Designer Handbags: Can You Spot a Fake?

THE REAL DEAL

Deciding to drop major dollars on a designer handbag is a weighty purchasing decision. So before you buy, get wise. Whether it's Longchamp or Louis Vuitton, counterfeit bags are everywhere, from street corners to online stores and eBay. It's all too easy to get swindled into buying something that looks completely real, but isn't. Using data provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, financial site 24/7 Wall Street reported that handbags and wallets are among the most counterfeited products in America based on MSRP (manufacturer's suggested retail price).In fact, the quality of fake bags has become so good, some counterfeiters now charge close to the price of the real thing, the site finds. Which makes telling the difference all the more compelling.

ANALYZE THE MATERIAL

A "gummy", sticky, or oily feel to handles and trim is a sign the bag is not made of leather; leather feels dry to the touch. Real leather also smells like leather, not synthetic or chemical, so it's smart to become familiar with the scent of high-end leather before shopping. A bag that's supposed to be made of canvas, like the ever-popular versions from Louis Vuitton, should look and feel strong and sturdy.

LOOK CLOSELY AT THE LOGO

Analyze the logo thoroughly, because a high-end company like Chanel, Louis Vuitton, or Coach will never divide logos in the seam, notes Forbes. If a pattern does appear on either side of the seam, it should match exactly. This is true of any designs on the bag; patterns that don't match up on each side are a dead giveaway for a fake.

INSPECT THE LINING

According to Wikihow, the lining on a genuine designer product should never sound and/or feel like paper. It will have either a leather or suede interior, or a high-quality lining, not something thin that seems easy to rip.

TEST THE ZIPPER

The zipper on authentic designer handbags will run back and forth smoothly, notes the style site Who What Wear. If a zipper catches or seems sewn in haphazardly, the bag is almost surely a knockoff.

CHECK FOR EVEN STITCHING

Slanted, low-quality, or messy stitching is a sure-fire giveaway that the bag isn't what it purports to be. A true designer brand would never compromise on stitching. Certain bags even have a very specific number of stitches between hardware or other design elements, according to Who What Wear. For instance, the Louis Vuitton Speedy should have five even stitches across the handle.
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AN AUTHENTICITY CARD DOESN'T MEAN IT'S AUTHENTIC

Imitation bags often carry "authenticity" cards. However, real Louis Vuitton and Hermés bags don't actually include authenticity cards, reports Racked, a fashion site. The site goes on to note that an authenticity card that's faked may have a different font size and type from a card for the real version, or even a sticker that would never be placed on a genuine bag.

PLASTIC COVERING THE HANDLES IS A BAD SIGN

A genuine designer bag is unlikely to come with a translucent plastic covering on the handles, according to Who What Wear. If you see this on a bag, it's almost definite that the purse is a phony.

INSPECT THE TAG AND LABEL

A wannabe bag may have the label stamped on, whereas the real thing would have it stitched. A knockoff also may lack a name on the inside. Finally, some designer bags also have labels or hardware in the shape of a logo on the outside, so be aware of what the real version features.

CONFIRM THE SHAPE AND STYLE IS "RIGHT"

Some knockoffs may give themselves away by the shape or style. Either the bag will seem a little smaller or larger than the usual popular luxury styles, the shape a little less structured and more floppy, or the style so unique it hasn't been seen anywhere else. Become educated on the designer's styles and collections before shopping.

IF IT'S TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE, IT PROBABLY IS

Use common sense -- if that designer bag you dream of is suddenly tagged at $100 instead of $1,000-plus, it's unlikely to be authentic. If there's a row of Goyards or Louis Vuittons on the street corner, it's never the real thing.

TIPS FOR SPECIFIC BAGS

Longchamp is a very popular brand these days, and the nylon construction on the Le Pliage style lends itself to easy replication. The site Snob Affair says you can tell the difference between fake and authentic by observing the pattern of the leather trim, the back of the leather flap, the logo, the shape of the handles, and the stitching. Glamour lists specifications for several designer bags. For example, the stitching on the handles of a Louis Vuitton should be mustard yellow. The leather on Balenciaga bags should be extremely soft and slouchy, and metal pieces should be oval. In a real Chanel, the top of the right C overlaps the top of the left C and the bottom part of the left C overlaps the bottom of the right. For Gucci, the canvas bags with monograms have a bit of sheen when held at an angle.
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