That Louis Vuitton on your arm — is it real or fake?
Looks can sometimes be deceiving.
So it’s important to know the difference between real and fake.
We’re talking about designer handbags and shoes here, of course.
With so many good knockoffs, make sure to purchase from a seller who knows how to spot an authentic Prada, Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Chanel, Tory Burch, Marc Jacobs, Kate Spade, Coach, Gucci, Christian Louboutin … you know the big names.
“It’s important to buy from a reputable dealer,” says Sue McCarthy, owner of the Vault Luxury Resale in St. Louis, Mo. “I can usually tell a fake from across the room, because I have worked in this business so long. But there are super fakes, and with some of them it’s really hard to tell. So we have to do our homework.”
Years of experience
McCarthy sells items from all over the country. Her 30 years of experience started with the opening of her first consignment store, Womens Closet Exchange.
When she walked into her first thrift store, she noticed it was dark and dirty and disorganized. McCarthy thought it didn’t have to be that way. It could be clean, organized and have items that were truly from high-end designers.
“Making sure something is authentic is my business,” says McCarthy. “I have earned my reputation on knowing these heritage brands.”
She belongs to the National Association of Resale Professionals (NARTS) which has an ethical code to do the research and make sure an item is authentic. Customers can find shops that belong to NARTS on its website — narts.org .
It is important to make a purchase from one of the stores that belong to the association, McCarthy says. If you are doing some of the research on your own, in a brand such as Chanel look for a hologram. Some of the fakes now have a hologram too, says McCarthy, who appeared on the reality series “Resale Royalty” on former The Style Network, so beware.
“If we have any doubts we won’t take it,” she says, She travels to New York and is invited to look through women’s closets for items. “We look at 1,000 items every day. When people buy fakes they don’t last.”
McCarthy’s daughters help her run the store. Diana Ford is the marketing director and Laura Maurice is the label savant or what she calls the “handbag flipper.”
McCarthy shares her story in the book “Good, Better, Best.” It’s a rags-to-riches story that takes readers behind the scenes of the world of luxury resale and into the closets of some of the world’s wealthiest and most stylish women — including celebrities and Vegas call girls.
From her very first closet buy—a risky visit she wasn’t entirely sure she would survive—to her jaw-dropping experiences with European and Hollywood high society, McCarthy shares her unbelievable adventures in fashion’s upper echelons with honesty, wit, and warmth.
The cost of counterfeit
According to the Department of Commerce, losses to U.S businesses from the counterfeiting of trademarked consumer products are estimated at $250 billion a year. Counterfeiting is the imitation of a product and unauthorized use of another’s trademark (registered brand name, logo, scent and design). The counterfeit, identical in appearance, gives the impression of being the genuine product from the real manufacturer. Of course, a knockoff is only meaningful if the genuine article is well known and in demand.
Counterfeiting deceives the consumer and tarnishes the reputation of the genuine manufacturer. Allowing counterfeit items to enter the marketplace is illegal. The association’s goal is to work together as an industry to raise awareness and help rid the marketplace of counterfeit goods.
Use the internet
Every good bag should have a serial number and you have to know where to look for it, she says. Some are harder to find than others but the harder they are to find the better. Websites such as authenticatefirst.com and realauthentication.com can be a terrific help. eBay also has a way to verify authenticity at ebay.com/s/itemauthentication/seller .
A wonderful tool are such internet sites that help with authentification, says Josh Fedorski, owner of Clothes Minded in Bloomfield, which carries brands such as Hermès, Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Goyard.
“Authenticating luxury items is pretty straightforward, with how many YouTube videos and websites are out there now that show and give info readily it is easy to learn a lot fairly quickly,” Fedorski says. “Most brands use some sort of date code or serial number. Being that we buy in store, it’s often easier when you can smell the items. Stitching, overall quality and the finer overall quality and the finer details — such as specific fonts on tags — are what people need to look out for.”
He says being that replicas exist it is often best to have the item in front of you and the research he does comes from over a decade of experience authenticating luxury labels. He says a designer such as Louis Vuitton, for instance, he can buy based on the smell alone as the collection always has a distinct aroma.
“Occasionally, we will pull up online info if the item is rare and never seen before,” he says. “For the most part just knowing the production details and quality and date code and serial numbers is enough.
Ask for paperwork
Dovecote in Aspinwall sells many high-end items — such as Louis Vuitton, Prada and vintage Christian Dior. Owner Jessica Vukmir, who bought the store three years ago, says when consigners bring in items she asks for any original paperwork.
“If they don’t have any way to validate the item is real we look for a serial number research it that way,” Vukmir says. “You can also look at the seams and the craftsmanship. If we aren’t sure, we mark it ‘not authenticated.’ We try the best we can to authenticate it. There is a demand for high-end bags and shoes, because everything that is old is new again in fashion. And something made well stands the test of time.”
Some form of original paperwork is also the first thing Terry Chesky, who owns Consignment Cottage in Moon, looks for from a consigner.
“We ask about an original receipt or some proof of purchase,” Chesky says. “We tell them we can’t put an item on the floor until we are comfortable it is authentic. We as sellers have to do our research and keep up with all of the tools that are out there to help us determine authenticity. ”
Demand for it
Designer merchandise is always in demand, especially among those women who appreciate fashion and are willing to pay for a gently-used statement item, says Henry Krakovsky, who owns Highland Park based HK Design and Consulting, where he does deaccessioning of collections of art, antiques and fashion and finds the best auction houses for them.
Krakovsky says when looking at a high-end bag it should have a matching pattern. Also, search for a lining and zippers with logos on them. Some will have a holographic tag, and many bags are numbered.
A lot of footwear and handbags will have a dust bag and an original document that accompanies them. Something Prada will have a “Made in Italy” inside.
“These high-end bags and shoes are so well made, and the stitching is perfect,” says Krakovsky.
There will be designer items available at the annual Designer Days to be held Nov. 7-11 at Thriftique in Lawrenceville. an annual boutique shopping event that features high-end clothing and accessories at discounted prices.
“We have women who research every item,” says Debbie Green, president of the board of directors for the National Council of Jewish Women , Pittsburgh Section which hosts Designer Days. “A lot of real leather smells like real leather. You can tell when a handbag is made of vinyl. We have been doing this a long time, so we know what to look for.”
They recently received six Hermes ties for Designer Days, Green says.
“The tags are still on them, so we know they are real,” Green says. “You can look at the fabric and the best items age well, and often you can tell if a product has aged well by looking at it and feeling it.”
JoAnne Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact JoAnne at 724-853-5062 or [email protected] or via Twitter @Jharrop_Trib.