When you think of counterfeit, knockoff, fake designer handbags, you probably picture the infamous Canal Street in New York City - with street vendors and tables upon tables of what look like Louis Vuitton or Gucci bags for the same price as yesterday’s dinner. You walk by and you know these are obviously fakes. However, the fake handbag industry has gone far beyond shady shops and street vendors. Aided by globalized trade, the internet and social media, fake bags have infiltrated our societies and dupe unaware consumers for billions of dollars every year. In fact, the amount of total counterfeiting globally is worth over $1.8 trillion in 2020 , according to the Global Brand Counterfeiting Report (2018-2020). Counterfeiters are smart, sneaky and they’re here to stay, but the first step in stopping fakes is consumer awareness. In the following article we will discuss the dangers of fake bags, how to spot them, and how to avoid them when shopping for your favorite designer handbags.
It’s just a bag, right? Wrong:
Many wouldn’t pay much attention to the damage caused by fake bags. After all, it’s just a bag - how bad could it be? So what if it's not meticulously handmade by leather artisans in Italy? However, the real harm becomes apparent when you ask yourself: where and how was the fake made? The truth is that these bags are often made by child laborers somewhere overseas working in horrid, inhumane conditions for little or no compensation. The money earned from the sale of counterfeit bags will likely end up in the hands of criminal organizations. This is because counterfeit handbags are an illegal and highly profitable commodity. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) found evidence that the same entities that traffic drugs, people, weapons and engage in other illicit activities are responsible for the manufacture and sale of counterfeit designer handbags. According to the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), counterfeits also help fund terrorism and corrupt regimes around the world. Not just a harmless bag anymore, is it?
Caption: Street vendors will often have many counterfeit bags of various “designers” stacked up next to each other with some kind of protective packaging over the handles or hardware. You might come across bags inside of a plastic protective film or with strange brand/logo appearance or price tags. Besides the actual designer boutiques themselves, the only stores where you will find authentic handbags are designer resale stores.
Sneaky Sellers and ‘Mid-Grade Fakes’
You don’t have to be an expert luxury handbag authenticator to spot a Canal Street fake. Most fake bags will sacrifice quality of materials, attention to details, or elements of craftsmanship like stitching, hardware fixtures and logos. However, there’s plenty of mid-grade fakes out there too, that look very close to the real deal and can be convincing to the average consumer. For these, some authentication background is required; they will typically be fake Chanel flap or Boy bags, fake Louis Vuitton or knockoff Gucci handbags, since these are some of the most popular brands in luxury fashion, thus are most frequently counterfeited. If you want to learn how to authenticate these yourself, be sure to check out our Authentication Guides for each designer:
Tech-savvy scammers have figured out ways to bring these mid-grade fakes to the online marketplaces. You can find ads on social media, offering top designer brand handbags for unbelievable prices like $500 for a Chanel 2.55 Flap Bag. According to a research report published by the Washington Post, over 20,000 Instagram accounts are actively selling fake handbags, and up to one-fifth of handbag posts feature counterfeits. Some shady sellers will use black-hat search engine tricks to promote their online sites where they sell their fakes. Beware of any search engine results that say “Cheap Chanel Bag” or “Wholesale Louis Vuitton” etc. There is no such thing as wholesale, or cheap luxury designer handbags. Still, trusting your gut instinct and having some authentication knowledge can steer you clear of these counterfeits and replicas.
Caption: Can you spot the fake? It is the bag on the right, imitating a Chanel Classic Flap. Upon first glance, it might be hard to tell since the CCs are overlapping correctly, centered in the leather tag, and the diamond stitching is convincing. However, there are areas where the stitches do not overlap perfectly, as on the authentic Reissue Flap on the left. Some fakes are pretty realistic, so always be aware and diligent!
‘Super Fake’ Designer Handbags:
Super fakes are counterfeit handbags with a high degree of attention to detail, effectively replicating the original designer’s craftsmanship process and creating a near-undetectable fake. These identity thieves are so convincing that there have been instances of customers bringing super fakes in for servicing at real luxury designer boutiques, where some employees were unable to detect the fake. Luckily, the sheer amount of attention to detail to effectively recreate a designer bag to the point of identicalness is costly both in time and money to manufacture, as the knockoff would have to mimic the original meticulous production process and treatments - not many counterfeiters would bother with this endeavor. It is not likely you will come across one, but it is important to know they do exist and are in circulation. If you suspect a bag of being a super fake, the best thing to do would be to leave it to the professionals. The makers of these super fakes often replicate serial numbers, date codes, even holograms, making their counterfeiting near undetectable to the untrained eye.
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