Last month, international media had a field day when an American blogger in Kunming discovered a fake Apple store that showed an unusual level of fidelity to the original. But as anyone who’s been to an electronics market in China knows, this isn’t exactly news. However, there’s a new well-conceived copycat concept in Kunming that’s caught our attention this week: none other than Swedish furniture-for-lazy-people giant IKEA has received the royal shanzhai treatment!
Called 11 Furniture (十一家具), the four-story shopping experience essentially rips-off every single aspect of the the IKEA furniture concept, from its minimalist furniture aesthetic, specific furniture designs, mock-up rooms, signage font, and even the blue and yellow Swedish flag color scheme. Even the miniature pencils are lovingly recreated.
And if that’s not enough, 11 Furniture also boasts the cafeteria-style restaurant that IKEA stores are famous for. But quite sensibly, instead of offering IKEA’s Swedish meatballs and salmon, the menu features Chinese-style braised minced pork and eggs. As Vanilla Ice would say, ‘It’s not the same!’
The name of the store is probably no coincidence, either. 11 Furniture’s Chinese name is “Shi Yi Jia Ju” (十一家具), while IKEA’s full Chinese name is “Yi Jia Jia Ju” (宜家家具).
Perhaps the only distinct difference between the copycat store and the real thing is that 11 Furniture’s furniture is made to order, not flat-packed as it is at IKEA. With nine stores mostly located in wealthier coastal and southern cities, IKEA reports that the company has teams working in China to handle intellectual property protection issues.
But as far as a customer service representative at 11 Furniture is concerned, Reutersreports that 11 Furniture isn’t doing anything wrong:
If two people are wearing the same clothes, you are bound to say that one copied the other. Customers have told me we look like IKEA. But for me that’s not my problem. I just look after customers’ welfare. Things like copyrights, that is for the big bosses to manage.
The Big Bosses have yet to make a public comment since this revelation, but they’re probably going to have to come up with a better excuse than that.
Whether the copycat IKEA store will meet the same fate as most of the fake Apple stores in Kunming, we don’t know. What we do know is, the small, quiet city of Kunming is deceptively more interesting than it appears. Perhaps we’ll find our doppelgänger walking around if we’re not careful.
By Esther Kang
Photos from Sidney Alva and here.