This, the investigators now fear, may also be the true face of the Strangeways and the UK’s fakes trade.In the past six months, police have seen immigrants from such war-torn countries as Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan finding work in the Strangeways area, while being told of people getting paid just £20-£30 a day.And while the big brands have not always covered themselves in glory when it comes to their supply chains, there are no accountability checks at all on the conditions in which fakes are made.The author Dana Thomas has described joining a police raid on a tenement in Guangdong Province, one of the epicentres of fakes production, to find “two dozen sad, tired, dirty children, ages eight to 14, making fake Dunhill, Versace, and Hugo Boss handbags on old, rusty sewing machines”.
And it’s pretty clear that there is a high degree of organisation involved.
Some call it “Counterfeit Street”, others “the fakes capital of the UK”.
In a cluster of back alleys off Bury New Road, in the shadow of Manchester’s Strangeways prison, legitimate businesses struggle to exist alongside shops where knock-off Louis Vuitton costs £23, where you can buy a fake Mulberry handbag for £18, not £795, and much, much more besides.
But perhaps the most significant find was in a small upstairs back room Here were thousands of designer labels, and a machine for attaching them to goods that would be transformed from “blank” to “brand”.
It was a sign that perhaps fakes were being made abroad, imported without any branding to get them past Customs officers looking for counterfeits, and then taken to Manchester to be finished with the all-important designer labels – in conditions that, the investigators feared, might sometimes recall a developing world sweatshop.