With an industry grossing hundreds of billions of dollars annually from across the globe, counterfeiting not only severely damages the luxury market but the overall economy as well. From handbags to clothing to perfume, sunglasses, jewelry, and beyond, is anything authentic anymore? Today we would like to discuss the luxury market, the basics of spotting fakes, and the latest tricks of this underground trade.
photo via guestofaguest.com
Ambria Miscia, is the manager of the designer resale store, Second Time Around as well as one of the personalities behind Bravo’s hit reality show, “Fashion Hunters." From Louis Vuitton to Chanel to Balenciaga, Prada, Louboutin, Gucci galore, she encounters luxury designer goodies on a daily basis. Working with consignors from all over the city, uptown meets downtown as she works to stock the shelves with reasonably priced high-end designer merchandise. With a job like this, Ambria is not only exposed to the real deal but an occasional phony as well. While in some cases these so called “knock-offs” are easy to spot by the naked eye, many times you have to look a bit deeper “into the seams.”
MBF: What is your background in the industry?
A: I went to FIT in New York for college. On top of that, my mother was a clothing and shoe designer so growing up I was given a fundamental upbringing in fashion.
photo via videojug.com
MBF: Working at a consignment shop you see endless amounts of designer merchandise, what are the best ways to spot a fake designer bag from a real one?
A: I immediately look at stitching and hardware. Those are the two dead giveaways. Louis Vuitton and Chanel have very specific looks, the bags sell for thousands of dollars and fake versions of them don't have the attention to detail in the stitching that real ones do. The hardware also has a certain way of looking and wearing, so once you see hundreds of real bags, you get to recognize a fake in an instant. Sometimes I have to dig deeper, look at the lining, the zippers, the way it sits... There are steps and I have written a manual for the company I work for about it.
MBF: How were you trained to recognize these differences?
A: I trained myself. Handbags are a passion of mine, so why not know as much as possible? And honestly, I hated the feeling of a consignor schooling me on why a bag was fake. It's just embarassing when someone comes into the store and looks at you as an authority but knows more than you. I'm competetive by nature and I hate feeling as if I'm not living up to my reputation as someone who works in re-sale and knows her stuff, which is how I should be percieved. So I just did extra studying.
MBF: How do you keep up with the market and where do you shop?
A: I keep up with the market by staying in the stores as much as possible. I don't have the ability to actually buy for myself at Bergdorf Goodman, but that doesn't keep me out of that store. I like to see what is selling, what's going on sale quickly, what is not selling and what people are wearing. I read indie fashion blogs and I pay attention to Canal Street. It's actually on my way home to the Lower East Side so I'll pass by and let the women try and sell me fake bags. They are really exceptional now, the way they are made. So I'll just take a look to see what their new defining characteristics are so I know what to look for in the new versions. I personally shop at Topshop, Free People and I definitely hit up Bloomingdales for shoes. And of course, Second Time Around.
MBF: Which designers are having the worst problems with knock-offs right now?
A: Tory Burch - handbags and ballet flats. What is so bad about the Tory fakes is that people aren't aware at all what a huge market it is. It's a huge epidemic. The black market has made tons of the gold metal logos and are cranking them out like mad. But the craftsmanship and materials are of course unparallelled with the real Tory Burch items (bags, shoes). Even Chloe has a problem with ready-to-wear. Their labels get knocked off and sewn into silks in China, and people buy them online.
photo via c2coffer.com
MBF: Not only is the luxury market losing profits, but also its branding is being severely damaged. What do you think is the best way labels can preserve their exclusivity and fight the further presence of counterfeit merchandise?
A: Being as detailed as possible in the construction of zippers, handles and hardware help. Special markings, like Chanel has with their white sticker that is always in the lining. And also, changing them up. Employees spill secrets, and that's the truth. If you want to stay on top of the black market, you have to stay on top of your own line. You can't just create it and lay back. You have to create new ways to authenticate the bags revolution and prevent duplication.
MBF: In what other markets do you see knock-offs appearing besides with handbags?
A: I could see Diane von Furstenberg wrap dresses being knocked off. Of course the materials, fit and prints will be totally off, but they are in such a high demand and have a textbook signature look I could see it happening.
photo via handbagstops.com
MBF: What is your “it” bag and are “it” bags still in fashion?
A: I'd say hands down right now, Balenciaga bags are still the coolest bag for everyone to have. They've been on the scene for years, but the bags are definitely keeping their popularity and the masses are now switching up their desire from Coach and Gucci to Balenciaga. They literally fly off the shelves. Lastly, I have to say that Louis Vuitton Speedy's, Chanel quilted jumbos and Chloe Paddingtons will probably never go out of "IT" bag status.
MBF: What do you recommend for someone who can’t necessarily afford a high-end luxury handbag, but still wants an “it” bag?
A: Well, re-sale of course! Second Time Around is an amazing place to find Givenchy, YSL, Hermes... and we have 5 locations in the city so wherever you are, chances are there is one within a mile radius of where you are. Also, the Outnet.com. They have really contemporary high end bags, it's basically luxury overstock, and they have amazing bags all the time.
MBF: What are some up and coming designers? Who do you predict is going to be knocked off next?
A: Alexander Wang backpacks could definitely be next. They were such a hit at the Spring show - the absolute 'to die' of fashion week. I also think Prada could start to have another round of knock-offs seeing as their new bags are a bit more simple to make. Since their nylon-satchel and nylon-backpack days, they really got away from producing handbags that were simple to knock off. They've been doing extremely luxurious leathers and switched up their logo to be a bit bigger and beefier so they haven't had the same amount of knock offs. But I was just at Prada the other day and looking at their new line the Saffiano Collection and thinking that those could be next.