Courtney decided she wanted to buy a fake Louis Vuitton earlier this year after her friend came back from New York. “I was walking on the streets in Florida and I saw somebody wearing this. I thought that was so cute. So here I am and I saw it. I said O.K., I’ll take that,” said Courtney, who was traveling and visiting friends in New York. For many, the fake bags looked so much like the real thing that it was difficult to tell the differences to the untrained eyes. But more sophisticated customers like Courtney look for signs that what they’re getting is at least close to the real thing. “You are looking for things to make sure that none of the LVs are cut off. They never cut off the LVs on the real ones. For the real one, the trim color is a lot paler. It’s a lot like the color of butter on a real bag,” said Courtney. “The materials are different,” acknowledged one handbag seller on Canal St. Police periodically conduct raids on the street, arresting merchants who sell counterfeit goods.
The popularity of fake Louis Vuitton bags in New York even cause some customers, like Sherry Zhang, to return the real one and bought a counterfeit. “When I carried a real Louis Vuitton and walked down Canal St. everyday from work, everybody would think it was a fake one,” said Zhang who bought a classic brown Louis Vuitton bag for $1,100 last May. When she saw the more fashionable multi-color monogram Louis Vuitton bag with white background and colorful flowers on Canal St. later, Zhang returned the real Louis Vuitton and got herself a fake. “The fake one has pink flowers, while it is red on the real thing,” said Zhang. “I’ve been using it for more than a year and haven’t had any problems with its quality. It’s real leather inside out.”
Executives with Louis Vuitton and Kate Spade refused to answer questions about the counterfeit bags. “I’m not worried about the quality,” said Sherri Chan, 23, a New Yorker. “I think it’s like a $900 bag in the store that you get it here for $20. So I think it’s fine.” For people like Chan, fake designer bags have become ideal gifts for friends in other states. “If you live in New York, everyone has a fake Louis Vuitton. But if you sent it out to L.A. or whatever, I think it’s a good idea,” said Chan who was shopping for a $20-40 traditional LV bag as a gift for her friend in Los Angeles.“They don’t have as many fake bags as in L.A.…. Their knock-offs aren’t as good.”