Buying and selling counterfeit clothing, bags and footwear is a booming global hustle that reaches far beyond Bangkok, Dubai, Lagos, Moscow and Kingston, where Highsnobiety has previously journeyed for its ongoing Legit Check series. No matter what corner of the world you visit, chances are, if you know who to ask, you can (and will) find knockoff versions of your favorite brands.
Next up in our worldwide search of fugazi finds, we ventured to the Caucus region of Eurasia – Tbilisi, Georgia, to be exact. When we weren't mingling with local fashion peeps or scoping out the city's fledgling retail scene, a few of us Westerners decided to tread outside the main tourist hub to a place called Bazroba, which literally means "market" in Georgian.
Located in Tbilisi's marginalized city center, the area is surrounded by crumbling Brutalist-style buildings and a plethora of street food vendors. Across from a massive railway station and bus dispatch, there's this enormous circular pit covered with sheets of rusted aluminum tin which houses an enormous bazaar underneath.
After entering through a narrow stairway, we stumbled upon a vast labyrinth of dimly-lit locales selling mounds of bootleg garb and sneakers. Clearly standing out among the locals, a fact culled together from our outward appearances, doe-eyed enthusiasm and staunch desire to bargain for everything (which is an apparent faux-pas in such places oddly enough), we spent 45 minutes to an hour prowling for bogus gems. Luckily, we didn't leave empty-handed.
To see how these counterfeit cops measured up IRL, I shot an editorial around Tbilisi's main throughway with two Georgian models wearing select pieces. Check out the spread above then scroll down to find out how each item compares to its authentic counterpart.
Vetements x Champion Hoodie
Price: 60 GEL = $25
Quality: 4 out of 10. It's made of some cheap nylon and poly-blend cotton, so the chances of it surviving multiple washes are pretty slim. The patches are sewn on quite crudely and the aesthetic rips were mostly likely done by hand as a last minute addition, I'm guessing.
How it fares: 3 out of 10. The text on the white hood patch is absolutely hysterical and the ripped hems are nowhere to be found on the original. Also, the shade of pink on this iteration is completely off. Kudos to the elongated Champion logo sleeve strips though, those are almost convincing.
adidas Originals YEEZY Boost 350
Price: 40 GEL = $17
Quality: 7 out of 10. The sole is actually pretty well-constructed and the outer lining is also sturdy. You can probably get a year or two's worth out of them.
How it fares: 6 out of 10. Honestly, there are so many bootleg YEEZYs out there that it's hard to tell the difference anymore. However, the interior lining and heel tag on the original are tan, not black, and the sole on the fake is also a bit thicker. Diehard YEEZY fanatics will spot the difference right away, but the average sneaker wearer probably won't notice at first glance.
Gucci "Bootleg" Logo T-Shirt
Price: 20 GEL = $8
Quality: 4 out of 10. The cotton is totally synthetic (stay away from open flames while wearing this bad boy) and super thin. I'd recommend hand washing and air drying to avoid any shrinking, because it'll definitely size down substantially in the washing machine.
How it fares: 8 out of 10. Definitely one of the better bootleg Gucci "bootleg" T-Shirts out there (there's a chicken or egg metaphor here somewhere). The logo is a bit thinner and the two Gs don't fully intersect like they do in the real Gooch, but the faded three-stripe adds a really authentic touch.
adidas Originals NMD R1
Price: 40 GEL = $17
Quality: 2 out of 10. The sole was probably attached using a glue stick and the material is so thin that they'll likely tear after a few wears.
How it fares: 0 out of 10. I mean, just look at these shits.
Gucci Logo Boxer Briefs
Price: 10 GEL = $4
Quality: 8 out of 10. Not bad actually. The cotton is the real deal so you'll probably get some good use out of them.
How it fares: ??? out of 10. They do look like a retro pair of Gucci boxers that were mass bootlegged years before Alessandro Michele took over the Italian luxury house, but no such pairs are being produced currently. But who knows, similar to the bootleg T-shirt, these could be reworked in drops to come.
Find out how Vetements is helping Tbilisi become the next fashion hotspot.