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Do you know how to spot a fake designer bag?

When you’re finally ready to splurge on a designer handbag, you want to know that it’s the real deal. The bad news is that counterfeit handbags are everywhere and can look a lot like the authentic version at first glance. The good news is that there are a few tried-and-true ways to ensure you aren’t investing in a fake.

Familiarize yourself

The best way to spot a fake handbag is to know your bags. Take a look at the real deal at the department store or designer’s website and take note of the logo placement, materials, hardware and other details.

“Designer handbags have neat, clear stamps of their name and logo. If the stamping looks pressed in, it is usually fake, or if the stamping is too far away from the stitching at the top, it is fake. Some fake bags also use different fonts,” says Jules Greaves, founder of leading handbag retailer Susie in the Sky. She explains, “Counterfeiters usually work from photos when creating fakes, which distort colour so the lining is usually the wrong colour and sometimes the wrong material.”

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Shop at reputable retailers

Authentic designer handbags are not normally sold at flea markets or street stands, and they certainly aren’t sold out of the trunk of the car (unless they are stolen). Visit the designer’s website to find out exactly where you can purchase their goods. The price should be a tell-tale sign as well — you can’t get authentic handbags for pennies on the dollar compared to the regular retail price.

To cross-check your bag before making a big buy, Tynnetta Fatima Blush, designer and collector of designer handbags, recommends visiting Purse Forum to confer with other designer handbag sleuths, just like you. “Although it is only their personal opinion, I have to say they are very good at what they do. You can utilize their experience to help guide you, until you become more adept at recognizing a fake designer bag.”

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Inspect the bag before you buy

It’s all about the details. Take a look at the stitching and the quality of leather. Be sure the logos, monograms and insignias are aligned properly and not odd-shaped. Take a good look at the label — you might find a serial number stitched, embossed or stamped there. Keep in mind that generally when you buy a real designer handbag documentation is included, such as a certificate of authenticity.

Blush says there are three main aesthetic “tells” that can help you spot a fake a mile away: 

  1. The quality of the stitching.
  2. The clarity of the logo heat seal.
  3. The verification of the serial number that is usually strategically hidden within verifiable locations within the bag (most important).

Greaves adds, “The stitching should be even, with no loose threads or back-and-forth stitching at the end of a seam. Designer handbags work with master tailors and stitchers that are experts. Counterfeiters don’t have this luxury.”

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Why you shouldn’t buy fake bags

There are times when it may be tempting to buy a fake instead of the real thing — like when money is tight — but there are a few important reasons why you shouldn’t feed into the counterfeit industry:

  • Copyright infringement – Fake bags infringe on the copyright of the designer in terms of the design itself and the trademarks of the brand. If designers have to spend money in court protecting their original designs, the price of their bags will eventually rise too.
  • Child labor – Many counterfeit bags are produced by young kids in sweatshops. Organized crime and other illegal enterprises often back the production and distribution of these bags.
  • Poor quality – Fake bags look cheap and tacky. The leather is low quality or not leather at all. The stitching, dyes and hardware are often shoddy, and overall construction is poor. A knockoff bag won’t last long. If you can’t afford an authentic designer bag right now, shop from more affordable brands.

Updated by Bethany Ramos on 2/12/2016

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