Open letter to the unauthorized shop selling yarns under our name in China

Open letter to the unauthorized shop selling yarns under our name in China

We are living in such an interconnected world that it is hard to keep something hidden , even if it happens someplace very far away where the language barriers make everything harder. Even so, yesterday I found out that our yarns are presented on the Chinese market by a shop that it is not our official partner shop. The yarns were made available in an online shop after our official partner in China made public that they will represent Moeke Yarns in the country. A bit before that announcement, also by accident, I found out that one of the Dutch shops received a large order from China. Coincidence? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe it was just some kind of cosmic justice that put all the pieces in place for me to find out about this scheme. 

After I found out the address of the shop (which I will not share publicly because they do not deserve any kind of publicity and extra traffic) I took a look at their offer. I felt violated and taken advantage of. Upset and angry. They used photos from me, from other shops, and even from designers that developed patterns for our yarns. They were selling kits to the Bright sweater by Junko Okamoto. Without asking permission to use the photos. Using our names and our work for their profit. And with the same price as the prices set by our official partner shop in China.

When I got my anger under control and I started to analyze the situation, two questions came to mind. First, how can they have the same prices as the official shop and second, what can I do to stop them. About their prices, this is puzzling me. If they bought the yarns from other shops, they paid the retail price (in Europe, about 10E for 100gr of our Moeke Yarns Elena), then the shipping costs and then the import taxes which in China are around 30%. But their price was still around 16E for 100 gr. Businesswise, this does not make sense. Is it possible that these yarns they were presenting as Moeke Yarns are counterfeits? This idea and the consequences for the Chinese knitters who would buy them made me even more angry…

So, what can I do to stop these practices that are from my point of view unethical and that harm our official partner shop and potentially also our name among the honest Chinese crafters? 

First of all, yesterday I made clear on social media that we do not support and agree with these kinds of practices! I do not know who is behind this shop, I don’t know their story. Maybe they think that this is acceptable. It is not! Not acceptable to represent a company when you did not purchase the products directly from that company. Not acceptable to use photos without asking permission. Not acceptable to use images of designs in order to promote the sales of the yarns without asking permission from the designers. 

Second, I already started to contact other yarns companies that maybe, just like me, do not know that this shop is selling their yarns. One of the companies I contacted yesterday confirmed that they are in the same situation. We are not the only ones taken advantage of. 

Third, I will contact all our official shops and I will ask them to not sell to China, especially when big orders come in. I am counting on their business ethnics to stop this kind of unfair competition to our official partner shop in the country. And then I will contact the electronic shopping platform where the shop operates and ask to remove the photos that are used without permission. 

I will end this post with a bit of positivity in this situation that is so upsetting to us. First of all, seeing all the encouraging and supporting comments and the shares on Instagram, it really warmed my heart. I am so thankful for this amazing community! I truly believe that our strength is the community, our ability to stand together and not accept this kind of bullying and unethical business practices. The more we spread the word and encourage people to be aware and support the honest businesses, the more we will all benefit. This case happened in China. But who is to say that it cannot happen in another country also? I want to ask you to keep in mind that bad and good people live everywhere and the ones that suffer most from these practices are the good people that try to run their business in an ethnical manner. 

And a small victory: at the time when I wrote this blogpost (10 AM, December 3), our yarns were not present anymore in this unauthorized shop. But photos of designs by Junko and others as well as photos taken from Instagram from the community who so kindly shares them, they were still present. 


Comments (3)

  • Cheryl


    08 December 2016 at 07:48 | #

    Thank you very much for your reply Loana. I understand your position completely. I do also apologize for my strong tone in the previous message.
    I must admit even though China has come some distance with regards to respecting other people's intellectual properties (and rights concerning products and images)there is still a great deal we can improve on.
    First of all I think you're doing the right thing to extend your invitation for more Chinese businesses to come foreward and distribute your yarn, this will make sure that no distributor will set the price so high that your products become unaffordable. I wouldn't worry at this stage there are any counterfeits of MY, only when a product becomes mainstream popular then there would potentially be profitable for the counterfeits to be made.
    I, like many other Chinese knitters do hope the day will come when we will can stand against inappropriate business practices. What the taobao shops were doing is a term called "daigou"(you can look it up on wikipedia") it is basically a service to help many mainland Chinese people buy things they don't know how to buy in other parts of the world due to the fact that many websites are not directly accessible from within China(or language barrier). Before you were shown the one shop that was selling your shop there were several others doing it. Daigou service was used to be just for luxury products (highly taxed commodities), now extends to just about everything. But you won't have this problem anymore as you've established distributor within China. Yes, you are right, Taobao is the biggest online shopping platform in China, they are too big to take your complains seriously.
    I wish you well in expanding your business.


  • Cheryl


    05 December 2016 at 04:23 | #

    I can understand your anger and frustration Laona. But I feel compelled to write to you from the perspective of Chines knitters because I am one. First and foremost I must make it clear that I'm NOT one of those sellers you openly shamed, I DON'T personally know them, and I DO NOT represent their interests in any way, form or capacity. I am simply a Chinese knitter. Your open letter to certain Chinese shops, which many educated knitters in China have read, has resulted an expressed outrage and boycott in the Chinese knitting community (on social media platform) against your products and your brand. You have not taken the time to think through the full impact of your words when you said "I will contact all our official shops and I will ask them to not sell to China, especially when big orders come in". In essence what you've done is that you've taken away Chinese consumer's right to purchase the same product from where they'd like to purchase. Before you had a Chinese distributor, which I understand it only just happened very recently, people sought after Junko's design and started buying the yarns called for in her patterns from overseas. The shops you openly disputed were the very few who helped some knitters source yarn at a very very low margin( hence your incomprehension regarding their pricing). Back then there was no Chinese shop representing your yarn, and that's often where people could go and buy from. Those sellers weren't selling counterfeits, they simply put on a extremely low margins because they're often doing this out of their own hobby often outside their daytime occupation. They are the very people who have made your brand known to the Chinese knitters. Now things have changed a bit, since blue balloon who has just started to represent your brand. She sells your product for 62RMB as of today, the same product is sold at Tolt yarn and wool for US$7 (which equates to roughly 48.5rmb as of today's exchange rate). Now the question is if it were you, who would you buy the product from? Ok there are international shipping cost involved. But often when three or more knitters pull together and place a group order through, then international shipping per unit cost becomes much more affordable, compared to the price your Chinese dealer is selling at. In this "interconnected world" you say we live in, what do you think Chinese people would feel when you take away their right to choose where to purchase the very same product from. Yes one or two people in China mis-represented your brand, that is unacceptable I agree. But what you've essentially done is creating a monopoly in China (by saying this is the only place you can buy from out of the entire world) and taking away an entire community's right to choose where to make a purchase, and that is not ok by that very community. And the fact that you've seemingly reached out to other brands and called for them to do the same, is spending this unfairness even further. And that is going to hurt you as a brand and seller. I hope you take this matter seriously. You have offended a large number of people who love to knit , by limiting their choices to buy in this " interconnected world" we live in.


    • Ioana


      07 December 2016 at 21:44 | #

      Dear Cheryl, I apologize for a slow reaction to your message, but I just saw it. I am very sorry that you and the Chinese knitting community are offended by my reaction in this matter. It feels indeed like a harsh reaction to, like you say, take away the right to buy from wherever you want. I will try to explain here some things happening behind the scenes.
      You say that this kind of shops are the ones that made our yarn and brands known in China. This can be the case indeed. But how did they do it? They used images of patterns and designs without permission to use them. Instead of just asking to sell the yarns as distributors (and trust me, I am very flexible and understanding regarding minimum quantities etc), they decided to not do that. In addition, this particular shop only started to offer our yarns after we announced that we will start collaborating with a local shop. So I doubt that in this case they did anything to promote our brand among the local knitting community. Using a name of a product and images without consent in order to sell a product in such an opportunistic manner, even with minimal gain, it is not OK.
      Yes, I did contact other yarn companies in the same situation. And some of these yarns are not offered anymore in that particular shop, but some still are. And my friend's Junko Okamoto designs for that yarn brand are still there on that shop. Even though both her and the owner of the yarn brand openly disagreed with this. And this is not OK.
      I tried to contact the e-shopping platform and bring to the attention the unauthorized use of the photos. It was impossible to find an email or where to send a complaint. And trust me, I really tried. It feels that the system is so made that if you are from the outside, it is impossible to get through.
      So in this situation, what is it to do? Start a lawsuit? We are a small business and definitely cant afford that. Rage some more on social media? Seems to be effective to some point.
      I did not yet write to the shops that carry MY. The fact that the shop stopped offering the yarns in this way was at this point enough. But the situation is in fact not truly resolved. As I said before, other yarn brand is offered and photos without permission are used. And it seems that we, from outside, cant even notify these problems to the taobao administrators. And this was only one shop. Maybe there are others that we dont know about.
      I will say now something that maybe sounds harsh, but I have a question for you. Where is the Chinese knitting community in such a situation when we, outside yarn producers clearly need your support? It is clear that you have more insight in what happens than we, yarn producers from outside, can possibly know. And the control of this phenomenon that we both don't agree with can only come from inside. What I did was to publicly oppose it (and hurt your feelings on the way, I apologize for that) because there is a difference between making a service to a community and plain disrespecting author rights.
      I hope you take this message as intended. A candid reply to a criticism that I accept. And maybe we can use this moment to get to know each other. I do not want to make an enemy out of you, and I do take your arguments seriously. But I ask you to also take seriously that there is a way of doing business that we support and then there are practices that we do not accept. Not me, not the designers, and not other yarn companies. And in fact, you, the honest Chinese knitting community have the power to regulate the market and to ask for ethical practices among the yarn shops. And I hope that you will do this. Because otherwise these practices will go on simply because there is no internal sanctioning and control.


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