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March 28, 2013

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Designer scraps deposit to try dresses

Vera Wang, the queen of bridal couture, has scrapped a 3,000 yuan (US$482) fee for brides-to-be wanting to try on dresses at her new Shanghai boutique after the move set off a global outcry.

There were claims the charge was discriminatory because it applied only at the Shanghai store, which had a "soft opening" in January as the company's first bridal salon on China's mainland, a vast potential market.

The decision to drop the charge had nothing to do with the controversy, a public relations official said yesterday.

She said head office in the United States had issued a notice saying the company was working out a unified service standard. A decision over whether stores should charge fees for appointments had previously been left to local staff.

Since the store opened on January 27, customers had been calling for appointments almost every day despite the 3,000 yuan deposit, which would be deducted from the final price, she said.

She denied the practice was discriminatory but a way of ensuring only serious customers shopped there and to protect the copyright of the designer's dresses.

A company spokeswoman said earlier that the deposit was a bid to stop the elaborate dresses being copied. However, the "latest Vera Wang" dresses are currently for sale on, one of China's biggest e-commerce platforms.

At one city-based online store, dresses of the "latest Vera Wang design" are 888 yuan each. The vendor said his products were almost 90 percent similar to the real thing in the Shanghai store.

"There may be slight differences but not everyone can see that," he said.

The 3,000 yuan deposit wouldn't have stopped people from copying the designs, he said, as they could simply copy from photographs or fashion shows.

A Vera Wang original can cost from US$2,000 to over US$10,000.

"For the experts you don't need to try on the dress to figure out how to copy it, you just need to see it or feel it at the shop," a vendor, who would only give his name as Li, told Reuters.

Li's factory, based in Suzhou, makes Vera Wang knockoffs from photos of her creations, then sells them online for between 600 yuan and 1,700 yuan.

Online sellers did admit they couldn't replicate the complicated hand stitching and high quality materials that go into an original dress.

But one seller said: "If you want 100 percent you should buy the original."


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