on the imminent grand opening of a new shopping centre dedicated to some 58 fake brands of merchandise. These imposters bear strong resemblances to their original inspirations, but are often differentiated by an intentionally mis-spelled letter or two. (More… )

Wow, the author is really so furious that he preludes his tirade with “Shamelessly”. I am not a fan of knock-off merchandise, and I understand why so many are chafing at it. Trendy ladies who lavish thousands of dollars on high-fashion bags feel insulted when they see bumpkin vendors reeking of fish at the farmer’s market use the ersatz version to collect money from customers.

Gifted designers intend haute couture for a coterie of elites, and find the fact that their design is executed by unknown tailors in China, sold over and worn by random people maddening. CEOs of companies of the brand-name products are constantly getting headaches as copycats pose a huge threat to their sales, and more importantly, to the companies’ reputation, if the shoddy knock-offs are mistaken for the genuine ones.


53 Fake brands in China


But goods from this mall in Nanjing are different from typical counterfeits. McDnoald’s, Bucksstar Coffee, Pmua…They didn’t put on the polished veneer of brand-names. The crass imitation is an in-your-face spoof. You don’t strut in your NAIK (Nike) shoes. You don’t brag about your PANASOANIC (Panasonic) stereo. You don’t misrepresent yourself as a petty bourgeois by drinking BUCKSSTAR (Starbucks) coffee. It is more of self-mockery and joke.

Moreover, these goods are very unlikely to have as much impact on industries and the consumer market as conventional counterfeits do. Sophisticated counterfeits that look identical to the genuine ones may let intentional buyers get away with it and dupe unintentional buyers; the travesty we are talking about here serves no purpose to steal away any business. A frequent consumer of KFC would not switch to KLC. Most people who actually buy that stuff do it on a whim and for fun. I seriously doubt that a man would risk his face with a Gillehe razor when he has been alerted, or a woman would throw on a bag pretending it’s Dolce & Gabbana when people can see right through the telltale label that reads “Dolce & Banana”.

Having said that, I am not advocating shams. I simply want to say to the angry crowd, “Take it easy, buddy. Understand Chinese wry sense of humor. It’s just a joke that does no one much harm, or much good.”


This post was originally published on Ministry of Tofu in October 2010.