As you likely know, a genuine designer bag is made by the original well-known designer; tags or marks stating the designer’s name form an integral part of the bag’s overall authenticity and the price is determined by what the consumer is prepared to pay for the designer label.
However, buying a counterfeit bag is rife with moral issues, from violating intellectual property and contributing to the loss of jobs, to financially supporting crime syndicates that run human-trafficking rings. As counterfeiters become sharper, it can be easy to be fooled into accidentally buying a knockoff. I mean, how often do we scour the Internet searching for an amazing, gently used bag? Much more time than we’d like to admit to tbh. But the great fear is that you’ll fall in love and fall victim to a fake Prada or a knock-off Louis and not know it. Buying on sites like eBay can be a great alternative, if you know how to do it the right way.
Over the years we’ve developed an endless list of checkpoints for identifying for ourselves whether a bag is a genuine vintage designer piece or a knock off, so feel somewhat confident in our ability to tell them apart. However, we have also seen fakes with such accurate details that we now mostly focus on the quality of the piece as a whole. Even if a bag has the proper branding, the right date code and seems to have all the right details; quality is always the tell with bags.
So first things first, you need to check if the material is real leather or plastic. Not all designer bags are made of leather. For example, Louis Vuitton is coated canvas with a leather trim. If the trim is supposed to be leather, it should feel dry — not oily and the hardware should not be hollow. If it’s imprinted with the designer’s name, make sure it’s supposed to be. Louis Vuitton has an enormous counterfeit market. These bags tend to be easier to replicate because they are mostly monogrammed canvas and only have very small details in actual leather. Counterfeit Hermès have also grown in presence over the years. You can see these copied just in the style of the Birkin or Kelly, or completely replicated.
If the bag is supposed to be hand-stitched, it should be obvious if it is not. Hand-stitches will not be the same size and will not be in a perfectly straight line, but will last much longer than machine stitching. The stitching should be perfectly even, with no loose threads or back-and-forth stitching at the end of a seam. Check that the seams match too, for example a big name like Louis Vuitton, which values its logo, wouldn’t divide the letters in a seam.
Now unzip the bag several times, and make sure that the zip is smooth when you pull it across. A quality zip will pull smoothly with equal tension. Next, feel the lining, crunchy synthetics are a huge warning sign. You see, counterfeiters rarely have a good view of the inside of a bag, because they are usually copying photographs. Most leather goods will also have a wax casing applied by hand to cover the raw edges of the piece. A sloppy and uneven paint job is always a sign of inferior quality. And of course be super skeptical of bags with loose plastic covering the handles, this is a sure sign of a fake.
Remember, that no matter the monetary savings involved, counterfeiters produce their merchandise in unregulated factories, employ child labour, and have incredibly unhealthy working conditions. You really are better off saving for the real thing and purchasing direct from the designer, preferably in person.