And Finally

Winning ugly

Alibaba’s Taobao rewards its quirkiest products


Jin Chen presented the awards

The Chinese shopping platform Taobao is a genuine wonder of the world. It often feels that there is no item too small or too niche that Taobao doesn’t stock.

If you have a problem with a household item, a quick search will usually render up the requisite spare part – saving you from throwing out your old kitchen appliances, for instance. But practicalities aside, Taobao is fun because of all the oddities on offer. Need a cushion that looks like a lemon slice? It has it. How about a group raincoat for three people sitting on a moped? Taobao has you covered. And perhaps your pet dog needs a sex toy? No problem whatsoever.

In the same spirit, WiC applauds the Taobao Ugly Things awards – now in their second year – as a way of celebrating all the weird and wonderful things that can be found on the site.

Hosted by actress Jin Chen and livestreamed by Taobao, this year’s award ceremony dredged through some 10,000 nominations across five loosely-defined categories.

Some of the non-winners included the ‘facekinis’ worn by the coastal swimmers of Qingdao, and the carefully designed range of socks boasting gem stones above each toenail.

In the end the Top Ugly Award went to an oversized rubber Halloween mask that makes the wearer look like a demented orange with a shrunken head. Another so-called “Ugly Famous” award went to a pair of pink-glitter bovver boots with built-in fairy wings, while the “Ugly You Die” award – inspired by internet slang for something amusing – was given to a floppy reflector nicknamed the “unbreakable mirror”, whose curved surface has delivered strange images and much laughter.

While most of the nominees accepted that they had produced aesthetically questionable items, the winner of one award – The Slightly Ugly Award – seemed more confused by his triumph.

Mr Qin, who won an accolade for a plastic showerhead moulded in the shape of a purple Panda face, looked bemused as he accepted his award. “The shower head is very creative and cute. I don’t know where the ugliness is…” he complained.

Qin shouldn’t have been too upset because even making it to the shortlist means that many shoppers will buy the item just to be part of the joke.

“I’ll consider these for my new year’s shopping list,” one Taobao customer said of the 40 items listed for special mention.

What was the winner in the final category – the Happy Ugly award? Because of the pandemic the prize went to a facemask designed with oversized images of the human mouth – making it look as if the lower half of the wearer’s face was strangely enlarged.

Mr Zhang, one of the vendors of this bestseller, said he began to make the masks because they reminded people that there were still plenty of smiles – just waiting to break out – underneath the surgical face coverings that everyone has been wearing because of Covid.

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