Shanzhai, China’s underground fashion phenomenon

Imitation products have flourished in many sectors of the Chinese market. In the fashion industry, female entrepreneurs are selling their own creations inspired by high-end and fast-fashion brands as well as niche designers.

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Adidas or Adidog? PlayStation or PolyStation? iPhone or iPhoue?

These are shanzhai products: inspired by famous brands, but creatively revamped and mass-produced for the Chinese market. Shanzhai (山寨 shānzhài), a word meaning “mountain fortress,” was repurposed to describe this type of knockoff.

The products’ origins range from high-end global brands to fast fashion to niche designers. You can hardly tell the difference between this real Chloé shirt and the fake one! Or a fake Miu Miu knit shirt and this real one!

The creators of shanzhai fashion are often female: Over 50 percent of shops on the ecommerce platform Taobao are owned by women, and many of them also sell products on WeChat and Weibo.

They’ve also garnered large social media followings. Their followers send their order requests and post selfies wearing their new purchases.

To keep their followers in the loop, shanzhai designers will post behind-the-scenes photos of production. Pages usually link directly to ecommerce platforms like Taobao where, customers make their purchases.

These items are generally limited editions. Once they are sold out, shanzhai designers will crowdsource for what their next product should be.