Designer boots are churned out by children in Chinese sweatshops ,Christian Louboutin leopard-print ankle boots are way out of reach for all but the very well heeled, such as known fans Sarah Jessica Parker and Victoria Beckham, Instead, thousands of websites offer cheaper counterfeit versions of these and other designer shoes.
But the shocking truth is that these fake boots are made using child labour, in shocking conditions, under the control of vicious criminal gangs.
A Sunday Mirror investigation has found a Chinese village run by Triad gangsters paying workers and children just £20 for a 90-hour week as they knock out thousands of pairs of fake designer shoes for shipping to the UK.
Posing as businessmen wanting to place a wholesale order, we were told “business is great” and saw high-rise factories packed with children as young as 10 working until gone midnight.
The village of Huan Jiao, near-Guangzhou in the south east of China, has thousands of workers in dozens of workshops disguised to look like houses.
Each one produces a different part of the items to minimise the disruption if one is shut down by the authorities. Most of the workers have migrated from the countryside in search of work. Chung, a 15-year-old boy who cuts leather to make ladies’ boots, said: “We need to work at least 14 hours and take just one day off a month to make coming here worthwhile.
“They promised us £200 a month, but take money off for living expenses and bills because we have to sleep in a dormitory owned by the factory.” A worker called Cheng Bo, 22, said: “We thought we’d make good money but the conditions are not good. The boss promised us £120 a month but then deducted food, electricity and water and dorm fees. In the end we get £80 a month.” After contacting one website and asking to discuss a big order, our investigators were introduced to a woman called Tiffany who brazenly told us: “We can offer you the same quality, certification, warranty and accessories as official Christian Louboutin , but at a much lower price.”
In a nearby coffee shop, Tiffany brought out six pairs of top-quality counterfeit shoes and told us: “We buy the originals in Hong Kong. We’ve been making rip-off shoes for five years now.
Outside, shoe boxes bearing names like Gucci, Prada and Chanel are piled in the streets before being loaded on to lorries – and guards at the factory entrances forbid entry to strangers.
Inside, hundreds of bare-chested youths sit hunched over benches, attaching plastic heels to the famous red soles and fake pony-skin uppers to produce a counterfeit version of Louboutin’s signature leopard-print ankle boot.
Then they are put into a fake version of the designer’s red dust bag and a replica box before they are shipped to Britain at £160 each – more than 10 times they cost to make.