Top apparel brands including Levi's and Adidas are facing up to the growing number of counterfeit clothing items being manufactured in China, according to a new just-style management briefing.

just-style's July management briefing, called "Apparel counterfeiting in China", found that fake clothing accounted for 22% of seizures by EU customs in 2007, second only to cigarettes in numbers of counterfeits detected.

Meanwhile, counterfeit apparel accounted for US$15.6m, or 14%, of total seizures by US Customs in the first six months of 2007 - a 57% rise on figures for the same period in 2006.

Most of these fakes came from China.

The briefing says China's counterfeiting industry remains centred in its heavily industrialised southern provinces, principally Fujian and Guangdong, and is the work of mainland Chinese and Taiwanese criminal gangs.

According to a report provided to just-style by the International Apparel Federation, counterfeiting in China consists of a mix of factories producing counterfeits to order, and legitimate original enterprise manufacturing (OEM) operations moonlighting or producing their own batches on top of the goods produced for overseas clients.

Excess copies are often sold on the Chinese or Asian markets.

It seems that counterfeiters will remain focused on large brands, said Dr Allan Chan Chee-koo, a fashion retail expert at the Institute of Textiles & Clothing at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

"To be copied you must be something," he points out. "As a counterfeiter you need a payback."

just-style's briefing found that an expanding retail presence in China by international brands has only encouraged the copiers though.

Indeed, counterfeit Levi's, for domestic and export markets, have become increasingly common as the firm spreads its retail presence in China. The firm had opened 300 stores by the end of 2007 and will add another 100 by the end of 2008.

In addition, Adidas, which recently opened its largest Asian store in Beijing, has also been expanding its retail presence in China. The company is tackling the problem of fakes  through market and shop raids and has privately-hired investigators and in-house staff to probe warehouses.

Technology is also been used to control counterfeiting, with radio frequency identification (RFID) tags and tracking labels embedded with chips being employed by Chinese retail outlets and brands to track sales patterns and verify when and where counterfeit goods are being sold.

Beyond the number-crunching though, respect for intellectual property rights in China is emerging in line the development and protection of local Chinese brands and the need to protect them from counterfeiting.

For example, local sportswear brand Li Ning has become increasingly aggressive in its marketing campaigns, as well as in taking on counterfeiters.

"There is a hope that more domestic companies will see the value in innovation and protection of IPR," said the American Chamber of Commerce in China's James Zimmerman in the just-style briefing.

"The rise of local brands, on local and international markets, may sound the death knell of China's mass-scale counterfeiters," concluded report author Mark Godfrey.

just-style provides further in-depth global research on the issue of apparel counterfeiting in its brand new study: Global market review of counterfeit apparel - forecasts to 2014.

This 59-page report looks at the origins of counterfeiting, the global landscape, trends in 2008 and beyond and provides historical and forecast data from 2005-2014 covering the market value of counterfeit apparel (and total apparel) by sector and by region.