China / Life

Designing the antidote to counterfeit culture

By Zhou Wenting in Shanghai (China Daily) Updated: 2017-11-01 07:19

Six university students from around China had the chance to apply their creativity by turning knockoff goods into other types of useful products at a competition held at the East China University of Political Science and Law in Shanghai, as part of a novel program on how to dispose of seized fake products.

All the materials used by the students came from fake products amassed by e-commerce giant Alibaba, which organized the competition together with the China Youth Daily, China University Media Union and the Shanghai-based nonprofit organization Adream Foundation.

Since 2011, Alibaba has implemented spot checks on products sold on Taobao, the group's online shopping portal, and initiated corresponding sanctions for retailers who were caught selling counterfeits. These products are sealed up and stored for three years to be used as evidence in potential lawsuits, and those remaining after this time are destroyed.

"The traditional way that knockoffs are destroyed is also a way of waste of resources, and this was the reason the competition fascinated me," says Zhang Jin, a contestant and a first-year graduate student majoring in public art at Northwest Normal University in Lanzhou, Gansu province.

"We tried to change these products by peeling off their fake exteriors, and transform them into real products and make full use of these materials."

Sun Jungong, vice-president of Alibaba, says: "Fake goods are a kind of resources that are misplaced. Young people can give them another social value by repurposing counterfeit goods."

Voted by teachers and students on the scene, Ayjol Adli, an ethnic Kazak and a native of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, won first prize with his creative work involving a pair of fake Nike sneakers.

He painted the shoes with patterns characteristic of his ethnic group, and used another fake Coach silk scarf to intensify its ethnic features. He says he cut the scarf into strips and glued them onto the front and sides of the shoes. He then shredded them with a knife to make them look and feel like fur.

"I also used the scarf to make the shoelaces in the form of a horsewhip. People from the Kazak ethnic group have a strong emotional connection with horses and grasslands, so I tried to blend these elements into my work," says Adli, who is a sophomore majoring in dress design at the Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology.

Adli says he chose to work on shoes because there are still children in some parts of the world who don't have shoes to keep their feet warm in winter.

"Although these shoes are counterfeits, we can restore their original function as footwear and be of use to people when we remove their fake labels. I hope to donate the shoes to children who are in need of them," he says.

Zhang created a traditional Chinese lantern using fake Levis jeans and other materials such as wooden dowels, silk and paper.

"Because the jeans were counterfeits, I didn't want people to recognize the fact they were fake, so I only used them on the frame of the lantern. Through my handiwork, I created something very different from the original product," she says.

The competition, which started in mid-September, received suggestions on how to destroy and recycle fake products from more than 400 college students around the country.

Zhao Hang, a Shanghai-based artist and an instructor to the contestants, says the rise of counterfeits in society is largely due to people's vanity.

"Creative art comes from people's true feeling. Through this design competition, we hope some people's pursuit of fake products can be replaced with true emotions," he says.

Zheng Junfang, Alibaba's chief platform governance officer, says the fight against fake products must include efforts from society as a whole, particularly the younger generation.

"They are the main force in the internet age. More than a third of the shop owners on Taobao are under the age of 24," she says.

The group has attempted to include young people in various ways, such as inviting university students to visit its warehouse of fake products or to attend regular media briefings on platform governance, she says.

"In the future, we will invite them to meet with our task force who often work together with police on the frontline in the fight against fake goods, and discuss issues about intellectual property protection," Zheng says.

Designing the antidote to counterfeit culture

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