North Face is a brand that is heavily counterfeited. Â My brother was just in China and found North Face jackets in plentiful supply at the street markets. My understanding is that some of them may be overruns from the actual factories that manufacture for North Face and others are plain faked.
A real quick overview of what I know on the subject: Yes, the North Face jacket is the knock-about-tog (and knock-off) for expats in Beijing. There are usually three "types" of North Face in China and they go from about US$10 to US$30 (and possibly more) depending upon how well you bargain and what street market you go to. 1) Real NF that's "fallen off the truck", as it were; or that were over-runs that came into street-market circulation. 2) Rejects from factory -- imperfections vary. 3) Counterfeit NF -- using sub-par material (fabric, thread, metal components like snaps, etc), sometimes using authentic tooling (for logo, cut, etc). In case of authentic tooling, these are made from same factory that makes NF; while others are made elsewhere. I bought a fake one for US$16 that was water-proof and held up well. Others, above, have made good comments on what to look for in determing fakes, esp. seams. Also another thing is the zip-in liner. This can be bad quality. It can be really cheap material and it cannot really fit well into the shell of the jacket. Sometimes snaps are poor quality. That's an element of clothing that requires a relatively expensive tool-and-die making operation. So you can sometimes spot a fake when certain technologies are needed. One way to test these things is that they'll fall apart in really hard use within a year or two. But that's really hard use. And most people don't put them through it. I don't know enough about fabrics, like gore-tex to automatically spot whether the fabric is true or not. But I think if you know your fabrics it's relatively easy to spot. Sometimes you can look at tags inside -- the printing won't be straight, the zippers used to be shoddy, but the YKK zipper is everywhere and I think it's pretty cheap to use them, as well as some of these other materials that used to be instant signs of the fake.