When you hear the words "counterfeit designer fashion", one would assume the conversation is about to be steered towards those obviously fake Louis Vuitton shoes or Chanel handbags that are sold at second-hand markets. Well unfortunately, they aren't the only knock-offs out there, and there are more replica designer products available than you'd first think. As the counterfeit market continues to grow, factories are ripping off more and more original products quicker than you can say Prada.
According to Vestiaire Collective, almost half of Australian female shoppers have unknowingly purchased counterfeit designer goods. Fanny Moizant, co-founder of the global marketplace for premium and luxury pre-owned fashion, said "we launched with an exclusive model that begins with a careful curation process, followed by the physical check of 100% of the items that are sold on the site by our in-house experts. We signed the 'Fight Against Online Counterfeiting Charter' in 2012 in order to work closely with luxury brands and ensure zero tolerance to counterfeit goods."
If it's highly coveted, there's most likely fake to be found. And the sad thing is, the quality of some counterfeit products can be so high that it's hard for the average shopper to tell the difference. But no matter how close it comes to looking like its exact copy, at the end of the day, it's not the real deal.
It's not all bad news though, through second-hand online boutiques like The Real Real and Vestiaire Collective, the prospect of owning legitimate, second-hand designer pieces has become realistic and highly accessible. The catch? There is no catch. Products that are sold through verified websites have to go through serious levels of quality control before it's available online for the public to purchase.
We investigated further to see what the experts had to say and spoke to Victoire Boyer Chammard, head of Vestiaire Collective's authentication department, to learn just how we can be more conscious of our designer decisions and spot a counterfeit.
Keep scrolling to read the interview and to shop our favourite second-hand designer items.
WHO WHAT WEAR AUSTRALIA: How can you spot a counterfeit handbag?
VICTOIRE BOYER CHAMMARD: Each brand has its own criteria that we need to ensure the item meets. For example, we will look at everything from the touch and smell of the material, to the fastenings used, and the finish of the item. We also check that the serial number matches to the brand, item, and year. This is because depending on the year, the details of a brand are not the same, for example, the zipper could change or the typography could be different.
WWW: What's the number one biggest giveaway of a counterfeit product?
VBC: The finishing of an item is the main giveaway that a product is a fake. An item might be real gold with diamonds and it could look authentic to most eyes, but when under a microscope, our experts can pick out if the setting or finishing doesn't match the standard of that brand. Similarly, with luxury bags we will touch and smell the leather as the feel of premium leathers is very different to counterfeit pieces, and it will often smell strongly of glue.
WWW: Is it becoming harder to spot a fake?
VBC: While the counterfeit market is growing, we have less than 0.5 percent of fake items come through our Vestiaire Collective quality control department. But we've noticed the ones that do get through are getting much better, we have to spend longer certifying the items to ensure authenticity. For example, the counterfeiters know the serial numbers of the brand for a specific year and season, so they will mirror it with maybe one or two numbers or letters out, so at first glance to the untrained eye you wouldn't notice anything was wrong.
WWW: What can you do if you suspect you've bought a counterfeit online? Or even in store?
VBC: Your first step should be to contact the brand to confirm if the item is counterfeit, then the online site or store you purchased the item from.
WWW: What's the most counterfeited bag and pair of shoes you've come across?
VBC: The Hermès Birkin, due to the limited availability of this bag but the high demand. And probably the Pigalle heels from Christian Louboutin.