Thursday, March 8, 2012

Vietnam - The North Face bags - authentic or not?

We have known that The North Face (TNF) bags are being produced in Vietnam. In fact, I know someone selling TNF bag for 2k pesos in Philippines; he used to source his TNF bags from Vietnam. I can't confirm whether the bags are authentic or not for I haven't seen his wares until now. Besides, 2k pesos is quite a steep price for a backpack. I am happy with my durable Hawk backpack. I bought it few years back for slightly more than a thousand pesos. In addition, I am not a TNF fanboy until I saw how good were TNF bags design.

I haven't bought any TNF bag yet until I set foot at Ho Chi Minh city. My son asked me to buy one backpack for him. He specifically asked me to buy TNF HOT SHOT back pack.

Saigon Square
Initially, my wife and I planned to scout Ben Thanh market the next day for TNF bags and pants. However, we were invited for dinner at a local Vietnamese restaurant courtesy of our college classmate who is based in Ho Chi Minh city with her family. Upon learning that we were planning to buy several TNF backpacks she advised us to buy instead at Saigon Square, just 2 blocks away from Ben Thanh market.








one of the shops inside SS

Due to limited time, we raced down to Saigon Square the next day. Our classmate was correct, many TNF bags were in display at different stalls. Even so, we didn't know which bags were authentic or not. Luckily, my wife did some research on the net the day before and told me that we should check 3 things on a TNF bag. First was the whistle then the hologram and finally the orange thread. Armed with this information we searched around for authentic TNF bags. We saw several shoppers queuing in one shop selling TNF bags; among the shoppers were some "kabayans." Hence, we decided to purchase from that shop also.

hologram
whistle

We asked the lady how we could know that the TNF bags she was selling was imitation or not. She took one of the TNF bags displayed inside her shop and gave it to us. That bag was fake according to her. We inspected the bag and we agreed with her. No whistle, no hologram and the texture of the bag was rough compared with the TNF bags she was selling to us. To add, the price was way cheaper. So we bought the 3 bags which she told as authentic TNF.


Surge = 550k Dong, Amira = 380k Dong and Hot Shot = 500 Dong

I had no idea whether we were ripped-off or not. After comparing the price with our local Hawk bags,  TNF price was competitive. The quality seemed OK. Moreover, my wife searched the net and found the design and color of the three bags we bought were the same as shown on TNF website. Because of this, the following day we bought another TNF bag from the same shop at Saigon Square.

Borealis = 350k Dong

My high school son was very happy for his HOT SHOT bag. In my case, I send back my old and worn-out Hawk backpack to Manila and started to use TNF SURGE bag on my trip to Cambodia and Thailand. The other 2 TNF bags were bought by my brother-in-law.

Considering the price, quality and design, imitation or not, I am happy with my new TNF bag. However, until now I can't avoid that feeling that maybe we had bought fake TNF bags. Just imagine a TNF bag worth around a thousand pesos. What do you think?


250k Dong
By the way, here is a picture of a Kipling bag bought by my wife. The lady confirmed to us that this bag was a first class imitation and some of our "kabayans" were her regular buyers. Additionally, we bought two TNF cargo pants also. I love it. It was trendy, comfy for traveling and no need to press; just wash and wear.


















1 USD  = 20k Dong (approximately)



50 comments:

  1. I'd love to come here next time...

    followed you, follow me too :) thanks

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  2. It looks Authentic... Especially the hologram and the whistle... Please check the "R" on the strap of your bag. The "R" has a tail...

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  3. Do you have the name of the shop where you bought your bags from?

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  4. I don't remember seeing the name of the shop but it is located at the ground floor and farthest end or at the backside area when you enter the main door of Saigon square. Anyway, you can easily search for the shop since s.s. is not that big.

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  5. where can we find that orange thread?

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  6. You can find the orange thread at the inner pocket.

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  7. I am here at HCMC now and I am gearing up to buy TNF bags tomorrow. Your blog is a big help. Saigon Square it is! Thanks!

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  8. Hahaha... you're welcome! you may check also Kipling bags and North Face cargo pants. They're cheap but good quality.

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  9. Are they seling din ba north face jackets?? Tnxs. Ill be visitng vietnam feb 2013! Hopefully meron sana! =)

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    Replies
    1. I just came across your blog and felt compelled to leave a reply. We just sunk a whole lotta money on 8 "summit range" TNF jackets (yes, you read correctly). Specifically regarding Saigon, I find that a lot of people seem to go to Saigon Square. Apart from it be incredibly difficult to shop and browse at Saigon Square, I found the quality of jackets were poor and each store was invariably more or less the same. Given the number of stalls selling jackets, it was almost disappointing. We also shopped around while in Hanoi, and we found it to be more expensive which means there is a lot of bargaining to be had.

      If you're buying for a specific purpose in which technical requirements are important, I suggest that you purchase the real deal that is guaranteed to be fit for purpose. But if you're buying for "normal" wear, then happy shopping!

      Before buying anything, my husband and I circled these stalls and circled them again dozens of time, each time asking different questions from different stalls. And from different "plazas". The terms "replicas" and "fakes" depend on how your viewpoint. This is what we've been able to deduce:

      -Most of the Saigon Square stalls are on-sellers, which means they take stock from a middle man. The stalls at Saigon Square typically take a standard sell price and add on upto 400,000 dong.
      -There are multiple producers of what seem like the "same" style. Some manufacturers are better than others, and different runs uses slightly different materials. It pays to have an eye for details.
      -When looking for your jackets, pay attention to any marks on the fabric or discolouration of the thread. In our experience, the bright colour female jackets summit series tend to have dark marks a long the torso near the zips. Pay attention to what kind of fleece is used and whether it has branded strap linings along the collar. These are the details that sets apart a quality replica.
      -Make no mistake that all of them are "replicas/fakes". You will struggle to find current season styles for sale. I was told that stock control of all garments made for overseas sale is very tight - not a single item gets left behinb. There may be some real deals coming off the same OEM production lines that were stamped for export, but these are rare and the sizing is very limited. This indicates that there are some under-the-table arrangements. These are the ones where you need to put in orders to a seller you trust. Need I say more?
      -As a result of our investigation, we've concluded that these jackets are legit TNF jackets - produced under slightly different styles that is sold on the local market (we thing it might have something to do with region control). It makes absolutely no sense to us that TNF is not or cannot do anything to overcome such blatant use of their brand unless it's a policy loophole or they have given agreement for the manufacturers to do so. Given the lower cost, the quality if definitely inferior - for example: the jackets may be shorter, the goose down used in real TNF jackets are Hungarian high fill down, while the cheap stuff may be from goose down ex China or Vietnam. Again, would it be fit for your purpose?

      So where did I buy my jackets from? TAKA PLAZA on Nam Ky Khoi Nghia between Le Loi and Le Thanh Ton (just up the road from Saigon Square which everyone is obsessed about). For the male 2-in-1 summit series, we paid 750,000 dong (we bought 5 from a corner store on the bottom level and only negotiated 50,000 dong off each jacket). For the female thigh length goose down filled 900-summit series, we paid 850,000 dong and bought 3 from a seller upstairs and tucked away to the right hand side - seller was not willing to negotiate. Take it or leave it offer. It seams to be the theme at TAKA PLAZA. As a comparison, price at Saigon Square started at 1.2 mio dong for the female jackets and quality was far inferior.

      Delete
    2. Lucky for you, you had time to shop for TNF products, unlike most of us who visited Vietnam. In fact, wife and I spent a total of 1 hour in buying TNF bags since if I really want a real TNF then I can simply buy them at SM City.

      Thanks for sharing about TNF jackets though I am not a TNF jacket fanboy for obvious reason that I have no need of them. Hence, I didn't bother to waste my time or investigate about these TNF jackets, I don't need to say more.

      TNF jackets are also being peddled here in Manila, you may check my post about NOEL Christmas Bazaar.

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  10. yup! You will find plenty of TNF jackets and cargo pants. However, I didn't see any T-Shirts at that time.

    Enjoy your trip!

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  11. i asked TNF live chat service and he told me na kahit nandun yung mga marks (orange thread, etc.) hindi pa rin sure ang authenticity cause kahit yun pwede ma-imitate. They said, you can only guarantee the real ones if you buy from authorized dealers. They have no product verification test at this time. Kaya madaming fake available on market.

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    Replies
    1. I agree with you and in fact as I mentioned on my post, there are also cheap TNF bags imitation without these marks. I myself is not sure that I have bought authentic TNF bags. Pero sabi nga kasama sa experience sa pagpunta sa HCMC ang pagbili ng TNF products, LOL.

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  12. Thx for the blog post. Two years on, how are your "North Fake" bags holding up? Are they still in one piece? How are the zippers? I'm trying to decide if I buy a bag here in the US for $50 for a surely real one or get it in Vietnam for cheaper. I suppose I'll just buy it here if I can find a sale. :)

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    Replies
    1. Yup, I am still using it. If you check my latest post, 3rd Day Exploit, you will see me and my TNF backpack on my way to Tian Tian Buddha at Ngong Ping, Hong Kong.

      My youngest also is still using his TNF as school bag.

      However, after few months, one of the zipper (head) was broken,fortunately, there were 2 zipper heads thus I am using the other head. Anyway, any bag repair shop can easily replace the zipper.

      Delete
  13. I'm not a TNF fan either, but if I were to buy, I'd probably go to an authorized dealer. I also buy class A replicas, but a friend advised me (who is a TNF fanatic) never to buy a TNF bag from a non-authorized dealer. Reason being TNF has a lifetime warranty on their bags (I didn't even know). So if your bag get broken, even from extensive use, they will repair or replace it for free.

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    1. Lifetime warranty, that's great! But as a working Dad, I would think twice before I splurge on an authentic TNF bag which I plan to use only for few years until it becomes "untrendy" as what my daughter always say.

      BTW, Hawk bag (local brand) also offers some sort of warranty and if my recollection is correct lifetime warranty for the zipper. I knew because I had one before I replaced it with TNF backpack.

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  14. I have purchased around 4-5 North Face bags from Saigon Square, some possibly at the exact same stall that you purchased from, it is also on the ground floor walking all the way down the centre towards the back and taking a left turn at the end.

    I purchased the Melinda bag (and another bag, can't remember model) 3-4 years ago and Hot Shot at the start of this year from that exact stall.

    Another bag I bought this year was the Surge II bag, from another stall we found using our local connections, but he was reluctant to sell it and he said he only had 2-3 of them.

    My conclusion after extensive research and daily use of the bags is that the bags are very high quality fakes.

    This is the conclusion after taking into account:

    The zipper at the front of the Surge II are different compared to the real ones, they are smaller whereas the real ones had those plastic looking shiny oversized ones.

    My bag had the shiny hologram and TNF tag in the compartment for the laptop, whereas looking at online videos at the authentic bags, the hologram tag was in the main compartment.

    Another giveaway was that in all the video reviews, the users would knock on the back of the back support and it will sound like a solid thump. I tried that on my backpack and it wouldn't make a noise as even though it is hard, there is more cushioning which absorbs the force/sound.

    The pattern on the back of the bag,i.e on the back support itself, the stitching was different to the real one. It is very subtle but the angle of the stitching turn differently,very noticeable when compared side by side, otherwise impossible to tell by sight if looking separately. The bottom stitching (or imprint, it's hard to explain) is very different too, but only 5-10cm of it is different. Again hardly noticeable post-purchase let alone when you are in a rush to buy it in Saigon Square.

    I can elaborate further on the other different models I bought and how it has stood up against the elements in another post, I am rushed for time now.

    Overall, even though the Surge II is conclusively a fake, it is of very high quality, better than some other authentic branded bags I have used. The Melinda bag has lasted up until now, even though I have used it for 3-4 years and used it on a very tough 100km trek. Ill post again another time.




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  15. hello! i'm a tnf fanatic since college.. when my husband and i were just dating he bought 2 tnf bag for each of us. a surprise gift for me (cos i dont want to buy a bag worth P5k-P6k though i really want one). my husband made my dream come true! hahahah sure shot for him and amira for me. he bought our backpack 2009 and until now buhay na buhay pa and wala pang sira though yung sa husband ko andungis na heheheh and yes lifetime warranty.

    but now na may mga kids na kami why buy a backpack worth P5k-P6k kung meron din naman sa vietnam na direct sa factory ng tnf. heheheheh little difference lang naman eh. i mean kung kikilatisin magandang quality talaga.

    ...and doesnt matter kung fake ung from vietnam, actually di sya fake, theyre overruns or di pumasa sa quality kaya nireject ng quality control ng tnf. ayun doesnt matter if overruns kase nasa nagdadala naman yan eh heheheheh

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    1. It matters if you bought a real one or a fake essey. I bought an Electron 60 backpack and it didn't hold up on the trails. Even thought it was just a minor climb. The top compartment tore and some stitching now shows sign of wearing - frayed. It was only after reading this blog that I realized I bought a fake. The store where I bought it from claimed it was original, just factory overrun blah blah.. didn't pass quality test... Why would North Face sell factory overrun if they offer a lifetime warranty of their products? The factory overrun story is bogus.

      If its not just for show that you'll purchase a TNF bag or whatever else, then better buy the real thing. I wasted 2k pesos. hope someone can read this sooner won't do the same.

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  16. and by the way my husband bought 2 tnf backpacks for our kids in vietnam. sobrang ganda compare sa genuine tnf namin ni hubby same material. and kipling naman ung binili saaken which i liked the most! :)

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for sharing. Not to mention the thrill of buying TNF products in Vietnam.

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  17. Are there similar shops in Hanoi and where specifically? I'm ok with high quality replica as long as it is worth the money. Thanks.

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    Replies
    1. Sorry, I have no idea whether they have shops selling TNF products imitation. However, since Hanoi is another city in Vietnam chances are you'll find high quality TNF products replica.

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  18. I'll visit soon!

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  19. going to HCMC this weekend and I find helpful all the blogs. I am planning to go saigon square to buy TNF. Any advice between the saigon square1 saigon square2?

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  20. Hi Sir, pa off-topic lang po. How about 5.11 gears? Did you happen to spot some of them at the place where you bought your TNFs?

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  21. Very nice blog! I found it really helpful. I'm going to HCMC this june and was wondering if u got taxed for the items u bought in HCMC. I'm planning to do some shopping there (make the most out of my trip) by buying around 10 northfac bags for myself and family as well as kipling bags. Im just concerned how should I bring them home. Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. Just act normally in front of custom officers.

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  22. Thanks again to this informative blog. :-)

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  23. Hi! I'm wondering how many TNF bags are allowed to be brought back home to Philippines?

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  24. I brought 5. As long as custom officials won't notice your luggage you can bring as many as you can.

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  25. Your blog post is very helpful. Thank you!

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  26. I bought TNF Router at a price of 750K Vnd (36USD) (after 100k discount).
    It has the symptoms of a FAke:
    1. THE NORTH FACE stitching logo connecting to each other (4 connection point)
    2. The direction in the back is not correct

    see pic link: https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-PV_oHJ2DWr8/U_6cY2YsU5I/AAAAAAAAAMY/X6K_YxF6a2o/s512/CLK4_JK3_back.jpg

    3 scenario
    1. FAke, but high quality
    2. Material authentic, made out of TNF factory.
    3. Not meet TNF standards or being leaked out by staffs.

    Possibly 2 is the case (or at least what i hope for), I am just a Vietnamese buyer, only the seller know about its source.

    Anyways, with a cheap price and good quality, it still worth buying.
    Currently, i am complaining with the seller, just to have reasonable answer to my point and hopefully it is not totally Fake.


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  27. I bought a tnf bag which is made in vietnam, it has a whistle and hollogram serial number, although im not that certain if it is genuine or not. I just love the design and the quality. I think it still depends on your budget, tnf bags from that store is not really that bad, its class A++ for me, and it is really cheap, if you can afford to buy a genuine one then go for it.

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  28. I guess now a day people wont bother if it's original or not as long as you will be decent enough to wear it then,, i have bags (kipling and TNF) from Vietnam too and still they work fine i have 150k php worth of kipling and trying to make and sell for a living and they look exactly the same as the one for belgium

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  29. Hi, i just want to ask, is it possible that the tnf will us YKK ZIPPERS on it, and it would be still considered as a authenthic one?

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    Replies
    1. Sorry. No idea about that.

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    2. Authentic TNF uses YKK zippers..not sure for the fake ones..

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  30. Hello does anyone know any forwarder or cargo service in Ho Chi Min city? Thanks. Planning to go back to Vietnam to buy TNF backpacks to sell in PH. thanks

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  31. Thanks for this very helpful blog..I don't care wether it's fake or original..for me it depends on how you use it, even originals won't last that much....btw, i'll be going in HCMC tomorrow night from Cambodia..hehe

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  32. saw some router 2016 online price @4kphp but US srp is 150$ way cheaper right? but the seller seems legit and he told me that this bag is covered with 1 year warranty here in TNF i think this is also a vietnam made, need to visit him first. by the the way very helpful blog

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    Replies
    1. Who is your seller? I'm also looking for TNF bags for my travels.

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  33. actually some TNF and Osprey are manufactured in Vietnam, check some company like vision vina, or visionbags which is base in vietnam and there is this specific manufacturer of TNF also i just cant remember the factory name. so we could also say that some products in SS are authentic.. because they have the manufacturer right beside them. however, fake bags also took advantage of it.. so be wise and be critical on details and checking for the quality. "do the research" before shopping.

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  34. may ask about the price,surge is 550k dong....if we convert php.piso,how much?thank you...

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