China’s days as a major producer of fake designer goods are numbered, according to Design Shanghai’s creative director Ross Urwin.
Chinese consumers are increasingly turning away from copies as they become more aware of the difference between high-quality products and cheap fakes, Urwin told Dezeen.
“I do think those days are coming to an end,” he said during an interview in London, while speaking about the Design Shanghai trade fair taking place later this month.
“The consumer now in China, on average, has that ability to see the difference, whereas 10 years ago – even five years ago – they didn’t,” said Urwin. “They’d see one, then see the other, and they’d buy the one that’s half the price, but wouldn’t notice that the seams were coming apart.”
Related story: Zaha Hadid building pirated in China
However, Urwin warned that copyists are turning their attention away from domestic goods to entire buildings such as hotels.
“They’re turning away from product copying now and they’re copying concepts of hotels,” he said. “Literally replicating hotels that are around the world, in China, but very cheaply.”
British architect Zaha Hadid is one of a number of designers that has already been affected by this shift. In 2013, her Wangjing Soho buildings in Beijing were pirated by a developer in Chongqing.
Based in Hong Kong, Urwin joined Design Shanghai – China’s leading international design trade fair – as its creative director just three months before its inaugural edition last year.
He believes that events like his allow Chinese consumers to see genuine products first-hand so they can make better comparisons between these and the fakes. A growth in the number of Chinese nationals travelling abroad has also helped expose residents to products designed in Europe and the US, according to Urwin.
“I think [copying] was rife 10 years ago, and that was because people were not travelling like they do now,” he said. “They’re a lot more educated now than they were before.”
Despite the increase in consumer awareness, Urwin admitted that western brands are still cautious about exhibiting their work in China.
“A few people said to me about Design Shanghai that ‘we’d love to do it, but we’re afraid of being copied’,” he said. “Do you have a catalogue? Yes. Do you have a website? Yes. What’s the difference?”
Italian designer Stefano Giovannoni recently told Dezeen that there are more than 1,000 Chinese companies currently producing copies of his Bombo Stool.
Design Shanghai will take place from 27 to 30 March.