If you’re looking to invest in a designer bag but without the hefty price tag of buying directly from a high-end store, getting your hands on a pre-loved version can seem like the perfect option.
However, before you go ahead and part with your money, do your homework, as counterfeiting is widespread and often sophisticated. The demand for certain brands and the prices they can fetch means that counterfeiters have become experts in replicating iconic styles.
The main areas you should be examining are the finish and the quality of the material, but these aren’t the only things you should be aware of.
Below are our top tips for distinguishing between the genuine article and an imitation:
Familiarise yourself with the real deal
Nothing beats the tangible benefits of checking out the actual bag in person. Being able to handle it, view it from every angle and check its weight, finish and colours, will mean you know exactly what to look out for when you’re searching for a pre-owned version.
It might seem like stating the obvious but fake products use lower quality materials than the item they’re imitating. Real leather should be soft to the touch and fake versions generally feel more like plastic. Of course, not all bags are leather, so you’ll need to know what material you’re looking for. Hardware will generally be made from low quality metals that won’t stand the test of time so they might not look perfect if you examine them.
This should be faultless and evenly spaced and tight with no back-and-forth at a seam end. Examine a fake bag closely and you will notice poor workmanship and errors. Some of the most famous brands have a house style - Hermes for instance are ‘piqures sellier’. Some counterfeiters have learnt to copy these, but they won’t do so to the standard of the original. A Chanel bag has a standard of at least ten stitches per inch whereas replicas are typically less than that.
Many counterfeiters work from photographs and won’t get to see the details clearly of a bag’s interior. As a result, they can look significantly different to the real thing, especially the colour not matching and logo misalignment. Check less prominent areas of the lining and see if the logo has been split.
As well as issues with the logo not always being correctly aligned, check the quality of how this is printed/stamped/embossed throughout the bag. Originals will be crisp, with clear colour and lines. Imitations can be blurred and lack clarity.
Country of manufacture
It’s almost routine for counterfeits to be labelled as being made in France or Italy but obviously not all designer bags are made in those two countries, and even Louis Vuitton don’t make all their bags in France. Other copies will state they were made in manufacturing locations, such as China and Hong Kong so you can easily pick these out as not being genuine.
These are more common than you might imagine. Having made the effort to copy a designer item you would think someone would run a spellcheck but obvious mistakes do occur, from the material type being misspelt to the designer name itself.
True designer bags will come with documents and you would expect anyone selling the item on to have retained the paperwork for an expensive bag. If it’s missing, it should arouse immediate suspicion. If documents do exist, take a good look at them to make sure they aren’t a copy.
Authentic designer handbags are collector’s items and you won’t find a decent second-hand version at a bargain basement price. Brands such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton and of course Hermes will always hold their value and as much as a used item is cheaper than buying brand new, if it looks too good to be true, it most probably is.
At William George we have long standing relationships with trusted sellers of luxury goods and have auctioned some of the world’s most desirable and valuable handbags including Hermes Birkin bags.