"Sham glam" sweeps China as fakes get trendy

Fri Feb 6, 2009 8:46am EST
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By Tyra Dempster

BEIJING (Reuters Life!) - It's time to ditch the designer goods and adopt fake fashion, say some Chinese, as "sham glam" takes the world's most populous nation by storm.

Though previously shunned as unsophisticated, fake products increasingly have their own chic appeal in China and a fashionable moniker -- "shanzhai."

Literally meaning "mountain fort," the term "shanzhai" is applied to everything from knock-off trainers and mobile phones to lookalike celebrities and television shows, and refers to the remote, maybe lawless locations they traditionally get made in.

And the popularity of these goods seems sure to grow as China's economy slows along with the rest of the world and real designer products spin out of the price range of more Chinese.

Many "shanzhai" goods sport altered names, trying to tread a fine line between imitation and straight-out fake, and cost much less than their above-board, well-known brand-name equivalents.

Samsung goes to Samsing, Adidas goes to Odidoss or Avivas and Hike, Like or even Mike substitute for Nike, with the U.S. sports wear firm's mark at times reversed and given an extra flourish.

"It's an imitation, so it's not a fake and it's not infringing copyright. Maybe it lacks innovation but it's not really bad," said Beijing student Cui Lai.

The term "shanzhai" also riffs off a popular Cultural Revolution era slogan about a model village, Dazhai, which has been changed to read: "In agriculture learn from Dazhai, in industry learn from Shanzhai."   Continued...

<p>A shopkeeper, selling fake foreign brand shoes, waits for customers in Beijing May 8, 2008. REUTERS/Claro Cortes IV</p>