The Art of Imitation

Posted on December 27th, 2006 in Seoul - 0 comments

Last minute Christmas shopping frenzy combined with determination to buy a nice handbag to my fiancee made me wander the already crowded Myongdong streets on Sunday night. To say that the street is busy is a huge understatement. I actually relived the crowded Mumbai local train experiences on Sunday. So much so that the always cheerful shop keepers stopped saying “yo-bo-se-yo” and “kam-sa-ham-nida” to the shoppers.

Ear rings ... anyone?There are these small carts selling items ranging from imitation handbags, jewelry, clothes to toys, eateries and Christmas cakes. Pretty much everything a person wants to pick-up in the last minute.

After looking for sometime, we thought may be more varieties can be found in a shop, so we went inside one of those malls in search of leather goods shop. After escalating for what seemed like a zillion steps, we landed at a place displaying handbags neatly stacked.
The shop keeper asked us whether we are looking for ladies or men’s handbags in broken English. We told him that its for ladies. He invited us to sit inside. My initial reaction was surprise. The shop looked more like a glorified cart than actual shop. Doubting his invitation we entered the place. Inside there is a miniature sofa and micro-mini chair, the kind where you can only rest a part of one of your butts. So there we are sitting and wondering whether we are in for the “Lo, there is a foreigner, lets swindle him by a few $s” trap.

Soon after the shop owner flashed this Louis Vuitton handbag catalogue and asked us to choose a model. Boy! these branded handbags are expensive. $200 leather bag for holding some loose change, cards, chocolates and a $150 mobile? Half jokingly we pointed at one of the models and asked him to bring it. He looked at us and said, “Best? Best?” meaning whether we want the original make. We nodded our head, not knowing what it meant.

Which one is original?He got a bag from somewhere else and started showing it to us. He tried to convince us that the bag is an original LV bag. We asked him what the price could be. He said “120,000 won”. We instantly wore a disapproving look on our faces. He said, “want imitation model?” We nodded yes.
This time around he got another bag which looked bang similar to the original one. When I say similar I mean both bags actually looked and felt same. This one was 20000 won. He is ready to sell it for even 15000. The same would be available for 10000 on the street carts. And even if there is a 1000 won margin on that, that’s still 8% of the original price.

So much for a brand name. But I am more surprised at their deftness and professionalism in cloning these bags to such an extent that you would doubt the original ones.

On a side note, dont ever miss the Myongdong market if you are in Seoul. Its a place worth seeing for fashion / shopping lovers. Directions: Outside Myongdong subway, Near Sejong hotel.

Written by Chandoo
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