People buy brand name handbags online and offline now more than ever. The internet and the promise of exceptional deals produce a grand digital bazaar, filled with expertly crafted bags from Hermes to Mouawad at a fraction of their retail value. But not all Louis Vuitton bags are made equal. Stories of impostor bags sold for hundreds or thousands of dollars prove that even trusted online stores must be vetted. Of course, even if you avoid buying high-end purses online all together, you risk purchasing a knock off. Fakes can be so good that they can even fool brand representatives and inspectors. Which is why designers try and ignore reports of knock offs flowing into the market. At Love Your Purse in Toronto we often get calls from customers asking us to clean or to repair their damaged designer handbags. However, when they bring their “designer” handbags into our handbag cleaning and handbag repair facility in Toronto, many times, after thorough inspection, our purse experts realize that these “designer handbags” are knockoffs. This reality shocks and embarrasses some of our clients, because it makes them realize that their valued handbag is fake and that they got scammed when they bought it. Sadly, big designer brands only go after the most obvious offenders… sometimes, but too often consumers find themselves on their own.
Be cautious of third party retailers when buying high-end handbags and purses as well as other high-end items like leather jackets, shoes, and authentic area rugs. We know they are are convenient and cheap, but less culpable in cases of fraud. Online retailers want the best stock possible at the lowest cost, so they can offer you a hefty discount. This leads to lax vetting of vendors and the occasional impostor bag in their stock. When you complain about a fake bag some vendors leave you out in the cold, with a disconnected phone number and no way to recoups your money. Beware of sites asking for money up front, before giving you information on obtaining a refund if you are not satisfied. Always check for refund policy pages and print them at the time of purchase, because some retailers change their refund policies and you have no proof if you decide to take legal action later. If you cannot find a refund policy page on the website call in and request it in writing.
Shopping for cheap handbags online makes incidences of fraud more common. Look through each site for signs of a scam, and look for independent reviews for every retailer. These handbags are, after all, expensive so unhappy consumer will often expose frauds. Designers want to protect their brand, but in some cases they avoid insinuating an item is a fake without a preponderance of proof. A false claim of fakery equals a lawsuit.
If you find yourself in possession of an expensive bag with a dubious history use the following criteria to tell the genuine bags from the fraudulent.
Check for designer material
Quality material indicates whether or not a bag is genuine. But it is not always that simple. Forgers treat bags with weathering chemicals to make them superficially and temporarily mimic the real thing on inspection. Look for specific features unique to that specific line of handbag and check the material. For example, if you look at a Louis Vuitton bag with leather trim, you should not be holding a “leather” bag, but a bag with leather trim and coated canvas elsewhere on the piece. The leather itself should feel dry and not oily, sticky or slippery, which are signs of low grade masking chemicals counterfeiters use to make a bag look authentic. You can always take a lighter to a leather bag and hold it for several seconds to check if it is real leather. If it is fake leather it will leave a burn spot and will wrinkle. Real leather will not.
Expect high end workmanship
Look for imperfections. Perfection is what separates designer handbags from those found on the rack. Check for breaks or inconsistencies in the stitching. Loose threads signify a potential fake and should not be ignored as incidental damage. Seams ending in back-and-forth stitching are also considered a red flag. Examine the seams to see if the fabrics are consistent, like the pattern in a Louis Vuitton bag or the quilting in a Chanel. The designers take their brands seriously. Louis Vuitton would never sell a bag if the brand name or the branding was not perfectly represented, even at incidental points along the seams.
Check the handbag for a designer lining
Counterfeiters skirt the details and they often neglect the inside of the bag. Surprisingly, most knock-offs reference photographs, a haphazard method leading to substantial mistakes as the photos do not show the inside of the bag. Photographs can often be discoloured, resulting in a flawed fake with off colouring. Those of us who frequent boutiques will know the difference. Tolerate no colour variation. Look for the exact bag featured on the designer’s website and research the exact colour of the lining.
Study the handbags and purse pockets
Fraudsters often fail to perfect pockets. These mistakes stem from producing bags quickly and working from photos. Some examples of fake Chanel handbags were discovered missing pockets completely. Then there were Scafidi bags on which the counterfeiters added a zipper that was not found on genuine versions of these particular Scafidi handbags. This is why it is important to inspect a genuine designer handbag in a certified store before buying it online or from someone. It is wise to take several photos as well. This way when you inspect the suspicious handbag you have a way of comparing.
Double check the handbags place of manufacture
This one seems counter intuitive. Why, of all things, would counterfeiters get the “made in” tag wrong? Well fake bags are not made to be perfect replicas; they are made to fool people from one stage of the counterfeiting profit chain to the next at a glance, and counterfeiters rarely do their research. When Louis Vuitton collaborated with a Spanish outfit on a particular line, the bags were labeled “made in Spain”. The knock-off artist produced nearly identical handbags and marked them as made in France. Also some designer name brands like Louis Vuitton use a heat stamp for their logo and made in stamps so that the texture is noticeable and that you can see with the naked eye that the stamp wasn’t just printed on.
Look for spelling errors on designer handbags
Yes, again this one seems obvious. Why bother making a fake bag if you cannot spell Scafidi? Well again counterfeiters rarely aim for perfection; it’s all about pass-ability. Also, some of the designers like to play around with spelling, fonts, and other lettering features. Case in point, there was a Scafidi coach bag labeled “eatherware” (With the letter “L” removed), and the counterfeiter fixed the “problem” and added the letter “L”. Then there was an incident in which counterfeiters could not be bothered to spell the designers name correctly writing Goyard as “Gooyar”. Or instead of Dolce & Gabana the designer wrote Dolce & Gasbana on the tag. These small details are what you need to look out for.
Buying designer handbags for less online is a solid option. Still, everything comes with a risk and a fake being sent to your home is a possibility. It is important to scrutinize all online retailers first and then take a close look at the bags unique features on arrival: the material, the place of manufacture, the workmanship, the lining, the pockets and even misspellings. If you find any inconsistencies contact the retailer immediately to protect your investment.