OK I love Skiing/Snowboarding and I love a bargain so eBay could be the great Nirvana that i've been searching for, right? Well maybe. High end technical outerwear is essential if you are going to enjoy the snow. As much fun as sliding down a hill can be, being wet and cold can seriously ruin what might otherwise be a great day. Whilst not wanting to take anything away from the fashion industry, if you buy a replica T-Shirt that, for all intents and purposes looks like the real thing, except for a small logo etc that only true officianados know about then you've really lost nothing from a functional perspective. Your T-Shirt, copyright laws aside, will probably perform exactly the same regardless of whether it is a name brand one or a copy one. Technical outerwear, designed to keep you dry and warm in some of the harshest conditions on the planet, even if it looks like the real thing, will be a big failure if it doesnt function correctly. Saving a packet on a replica jacket that looks like the real thing from a distance, but soaks through in a light shower and doesnt keep out the wind is probably a failure. The big differences I've seen in the replicas have been the use of lesser materials that maybe dont offer the same protection from the elements, dont breathe to let internal heat out, the use of poor quality fastners/zips/velcro, seams not being sealed to keep water from getting in and general poor quality of construction.
I've looked around for ages on eBay and other sites looking at Ski clothing mostly but fleece, softshell and other technical outerwear as well. I reckon i can pick the fakes a mile off now and i thought I would write this guide to help others. I am not involved in the trade, aside from selling a few very genuine items through my eBay shop. All of my observations come from a consumer's perspective, I've even knowingly bought a dodgy copy jacket just to see what it was like (and then gave it to a friend).
Most of the copy stuff I've seen comes from China. This in itself is no real help as most of the genuine articles come from China as well although there are increasing numbers of items being made in Vietnam and other low cost manufacturing places. I've read the theories on the net and even had some e-mail exchanges with some of the counterfeiters about how this all originates and I think that what happens is this:
1. A company wanting to make and then sell some outerwear outsources production to one of the massive production houses in China.
2. Somehow the workers/managers etc in the factory start using copies of the designs to make their own versions of the Jackets to sell on the Black Market, either in flea markets in China or over the web to us gullible westerners.
3. Entrepreneurial starting up eBay shop owners looking for product to sell somehow come into contact with the folks mentioned above and start importing the counterfeit gear wholesale and passing it off locally.
There is another theory that there are production over-runs of genuine gear and that these are sold off by large clearance warehouses. This might be true and i've found and been approached by folks claiming to be these guys, but the stuff they are looking to sell normally looks exactly the same as the stuff I know is dodgy so I'm skeptical. They also normally sell everything from copy sneakers through copy ipods so I wouldnt be confident about their outerwear.
It appears to me that the original makers of many of the items have gotten wise to the scam and are doing more to control their designs and materials. As a result, year after year the same 3, 4, 5 year old designs that were nicked/pinched/copied keep being used by the counterfeiters and are passed off as 'new model', this year's model etc
The most common brand/Model of jacket that i see is an old version of Spyder's 'Rival' model jacket. Right now on ebay there will be loads of these for sale. I have a current genuine version of the Rival jacket that i bought from a retailer in the US and wear skiing. My current model jacket looks nothing like the copy ones being sold at the moment. The best advice I could give to anybody looking to buy a Spyder jacket is to do some research.
Spyder have a great website where they give pictures of their entire current range of clothing. In case you are looking for an older model, Spyder often update their models so the ranges/lines/models can have the same name but be a different colour or otherwise slightly different. If the thing on eBay looks nothing like the thing you've seen on the Spyder website I'd start to get suspicious. I have never seen a copy of the current Spyder line but you need to make sure that what you are being told is the current model matches up with Spyder's website.
Other brands that i've seen copied are: Columbia, Haglofs, The North Face, Arc Teryx and Peak.
My tips for if you arent sure are as follows:
1. Look at the seller's feedback. If there are negative feedbacks left by others claiming the gear isnt original then I'd be suspicious.
2. Send the seller an e-mail asking bluntly "is this a genuine Spyder/North Face" etc. If they send you anything other than a staunch, resolute YES!!!!! then I'd be extremely worried
3. Ask the seller which model and year the item is from. If you get a model then I'd check it out on google and see if the pictures from the manufacturers match what you're seeing in the listings.
4. Ask the seller what the waterproof/breathability rating are and what the jacket is made of. A top of the line jacket will have 20K or better for both. Good jackets have about 10K for both and softshells and lower model hardshells have below that. Breathability can be almost as important in warmer weather as your sweat can build up inside and without breathable fabric you might as well be skiing in a plastic bag!!
5. Ask the seller if the seams are sealed. If they arent then basicaly the water/snow will come in through all of the little holes where the thread holds the thing together. Some items have 'critical seams sealed meaning that the main seams that stop most water getting in are sealed.
6. Some models of Spyder Jacket have an anti counterfeit hologram printed on them. Most of their stuff sold retail has a pricetag with a barcode and RRP hanging with the other tags on a sleeve end. This appaers to be put on at the factory etc as it is the same everywhere I've seen a Spyder jacket for sale. Dont be too taken in with product tags. The counterfeit jacket that I bought (and then gave away) had colour photocopy tags attached. They looked good from a distance but up close were an obvious copy. It didnt have the price tag mentioned above.
6. Ask the seller where they sourced the item from. If they say they are an authorised rep, or that they bought it for themselves but dont want it anymore then its probably OK. If they say they get it from factory overstocks in China then I'd worry.
Finally, and probably most importantly, have a look at the advert. If the picture is of an old model jacket, the seller is overseas, the item is selling for 99c with $120 postage, the advert is written in broken english with pictures of a million different jackets and only a generic badly written description, possibly for a different jacket, then I'd run a mile. The most common one i see is the pictures of 100 different coloured versions of the old Spyder Rival jackets and the narrative is a cut and paste for the Conquest jacket, somethign about the Conquest winning the battle against the cold etc.
End of the day, dont waste your money on cheap rubbish. If you are after a genuine piece of quality outerwear then there are better ways to get it than to buy counterfeit rubbish. I have all original gear that I've managed to buy on eBay and other places for a fraction of the cost in the retail ski shops. Sellers are offered dodgy jackets for as little as $20-$30 from the counterfeiters. They pass them onto you for about $100 each and walk away with a handy profit whilst you get cold and wet.
Folks get taken in by these guys every day. I see the adverts with a couple of bids and just know these guys are selling dodgy stuff. Dont be caught, do your research and be safe.