Designer Duplicates: 5 Tips for Avoiding a Counterfeit Bag

women handbags hanging on wall in store

For as long as high-end designers have produced exclusive handbags, buyers have had to avoid near identical fakes. Thrifty fashionistas enjoy a convincing knockoff, but the majority of people want the real thing. So, how can you tell that the item you’re buying is authentic?

The reality is, people are duped by designer knockoffs every day, and the counterfeit bag market remains a billion dollar industry. Scam artists no longer prowl the streets of major cities looking for their next shopping victims. Instead, they target online buyers by providing false descriptions, pictures, and the promise of an unbelievable deal for their inferior products. So-called “purse parties” also remain popular, where hosts bring in vendors to supply designer or imitation bags at down-to-earth prices.

No matter your shopping preference, it’s smart to educate yourself about the telltale signs of a fake. If you’re looking to purchase a luxury handbag but want to avoid an imitation, consider these 5 tips for spotting a counterfeit bag.

1. Check the material and hardware.

While holding a genuine Hermes Birkin bag, you feel the weight of its material, whether it’s traditional leather or a rare crocodile skin. When people pay thousands of dollars for a purse, the cost for the hide is just as significant as the designer’s name. Artisans also use real metal fixtures that have significant weight to them. Fakes can almost never duplicate the hefty feel of the real deal.

When the designer uses a pattern, closely examine both sides of the bag. A Louis Vuitton will have monograms upside down on one side of the purse, which accounts for its use of a single piece of hide. A fake vendor will surely miss this detail. 

If you’re shopping online, you can do a visual check by zeroing in on the hardware. Truly crafted clasps, zippers, and other adornments won’t tarnish, so the image should show a nicely polished, even finish with no visible lines or chips.

2. Check logos against the official brand image.

Counterfeit manufacturers have come a long way in their precision, but they still manage to mess up the small details. Replicating an official brand logo is incredibly tedious. Designers like Chanel are remarkably consistent in their products, making it difficult for knockoffs to get it right.

In person or online, take a close look at the logo’s font, color, size, and spacing. Be aware of brands that may use a raised logo, such as the intercrossing “C’s” on the inside of an authentic Chanel handbag. Most of all, check spelling on interior tags and authenticity cards. Many amateurs overlook silly mistakes.

3. Examine the stitching.

Even an online image will reveal faulty stitching on a purse, and in person, inconsistency is glaringly obvious. An authentic designer typically uses the same color, size, and spacing when detailing a piece’s seams.

For instance, a real Louis Vuitton bag will have impeccably straight rows of stitches. Experts note that any handles will be mirror images of each other, so be prepared to do some counting. If you spot even one unevenly aligned, loose, or missing stitch, the bag is more than likely a knockoff. Also, Louis Vuitton’s famous “Speedy” bag will always feature yellow thread. All of these minute details are easily passed over by fake manufacturers–and eager buyers.

4. Triple check the interior.

Since counterfeit sellers have limited time, money, and resources, the first thing they neglect is the product’s interior. If you’re shopping online, demand a close up image of the lining from a variety of angles. A legitimate seller should have no problem supplying these if you’re looking at a genuine vintage or mint handbag. Most high-end retailers will use lining you can pull away from the body of the bag, so keep an eye out for this detail.  

In the case of Coach, most of their purses feature stamped serial numbers, which indicate the style. A fake bag will reproduce this, but in cheap ink. Also, if the designer features a pattern on the purse’s exterior, the lining will almost never have the same. Be on the lookout for the brand’s particular tendencies.

5. Do your research.

Your best defense for avoiding a counterfeit bag is to be an expert in what you’re buying. Know the brand intimately. Thankfully, the Internet provides endless resources for conducting research into a product’s features. Always request high resolution photographs of the purse you’re considering, and never commit to a purchase if the seller only uses a stock image.

In person, trust your instincts. An inferior product exudes a cheapness that’s hard to describe unless you’ve actually held the real thing, so make sure you’ve done so. Designers issue authenticity cards with their products, and many luxury brands won’t have a dinky hangtag or protective plastic attached to the handles. Finally, don’t be fooled by prices that are too good to be true–they probably are.