Legal or not, shopping for fake designer handbags, shoes and other clothes is a well trodden path in Hong Kong. Places like the Mongkok Ladies Market and Temple Street are famous for the street sellers touting imitation goods made across the border in China. Here's everything you need to know about shopping for fakes in Hong Kong.
All About Fakes
Also known as copies, fakes are basically imitations of high priced designer items sold at cheap prices. Designer handbags, shoes, clothes and watches are all popular buys, as well as imitation iPhones, tablets, and other electronics. They will often be labeled with knockoff names like "Praada" or "Luis Vutton," while the more brazen fakes will actually display the real name. How realistic are they? It depends. Some are convincing knockoffs that would fool Paris Hilton, others look like they were made by a kindergarten class.
The quality is generally low, although they have been getting better. Knocked together in a few hours in Shenzhen, most are made from the cheapest materials available. Often the handbags couldn't hold your belongings without bursting their stitches and watches would stop ticking before the hour after you had bought them. Today, quality has improved and you might get some wear out a product. Of course, if it does prove to be a dud, then you have no right to return.
Where to Buy Fakes
Obviously, there are no shops in Hong Kong selling fake goods – at least not in broad daylight. Instead, most sales are under the counter or via flying market stalls that set up for a few minutes in established markets before melting away again. You'll usually have no problem finding fake goods around market areas such as the Ladies Market in Mongkok or Temple Street Market, where there will be a constant line of sellers whispering copy watch/handbag/shoes into the ears of wandering tourists.
You may be asked to go into a back room, just off the street to look at a catalogue of goods - yes, even bootleggers in Hong Kong have catalogues. For electronics, the Golden Shopping Arcade is the premium hunting ground although police raids have made fakes much harder to find here.
The Legality of Buying Fakes
Yes, it is, although police only go through periodic crackdowns. The reason so many people continue to buy fakes in Hong Kong because the chance of getting caught is remote and the penalties light. If you are caught by police on the street or at customs, you'll likely have the product confiscated and be given a slap on the wrist. Of course this assumes you are buying a single item or two for personal use not a suitcase stuffed full of fake handbag. The penalty for large scale export will be far stiffer.
It's also worth noting that some countries also levy fines on travellers returning with fake goods, so you may face a penalty on your return home.
It's worth knowing that many products are produced by triads so in buying items you will be funding organised crime. The man you're buying off on the street won't be a triad member, but he will probably know a few somewhere down the line.