It’s not hard to remember when the phrase “fake bag” automatically brought to mind images of plasticky, faux Louis Vuitton monograms, but according to a Women’s Wear Daily investigation, that’s no longer the case in New York City’s Chinatown. Instead, knockoffs of less-expensive brands like Tory Burch and MICHAEL Michael Kors are taking over.

WWD sent accessories editor Misty White Sidell down to Canal Street, the epicenter of New York’s counterfeit bag trade, to see what the state of the black market was like. As she recounts, it once wasn’t difficult to go into any given storefront on the street and ask to be shown fake bags from premier designer brands like Chanel and Vuitton, but legal crackdowns and NYPD raids mean that most of the retail spaces have turned to the kind of souvenir tchotchkes that can be found in all the city’s tourist centers. In New York, it’s not illegal to buy a fake bag, but it’s against the law to sell them.

Instead, Sidell found that you now have to consult roaming faux bag agents on street corners, who show you photo catalogs of what they’re offering and then escort you to a separate location. In those catalogs, Sidell reported that that premier designer offerings were mostly older styles, but there were plenty of options for bags that would go for under $500 at regular retail, including Burch and Kors.

When you consider how easy it used to be to find fake versions of extremely expensive bags on Canal Street (I remember it very distinctly from a trip to New York as a teenager–there was no pretense of secrecy), it seems as though the NYPD’s and luxury brands’ combined efforts to curb counterfeiting may be paying dividends. If nothing else, counterfeiters are having to work harder to sell their wares.

As for why the market has shifted to bags that retail for only a couple hundred dollars, Women’s Wear Daily doesn’t draw any conclusions, but I do have one piece of advice: contemporary bags go on sale regularly around the Internet at reputable retailers, and when you consider the relatively small price difference between buying a marked down contemporary bag and picking up a fake on vacation, we’d suggest you take the real thing every time.

[Image via Women’s Wear Daily]

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Share Your Thoughts With Us

  • the only thing worse than buying a knock off of a $2k bag that everyone can tell is obviously fake, is buying a knockoff of a much cheaper bag that you could’ve just saved up for.

    • Lily

      Everyone can tell contemporary knock-offs are fake, as well.

  • priscilla.hu

    ====

  • Great post! I’m surprised that there are fake versions of Tory Burch and similar brands, a real eye opener! Gemma x http://www.jacquardflower.uk

  • dela

    I am not at all surprised by this new trend. Not too long ago, I was in a medium-sized city in India and saw so many lower-middle class women with fake (i.e. extremely bad fakes) MICHAEL Michael Kors. Because contemporary bags are much more affordable, they are carried by a greater number of people, and this leads to more brand exposure to everyday folk in nondescript places not particularly interested in fashion. Many of these people probably don’t know what Chanel or LV is, but they are aware of MK because they saw someone carrying it.

  • Ruby

    IMHO, the big $$$ bag producers, LV and Chanel have become ridiculous with their price increases. The price bears no resemblance to what a bag made with quality authentic materials and skilled labour + a hefty profit should cost.

    If it continues, these bags will become the purvue of the second wives of billionaire Russian oligarchs and the paramour of middle-eastern princes. In the long run, I think this will backfire on them. But the end, Bernard Arnault has made his money, hasen’t he?

    Even if one can afford it, it’s coming perilously close to exploiting the vanity of rich people. In my part of the world, it may not be long before a designer bag becomes not a signifier of status, but of unbridled gullibility.

    While, in the beginning I was a bit derisive of the TB/Coach/MK trends, I have to say, I’m becoming a believer. I’m starting to look,as wel, in my own marketplace for more artisanal, independant producers that allow me to support local business.

    • M Green

      Bitter much?

      • Ruby

        Not even slightly. I can afford the bags. I just don’t need to tell myself that they have a value, that they clearly do not.

      • Finem Lauda

        You’d better stretch before you make a reach like that, you could dislocate something, booboo.

      • Piarpreet Kaur

        she didnt sound bitter just real

      • Jen

        She doesn’t sound bitter in the least. I think she’s got some good old fashioned common sense.

      • Jerri R

        Quick to judge much? She didn’t sound bitter, just very wise.

    • Jerri R

      “…it may not be long before a designer bag becomes not a signifier of status, but of unbridled gullibility.”
      This is already true in many Asian countries now. Working girls maxing out credit cards in order to buy the Neverfulls that a million others are carrying everywhere, thinking the bags will give them the opulent aurae. In extreme cases, they go into ‘arrangements’ with rich older men just so they can look like they come from wealthy families.

      • Baggaholic

        Sorry, who maxed out credit card buying Neverfulls?! I could understand if it’s a Chanel. Neverfulls are not that expensive, it’s slightly more than a wallet.
        My belief has always been, if you can’t afford it, don’t use it, strongly against using a fake bag! At the end of the day, it’s your hard earned money and your decision to make, as long as it’s ethical and makes you happy.

      • Jerri R

        I agree the Neverfulls aren’t that expensive to those of us used to the Western economy. However, in some Asian countries such as South Korea, wages are much lower and living expenses higher. In those countries, those bags are less readily affordable.

      • Baggaholic

        I meant Neverfulls are not expensive compared to other brand bags (except for the Made in China!), it’s not expensive even compared to its LV sisters. Whether it’s expensive to some people, it really depends on their circumstances and I’m not speaking for it. When I was in Seoul, long time ago, Chanel and LV stores were full of locals. I was told by my Korean friends that using brands is part of the Korean culture.

  • FashionableLena

    I’ve seen so many knock off Kors bags in my area that it’s unreal. The look like plastic. The huge metal medallions are glued smack dab in the middle of the bag. Some of the monograms are NK instead of MK. On top of everything else, they’re not even made in a design that he sells. I even saw someone at work with one.
    I haven’t seen what I think is a fake TB bag, but her designs rarely turn my head.

  • Sparkletastic

    Tacky and pathetic. It’s a bag. Buy what you can afford and move on.

  • Michelle

    I have recently learned that you can now buy fake vintage bags too! A lady I know bought a fake Tory Bag, I then pissed her off by pointing out how obvious a fake it was. A couple months later that bag is falling apart!

  • shopper

    I’ve seen many a fake Coach monogram bags. Fake Coach? Seriously? The real thing is so cheap!

    • londonhermit

      That’s your perspective “cheap” is relative. Careful your ignorance is showing.

      • shopper

        There are pricing brackets. In today’s dollars, a bag retailing under a $300 price point is cheap / bargain.

        Why pay $50 for a counterfeit $300 bag when the original will probably go on sale for $125+? Better off saving up and buying the original.

      • M Green

        That’s not cheap to most people who struggle to put food on the table. Get a clue.

  • Irene

    Haha I was on Canal street last month and knock off MK was everywhere! They were horrible quality and very obvious. There was of course the ever present fake Louis but MK was dominating. Maybe this means that the contemporary market of bags is on the rise because average working people, and more affluent budgets alike, just cannot justify spending 2k plus on a bag. To some people it’s worth it, to others it is not. Totally understandable. I mix it up and personally enjoy the contemporary market because I don’t dump an entire mortgage payment on a bag. I’m allowed to buy more bags at 400.00-600.00 than invest in one 1,900.00 bag.

    • Creolecabat

      I agree with your points about the contemporary lines, such as TB and Coach leather; they’re generally well made and at a price point where we can purchase a variety of looks. I recently went out of my comfort zone and purchased a Gucci and Burberry handbag, both priced around 1200.00, on sale, happily, and I really can’t justify going any higher. In LA we have the Garment District which is teeming with back alley fakes. Most of the ladies buying MK and similar think they’re getting a bargain and don’t realize they can wait and scout out a sale.

  • Renee O

    I am not interested in fakes. I buy nice handbags as I enjoy luxurious leather and quality craftsmanship–I don’t need to impress anyone. I don’t think my friends are impressed by handbags anyway. MK doesn’t seem to have any original ideas as he blatantly copies other lines. I won’t be purchasing from his line. I like to vote with my dollars. There is much competition and soooo many things to purchase. If there is no market for some of those things, maybe they will go away.

    • Jerri R

      I intensely dislike MK myself. No originality, just tacky copies of real luxury bags.

  • Irene

    As a NYC tourist, I purchased a fake Goyard on Canal street. I figured what the hell. A friend and I later compared it with her authentic Saint Louis tote and I kid you not, there was no disernable difference what so ever. If we didn’t each have different colors, they may have gotten mixed up.
    I’m not advocating fakes in any way. My point is maybe the contemporary knock offs are poorer quality than the more prestige lines? I know there are different qualities of replicas out there.

    • those bags may not have any discernible difference now, but wait to see how an authentic bag ages versus a knock off

      • Irene

        Yes, it’ll most likely come apart and I don’t care because I didn’t invest any money. If that tote were something I had always wanted, I would of went to Goyard instead of China town for it. It was more of a souvenir for me. That said, I had a Chloe Heloise a few years back that had hardware issues and stitching that was coming loose. Thankfully purchased at Nordstrom who replaced it.

      • M Green

        yes and no… the Goyard totes (authentic) are known to have all kinds of quality issues.

      • I don’t care what Goyard has going on as far as quality, an authentic bag is not falling apart like a knock off. I have a Prada saffiano tote that was clearly a product of Prada’s quality issues but it has held up 3 years, annoying flaws and all.

  • Mei

    I could see my mom buying one out of ignorance because she doesn’t even know that it is a knock off of a contemporary brand. She doesn’t even know that the contemporary brand exists really, lol. There are some people out there who just buy a bag on the street because they think it’s pretty and don’t have the luxury or the desire to become familiar with brand name items.

  • Gpc

    Wow I would think the NYPD would have more important matters to focus on than fake handbags. On another note I wouldn’t buy a real bag from one of these contemporary brands mentioned let alone a fake one. They do have one thing in common though – they are both probably made in China…

    • Irene

      Sadly, Several “designer” and contemporary bags that are sold in big retailers are manufactured in China these days as well. Phillip Lim, Tory Burch to name a few..

      • Linda

        I don’t understand why it is so “sad”. Is there something inherently bad about things made in China? Sure, we have all see pictures of assembly lines in China with tired workers and poor working conditions but we shouldn’t stereotype and believe that everything in China is made in that way. Why do we always assume that items made in Europe are great and completely ethical while items made in Asia are absolute crap?

      • Irene

        I don’t really care about ethically produced bags. When we are talking about luxury designer items we are sort of in a superficial sort of realm anyways. We aren’t talking about chocolate or coffee or a pair of Nikes.
        It’s sad because when you are paying for craftsmanship from from Italy, France, Spain. Brands that have a history in their method and have been at a location for 200 years, that’s part of the appeal.
        Things with the stamp “made in China” are usually mass produced and have that stigma, “Made in China”. Doesn’t mean the quality is bad. In fact, I’ve bought Tory, Coach, Michael Kors.. All great quality. I just don’t want my 1,800.00 LV made there. I want it from the LV factory in France. Some people seek out LV ONLY made in France and snub the ones marked “Made in USA”.

    • Lynnie

      “Wow I would think the NYPD would have more important matters to focus on than fake handbags.”

      Preach. Police brutality anyone? And the fact that Canal Street is still proliferating just proves this is a giant waste of money and resources. Can’t they just do a raid and round everything up?

      • Gpc

        Exactly Lynnie – obviously the luxury brands have deep pockets in order to get this kind of law enforcement attention -that is what is criminal…

      • M Green

        Have you veer heard of intellectual property?

      • Rhonda Chavez

        Direct working part time512.69$/day::: @1md5.

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      • Gpc

        Yep, but there are varying levels of importance. I wouldn’t equate the creation of mediocre handbag designs with creation of things that save lives… I guess in these posts there is always one antagonist who feels they need to quip on everything they find issue with.

      • Ruby

        I find the intellectual property arguments weak. Appropriating horsebits, distressed leather and quilting and then claiming it’s use is an original innovation that’s owned is by brand is stretching it, I think. Logos and copyrighted patterns….Ok.

    • Amanda

      I understand that there are lots of important issues for the NYPD to focus on. That being said, imagine you work hard to make an item, and brand yourself, and someone comes along and steals your design? Not only that, but their reproduction is a cheaper, lower quality version? As many have pointed out, some customers don’t even know they are purchasing a non-authentic item. So now, they have it…and it has terrible wear and tear. Their perception of your company is negative, when it’s not even your product to begin with. Just a way to think about why this is an important issue. As for the made in China argument, when purchasing from a reputable company, you are generally able to see when, where and how the item is made. Not an option with the street vendors. Most lux labels are able to explain who is also making their products- and stress to at least comply with the country labour laws.

  • Jess

    Yes, I have to admit, when I was young, I owned a fake bag too.
    Times have changed, I have grown up and today, I would not buy something that is not the real thing. Either I can afford it, or I cannot have it. That’s the rule.

    • Hanakimi87

      THIS. A thousand times this.

  • Helene Gardner Kaufman

    I bought a knock off Michael Kors last year just for kicks. It looked very good when I got it home and compared it to the real thing. If you didn’t look inside you really couldn’t tell because I got the PVC East West tote, which is not leather anyway. However, within weeks the whole thing fell apart! What a waste of money. Now I just wait and buy the real thing when I want it, at a sale or discount store like Century 21.

  • Liz

    http://www.cnbc.com/id/38229835
    Read this! For all those who don’t see why buying counterfeit items are bad and harmful and feel like cope have more important things to do then raid these places who sell them.

    • Liz

      Sorry for the typo.. Cops not cope..

  • REDDSUN

    Michael Kors also stole many designs from Hermes, Fendi, YSL, etc… so who is to blame?
    Many of those accused of being counterfeits bags are not exact copies but similar styles made by small businesses who can’t afford to fight back on the court. Besides those Big brands charge exhberant profits for what it really costs so whose the real mob here?

  • Sherre Ann Wallace

    The problem with bags made in China (much of anything made in China) is their absolute disregard from the environmental and the health and safety of their workers. Yes you see the bag you that’s cheaper what you don’t see is the conditions that came along with making it.

    Second the NYPD crack down on counterfeit merchandise has to do with a significant portion of those proceeds sponsoring TERRORIST!

    Think before you buy ladies.

  • Baggaholic

    Who knows counterfeit bags might have higher margin than the real thing. Selling counterfeits is a business, no one is in business with risks for no money or low margin