PUTIAN, China — After the sun sets in Putian, thousands of bikes carrying fake sneakers hit the streets.
The lace-up black market is no secret in Putian, and it's where you can find Chan, a vendor with a knack for getting high-quality pairs off the streets and into the hands of hypebeasts on the other side of the globe.
With rubber, he struck gold.
"I've spoken to some of our customers — some of them are high school students, some are college students, university students. So yeah, these are our main crowd generally," Chan told VICE News. "It's usually the kids themselves who are very resourceful. They understand about replicas; they understand that these are high-quality sneakers and they come finding you saying, 'Hey, I'd like to buy some high-quality replicas from you."
While many vendors are subject to police raids and potential lawsuits, Chan has been able to stay afloat. These days, the only thing slowing his business down is nitpicky sneakerheads.
"Unfortunately, it's just the hard-and-fast rules of doing business. You meet difficult customers. You'll meet cheaters, you meet scammers who will be out there to cheat you off a pair of shoes," Chan said. "So, unfortunately, this kind of thing happens, especially when you're on a public domain like the internet."
VICE News met up with Chan at his headquarters to see how his business is racing ahead.
This segment originally aired August 22, 2018 on VICE News Tonight on HBO.