Counterfeit handbags can most often be found on online stores or small, unbranded kiosks sold for a significant mark-down from the original bag. However, counterfeit bags also trickle into the second-hand market, making it tougher to tell the real pieces from the fakes. That’s where we come in, examining each item with care, looking for signs of copycat manufacturing. Here are things you can do to verify genuine luxury bags for yourself.
6 Ways to Distinguish a Luxury Handbag from a Counterfeit
While specific signs vary by brand and design, there are several things that are true for all luxury handbags, making it easy to spot knock-offs.
1. The lettering is consistent and neat.
The lettering on a luxury bag will always be pristine. They have the right stamps, materials, and tools to make a clean, level imprint every time. Each letter is the same size, and evenly spaced. The imprints are always evenly pressed and easy to read. The precision with which this is done is tough for knock-offs to imitate: the text may be off-center, the spacing may be uneven, or the letters may be varying sizes.
Even with the most spot-on counterfeit handbags, called “super fakes,” it may still be possible to find the knock-offs by focusing on the font. The exact curve of the letters, the angle of each point, and the precise thickness of each line, is nearly impossible to copy.
2. The stitching always impeccable.
Luxury handbag brands take great pride in their work, even the fine details. Whether sewn by hand or machine, these bags will always have straight, even lines of stitching, with no loose threads or imperfections. Any deviations in the thread is a sure sign that the bag is not the original make.
3. The materials always match.
While the materials vary from design to design, they will never vary on the luxury bag, itself. For example, the chain links, emblem, buckles, and buttons will all be the same metal with the same level of polish. In some cases, the internal lining will be the give-away. While two pieces of cloth may have the same pattern, one may be noticeably darker than the other due to cheap printing techniques. In other cases, a counterfeiter will pour time and resources into the look of the emblem then use a generic pull tab for the zipper. When one material looks cheap next to the others, this is a sure sign of a knock-off.
4. Genuine luxury bags have shape and symmetry.
One thing that is very difficult to replicate is the overall aesthetic of a genuine luxury item. Maybe the corners aren’t quite as rounded, or the pattern doesn’t start at quite the right place. When examining a bag, look over the finer details to see if they truly match the desired look. Some counterfeits look noticeably sloppy, while others fall short of the original. Only a few “super fakes” are convincing in their overall aesthetic.
5. Plastic is never used.
The materials used in luxury bags are always precious and high-quality, generally a combination of leather, fabric, and precious metals. Plastic will never be used in a genuine top-brand bag. The most common places where plastic is used for knock-offs is the zipper and the “leather” material. A plastic zipper is usually obvious, but synthetic leather isn’t always easy to identify. When examining the exterior of the bag, see if the external material is unusually smooth or thick. This indicates that a fake leather is being used.
6. There are no flakes or dents in the metal.
All luxury bags are made of high quality materials. Counterfeiters often plate cheaper metals with gold or silver to save money, which eventually chips or loses its luster. Knock-offs may also show wear and tear from the construction process, particularly in the finer details such as individual chain links. If the purse has a chain link strap, spend extra time searching for chinks and bends in each link.
Using the right materials and manufacturing techniques, the metals in a genuine luxury bag are of impeccable quality. The signs of counterfeits come through in these details.
7. Polished metals have an unmistakable glow.
While certain luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton sometimes use duller metals for a historical touch, most emblems, buttons, and zippers are polished to the point of absolute radiance. Thin, smooth, and translucent layers of polish coat each little button, causing them to glimmer in the light. The result is breath-taking, and also protects the metal from any tarnish. Counterfeits may also have polished metals, but rarely to the same degree.
Spotting Counterfeits by Brand
With each luxury bag design, certain elements carry through from piece to piece. This doesn’t just act as the aesthetic and design language of the brand, it also works handily for spotting counterfeits.
Note: Some exceptions may exist, especially in older designs and styles that have not yet come out.
- The MK emblem is two bold, conjoined letters in the center of a circle. If metal, the face is flat with unrounded, 90° edges.
- A Michael Kors purse never uses double stitching, meaning the stitching is never thicker in one spot than another. Double stitching is most common at the edges of the thread.
- For purses, the internal lining has one long piece from the front to back. Counterfeits often use multiple small pieces to save money on materials.
- Michael Kors metal is always polished to the point of glowing.
- The zippers have built-in stops for an elegant finish and ease of use.
- The CC logo has two C’s facing each other. When three-dimensional, the right C crosses over the left on top, then the left crosses over the right on the bottom.
- If large screws are used for aesthetic, they’re always flathead. Hex screws are also used.
- Authenticity cards have 6 digits from years ‘84 to ‘86, 7 from ‘86 to ‘04, and 8 from ‘05 onward.
- The famous caviar skin handbags have a texture of overlapping bubbles.
- When the Chanel logo appears on metal, it’s always engraved rather than raised.
- Mirror image is extremely important for the LV image. The pattern starts just how it ends on the other side, from left to right and from front to back.
- Monogram patterned bags are made with one continuous piece, meaning the monograms will be upside down on one side.
- The stitching on Speedy bags is very precise: exactly 5 threads on each side of the pentagons.
- The Speedy cowhide straps start out tan then darken with age, while most knock-offs remain the same.
- A date code can be found behind the internal pocket of all modern LV bags. From 1882 to 1889, there were 3 to 5 digits. From 1990 onward, there have been 6.
- Gucci metals are always highly polished.
- If the GG emblem is three-dimensional, the G on the left overlaps the G on the right.
- A fabric serial tab can be found along the top of the inner lining with a heat-stamped message. 1990’s bags say MADE IN ITALY/GUCCI. All other bags say GG/made in italy.
- On the reverse side of the serial tab, there is a production code.
- If a Gucci bag has a monogram on the outside, it never has monogram lining on the inside.
- While usually in upper case, the Gucci logo may also appear in cursive. A GG emblem is also sometimes used with the second G flipped upside down, overlapping in the same pattern as the Chanel logo.
- The logo always reads “kate spade/NEW YORK.”
- Fabric labels are always stitched on, never glued.
- Most Kate Spade purses have small leather feet no wider than a dime.
- The metal hardware is always well polished with noticeable heft. Knock-offs will often use cheaper metals plated in heavier materials.
- All CC print bags are mirror-image, with two C’s facing each other in the exact top center.
- Coach uses only silver and brass hardware, notably heavy metals.
- New Coach items always come with dust bags. For larger items, the dust bags are brown with red stitching and a drawstring, with a white logo on the bottom right. For accessories, dust bags are white with a red logo on the bottom right.
- Up close, the famous Prada saffiano leather is made of tiny lines, not squares.
- If the metal logo is attached to fabric, it makes no indent in the material.
- If there is a long, thin clasp along the front of the bag, it’s even and connects elegantly.
- If a key is included, it’s attached with leather rather than a metal key ring.
- Hermes zippers have an H-shaped stopper.
When determining whether a bag is luxury or counterfeit, remember one thing: the biggest indicator is quality. If the lettering is neat and correct, if the stitching is elegant, if the materials are of the utmost quality, you are most likely looking at the real deal. Stop into Max Pawn to review or add to our rotating selection of authentic luxury handbags.