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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