In a country where counterfeit bags are readily available, it can be difficult to know if yours is the real deal. Time Out spoke to authentication professionals The Luxury Closet to find out how to spot a fake.
If you’ve ever fallen victim to counterfeiters on eBay, you’ll know how frustrating it can be to find out the designer bag you were duped into paying good money for is actually a fake. Though there are plenty of ways of avoiding this in Dubai, a veritable hub for authentic luxury retail, black markets operate in every part of the world and there are certain guidelines you should be aware of.
Dubai-based online business The Luxury Closet distributes pre-loved designer items to new owners. So it’s imperative that its buyers know their Louboutins from their Lacroixs, and can spot a Karama fake at a glance.
‘We receive an insane amount of fake Chanel and Louis Vuitton products, and we check every bag against our database,’ says head of buying, Catherine Travers. ‘We have a huge database of stock, which we have built up over the past two years. If bags don’t pass our process to a tee, we won’t take them. We’re also in contact with brand experts all over the world, so if we ever doubt anything, we will check with them because their business is to study top brands and their manufacturing.’
Each product goes through a strict authentication process before the company will accept it. Catherine explains some of the initial steps The Luxury Closet takes to identify a counterfeit product. ‘We make sure the material is the quality it’s supposed to be. We also check the seams line up with the material, which you will always see on genuine bags.
‘The next thing we look at is the logo, to ensure the fonts are correct, evenly spaced, as they are supposed to be on an authentic bag.
‘Some brands come with an authenticity card, and some brands such as Louis Vuitton bags, don’t. In that case, if we get one that has a card, we know it’s fake. It’s the same with Birkin by Hermès – we get them in all the time with all this additional stuff and we know the real ones don’t come with all that.
‘You can easily tell if a Burberry bag is genuine because of the spacing of the plaid. There are a variety of bags where the trim is the wrong colour, too, like on this Louis Vuitton,’ she adds, showing us a counterfeit Tivoli bag. So how do you spot a fake on your favourite bags? We grill Catherine for the answers.
Tivoli by Louis Vuitton
‘Louis Vuitton bags have a date code, and the most recent styles have two letters and four numbers,’ she says. ‘The two letters signify the factory where it was made; all Louis Vuitton bags are made in France, Italy, Spain or the US. The four numbers signify the week and year it was made, so the first and the third number go together and the second and fourth go together.
The first and third refer to the week, while the second and fourth mean the year. ‘If you put the two bags next to each other, you can tell the quality is different immediately. The colour is wrong on the fake bag and the leather is not the same quality as the real bag. The quality and colour of the hardware should be uniform, but on this counterfeit you can see the colour of the zip is different. Also, the font is wrong here – it’s spaced incorrectly.’
One common trick Catherine explains is the ‘authentic’ tags, ironically. ‘An authentic Louis Vuitton bag will never have a tag on the outside – they don’t come with a leather swatch or authenticity tags.’
Birkin by Hermès
‘A genuine Birkin bag is worth around Dhs50,000,’ she says. ‘They’re amazing – they take about 40 hours to make and they are all hand-stitched. One of the telltale signs of a Hermès bag is the stitching; a genuine bag will not have perfect stitching because it’s hand-done.’ Catherine gestures towards the counterfeit bag. ‘On this counterfeit,’ she explains, ‘You can tell the stitching is done on a machine.
‘Also, with a Birkin, it’s all about the hardware. If you put the bags side by side you see the studs are on top of the stitching and again, the logo’s size and font are wrong – it’s much more squashed than on the authentic one. Also a noticeable point is the fabric – you can see the fabric on a Birkin is soft, whereas it’s not at all on the fake. Generally, the most obvious feature is the stitching.’
Flap Bag by Chanel
‘Chanel flap bags only come in two finishes, lamskin or caviar. The lamskin looks smooth and supple and some of the fake ones just look like they’re made out of plastic. The stitching should also line up on the back pocket. All Chanel bags have a serial number; this style is a sticker on the inside. The first two numbers signify the year in which it was made – so we check the font of that serial number and the finish of the sticker.
‘Fakes are never in fashion. As it’s an unregulated black market, we don’t know whether the producers support child labour or other ethically questionable methods. When you buy counterfeit bags, you don’t know what you are supporting.’