Buying Real Vs. Faux

So you have good taste. You like designer clothes and handbags, high-end jewelry and electronic gizmos. Yet, at this stage in your life-perhaps struggling to make end’s meet or not willing to pay top dollar for material goods-you chose not to shell out big bucks for authentic merchandise.

While your preferences for the finer things in life do not diminish simply because the funds in your bank account are not available, by what means can you keep up with all the trends seen in contemporary fashion magazines?

And for those who opt to go down the road of shopping for knock-offs, which designer products are most often reproduced; what is the best and most legal route to take; and how can you ensure your purchase registers as possessing some level of quality in the marketplace.

As imitation may indeed be the sincerest form of flattery, Louis Vuitton handbags and luggage are commonly cited as being the most often replicated lines of designer goods not only in the US but in the entire world. Gucci, Prada, Fendi, Burberry, Dooney & Bourke, Hermes, Coach and Kate Spade are all also major contenders vying for the frequently duped designer accessories category. Whereas watches go, Rolex, Cartier and Tag Heuer are among the most commonly replicated with Movado and Bedat (pastel color band timepieces with Austrian crystals) also commonly found among offerings.

The counterfeiting of consumer products has become such a widespread concern that the Global Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition now estimates the problem to be at an all-time high of more than $365 billion. Not only taking away sales from the true designers, counterfeit products also often circumvent the retailer all together with enterprising individuals setting up quasi-shops within obstructed alleys and easy to shut down “trunk” exchanges. Yet amazingly enough, many knock offs are right out there in the open being sold on the open market at chic house ‘purse parties’ or via brazen sites on the Internet.

If you prefer to purchase an authentic versus a fake; then it is best to ensure the dealer with whom you are doing business is indeed an agent licensed to sell the designer’s products. While some shop owners may not be truthful in this realm, it is up the individual consumer to know their designer’s signature styles. For example, the interior of Louis Vuitton, Prada and Gucci handbags are all outfitted with their insignia linings. Per each designer, additional specialty touches also apply. For instance, Prada has a little toggle at the end of their zippers, Gucci’s logo is engraved as opposed to stamped on the instep of all their shoes and Chanel uses a clean written, all capped, font to identify all of its goods. The rule of thumb is to check the lining, hardware and stitching to ensure all is smooth and meets with the designer’s standards. To be 100 percent certain the item is the “real deal,” some of the hallmark features to look for include: authenticity cards, protective outer bags with the company’s ‘true’ logo, and high price tags.

In comparison with their counterpart copies, authentic designer handbags can range upwards of thousands of dollars. The infamous Hermes Birken bag (prospective buyers are placed on wait list to get one) can cost upward of $12,000 (or more) depending on the material; skins, snake and crocodile, being the most costly. The average Louis Vuitton handbag retails for around $750; Marc Jacobs around $900; and Chloe’s popular multi-zipper leather bag made popular by the Brits and folks living in London, like Sienna Miller and Gwyenth Paltrow, will set you back approximately $1200.

So you can see why paying $40 for a Burberry bag instead of $400 can seem so appealing. You not only get the classic look of the beige, black and red plaid, but from a distance, most will not even know it is a fake. And as counterfeit sellers become more sophisticated, they increasingly find ways to more closely match their products to the original versions. Nowadays, it is not uncommon for sellers to bring in merchandise form overseas manufactures and upon receipt sewn in the label and apply the logo.

Even though the general quality may be improving and the notion of saving some serious cash may be very alluring, a couple of things to keep in mind before closing the deal are:

1) Durability -Will the product’s quality withstand the test of time? With designer originals, though you pay big bucks, you also are assured of receiving a quality product. Plus, you are confident that the retail outlet from which you purchased the item will somehow make good if your item does not meet up to your satisfaction. With fakes, you have no such durability guarantees or support structures. In fact, in most instances, you cannot even return the item for the shop seems to regularly move from one desolate locale to another.

2) Ethics-Is it legal to purchase a knock-off product? Well, the question of whether it is legal to purchase one is much more vague than the question of whether it is legal to manufacture knock-off products. In simplest terms, those who knowingly reproduce a designer product are liable for being tried for a felony on the grounds of unauthorized trademark duplication.

3) Situational- Yet, there are times when purchasing a faux as opposed to an original definitely seems to have its advantages. These include: the purchase of trendy styles, i.e., metallics or animal prints, i.e., designs that are more seasonal in nature as opposed to more traditional; the intended use of the product, i.e., a duffel bug for the health club because one need not spend a lot of money to lug around sweaty clothes; and novelty gifts, if you need to buy a dozen or so items for a women’s function, then knock-off key chains can be cute and fun without putting your finances in jeopardy

One thing is for certain, among all the available shopping outlets, it is becoming increasingly easier for consumers to find the exact replica designer product they are seeking. Therefore, the challenge may necessarily not be locating the item, but deciding whether it is better to go with the inauthentic version or stock away some bills until able to save enough to buy the “real deal.”

Every person has their own unique shopping style. While one may prefer to own quantities of average handbags, another may opt to only have a few, quality ones.
This then is the great thing about living in America. We have the option to pay cash for counterfeit handbags being sold on the street corner or walk into a plush, luxury department store and hand over your personal credit card.

The final verdict is one that is best left up to you and your financial institution.
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