By Laurie Stewart

We’ve all wandered past a street stall, our noses inhaling the blast of polyurethane and our eyes inspecting bags in every shape and size – with stitches missing, misspelt brand names, and logos slightly out of place. We’ve all been blinded by Chanel’s famous two Cs super-glued wonkily onto a padded faux-leather clutch. And we’ve all witnessed a Louis Vuitton bag with the iconic interlocking L and V monogram being sold at a bargain price of $9.99…

And do we stop and stare at it all, our eyes wide with puzzlement, wondering how these world-famous, high-end luxury fashion labels could be offered at a great deal in such a mass-market location? Of course not! It doesn’t take a genius to work out that these bags are fake.

Today’s counterfeit-handbag market looks a lot less like a dodgy corner street stall and more like hundreds of thousands of flashy online boutiques that beckon to a global audience, with their purses out ready to pay for high-priced phonies.

According to the International Trademark Association, 2016 saw $460 billion worth of counterfeit goods being bought and sold, with most sales happening online. This figure continues to rise, as does the number and types of distribution channels.

Social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and Whatsapp have added purchasing functionality to their apps and are now full of fraudsters pocketing the cash. We’re swimming in a sea of forgery and the quality of products is improving so much that they’re getting harder and harder to spot.  

AAA fakes, or super fakes, as the industry calls them, are so close to the real deal that roles such as “Chief Authenticator” have been created.

Fakesters are not only investing in higher quality materials to throw us off track, but they’re packaging them in branded boxes and pantone-matched dust bags with perfectly replicated paper tags. Some even go so far as creating fake receipts to make sure we’re convinced.

It’s tote-ally crazy, and so to avoid being fooled by the Fendis and duped by the Dolces out there, here’s how to turn yourself into a designer bag detective.

First of all, it’s worth knowing that as well as the classic Louis Vuitton, the most commonly counterfeited bags are Gucci, Chanel’s 2.55, Celine, and The Hermes Birkin bag. So if you’re looking for any of these then you need to have your designer bag detective on high alert.

Secondly, although it’s stating the obvious, the place where you can buy your Balenciagas and your Burberries with total confidence from are their flagship stores or direct from their websites. But if your purse strings don’t stretch to the famous Rue Saint Honoré in Paris, or you just prefer the idea of a pre-loved treasure that has stories to tell, we highly recommend you don’t go buying your bags from social media platforms. Instead, take a look at the number of licenced sellers out there who you know you can trust – those such as Net-a-Porter, Vestiaire, Yoogis Closet, Fashionphile, Bag, Borrow Or Steal, and The Real Real.

Once your bag is in hand, Victoire Boyer Chammard, Head of Authentication at Vestiaire, says that you don’t really need to scrutinise the box it comes in or see if the dust bag has the right label inside. The best way to tell whether or not your designer bag is fake is simply by smelling it. Your nose knows the difference between genuine leather and plastic in an instant.

But if you want to investigate a little further, there are three more simple steps you can take to validate your Valentino.

Check the Construction

If you take a good look at how the bag has been put together, you’ll quickly be able to see whether or not the construction would deem it worthy of a $1,000 price tag or more. Often, real designer bags are put together by hand, their corners are hand-painted and their finish is flawless.

Examine the stitching and the lining. It should have tight, evenly-sized and spaced stitches and patterns that meet perfectly at the seams. Replica bags, on the other hand, will have uneven stitches, loose threads, or sometimes they will even use fabric glue instead of yarn to piece them together.

Feel the Fabric

As well as the obvious differences in smell between genuine leather and the fake stuff, there’s a huge difference in the texture – so all you have to do is feel the fabric.  

Fake designer bags will be much lighter in weight, and as they use much lower quality materials, such as PU leather, instead of being soft and supple like real leather, they will feel coarse, stiff and plastic.

See the Signs

Handbag hardware can often be an obvious giveaway. Most designer bags have high-quality logo plates that are sturdy and securely attached as well as logo imprints that are perfectly etched. Copies, however, will often have logo plates and zip pulls that are too yellow or are glued on at a slight angle and their imprinted logos may have noticeably fuzzy or blurry edges.

The colour is also an important catch. Closely examine the colour of your bag, looking for consistency across the item but also take notice of the colour combination. There are replicas of Chanel 2.55s out there that haven’t got Coco’s signature red lining and there are Louis Vuittons for sale in shades we’ve never seen before.

Some of the clues are unmistakable and some of the signs are subtle. But they’re there, and now you know what to look for, so don’t let this Prada paradox get you down. Follow your nose, check the construction, feel the fabric and see the signs. You got this, it’s in the bag!