Most of our products are manufactured in China. Recently, Vietnam is also increasing. I don’t know how they go through customs, but most of them come in containers. Other than that, not so long ago, some of the “Bakuhatsu” tour participants, who buy Japanese goods and sell them in China, brought them in as carry-on luggage.
(All comments below are from Mr. Aihara.) “Fake brand goods used to be a common problem in the past,” said Yoshio Aihara, CEO of IVA Corporation, which offers “Fake Busters,” a service for authenticating brand-name goods.
Fake brand goods used to be bags and watches, but recently there has been an “unusual” change in the fake goods market.
Sneakers have been on the rise recently,” says Aihara. When the sneaker market was expanding at a pace several times a year, factories that used to make fake products for Louis Vuitton and other brands shifted their focus to sneakers. Some of them are expensive, but the unit price is lower than that of bags. And since new products are released every week, people who like them buy as many pairs as they want. That’s how we got so many fakes in one fell swoop.”
According to IVA, 34% of the sneakers on the flea market app that they were asked to authenticate were fakes. Since its launch in 2007, “Fake Busters” has appraised a total of over 1 million items and boasts the largest market share in Japan. The company has a particularly strong reputation for determining the authenticity of sneakers, which are said to be particularly difficult, and accounts for 90% of the company’s orders.
Many people may recall the “Air Max” sneaker boom in Japan in 1995. In recent years, however, there has been a different kind of boom worldwide, with popular products fetching prices 30 to 50 times the list price and being the subject of investment, and the size of the market is said to have reached $10 billion. With such a market, it is only natural that there would be people who would make fake products, but unlike bags, it is difficult to tell the authenticity of sneakers, according to the company.
This ‘Air Jordan 1’ is priced at about 300,000 yen, but the regular price is about 20,000 yen. In other words, the quality of the product is about 20,000 yen. The quality of the product is about 20,000 yen. Most of both genuine and fake Air Jordan 1s are made in China, but the genuine ones are made not only in one factory, but in multiple factories in various regions. There is a considerable difference in the level of quality among these factories, and even among the genuine ones, there is a considerable variation in quality, with some fakes being of better quality than others. This makes it even more difficult to tell the difference.
In addition to sending the actual item for appraisal, Fake Busters also accepts photographs of several items for appraisal. For example, Fake Busters also offers a service whereby items brought into a contracted reuse store can be appraised on the spot by sending an image of the item. The appraiser and the AI work together to perform the appraisal.
In the beginning, we gathered excellent appraisers and used only humans. We were blessed with excellent appraisers and were able to achieve high appraisal accuracy, which led to requests for appraisals from all over the world. However, as an appraisal service provider, it is meaningless unless the accuracy is 100%. Therefore, appraisers and AI are currently complementing each other. Specifically, AI is good at distinguishing between “absolutely genuine” and “absolutely fake” items. When we have AI appraise all products, 40-50% of them will be found to be “absolutely genuine” or “absolutely fake. For those that don’t get a result, our appraisal team appraises them from scratch.
So, what are the key points to spot a fake? According to Mr. Aihara, there are four important points.
First, we remove the insole and look at the ‘back’ and ‘front’ of the sole to check the degree of glue adhesion. Next, we look at the stitching on the sole after the insole is removed, and then at the tag.
The authentic and the fake were actually shown side by side. The glue on the insole of the fake was sticky, while the real one was smooth. However, the stitching on the fake is a little rougher, but the real one is also quite uneven, so it is hard to tell which is which. And the tags look the same. According to Mr. Aihara, it is more important to learn about fakes in depth than to learn about the real thing.
In the case of sneakers, as I mentioned earlier, there are individual differences even among genuine ones, so you can’t make a definite judgment by looking at the genuine ones alone,” he said. But by knowing a lot of fakes, you can pinpoint the characteristics of a fake. That is why at Fake Busters, each appraiser studies fakes as well as the real thing, and the entire company absorbs this information and compiles it into a database. In this way, we can accurately distinguish even elaborately made fakes.
The general method for brand-name products is to learn the characteristics of the real thing, and then judge anything that deviates from those conditions to be a fake.
In a world overflowing with so many things, it is becoming more and more difficult to identify the real thing. The skill to distinguish the real thing from the fake will become more and more necessary.
PHOTO： Takehiko Kohiyama