Fashion Steals: When it’s too good to be authentic…

In today’s modern economy, any one of us can find the goods we want, at (almost) the price we wish to pay. It does take some effort though and one must never forget that nothing comes for free. A typical Louis Vuitton bag doesn’t retail for $100. That's a fact. Actually, you’ll never find an authentic, new Louis Vuitton at a discount. Pre-owned maybe, but not new. What's more, Louis Vuitton does not sell defective pieces.

If you’re being offered a “new” monogram bag at a discount, run. Worse, if you’re being offered the bag off a carpet on the street, your “fake finder” radar should be off the charts.

Some of you may want to settle for a simili look - although I cannot understand why – but if you're like me, you don’t. There are easy ways to tell a fake from an authentic LV. This piece on eBay is one of the most complete on the subject, and I would strongly advise anyone interested in buying this designer bag to read it.

This isn't just a Louis Vuitton problem. Every designer brand – especially when it comes to handbags and sunglasses – has to deal with knock-offs and fakes. So before you purchase a designer item from an unauthorized dealer, do your research. Know the piece you’re buying. Compare it to the official merchandise by visiting the collection’s website, or your local Holt Renfrew or Ogilvy.

“It is baffling to see that you can get a second-hand, 100% authentic handbag or accessory for an equal investment as a knock-off,” said Frederick Mannella, owner of LXR Luxury Products on Queen Mary. “Luckily, consumers in 2010 are tired of counterfeit, and this once strong underground market is now being replaced by authenticated pre-owned markets,” he adds. “And you know what’s really hot is getting a secondhand 2010 Louis Vuitton Totally Monogram at half price; now that’s spending intelligent!”

LXR's offer may indeed be difficult to beat as the store offers its clients a Buy-Back program that allows you to resell your purchased item to LXR within 90 days of purchase for up to 70% of its purchased value*.

So how can you get a good deal in designer fashion?

  • You can shop vintage or pre-owned. It’s chic, authentic, environmentally friendly, and it has lived. I personally love that my furniture and some of my clothes have a history of their own. They weren’t made in bulk in a factory in China; they were made in a couture house in Paris or Milan, and worn by elegant people who took pleasure in wearing such beauty. I love telling myself this story every time I buy second-hand.
  • You can organize swap parties. What better way to make good use of the clothes you only wore twice, but already grew tired of? If you’re like me, a season is too long sometimes, and I grow bored with my selection, so why not swap clothes among friends to enjoy a brand new closet every month!
  • You can save your money and wait for end of season. While the discounts won’t be enormous, you can find sales racks at some stores that will allow you to snatch a few good, authentic, designer pieces.

You get what you pay for

If you think something’s a steal – and you’re sure you’re not the one overestimating the item – then maybe doing a bit more research would serve you well because I have yet to hear of couture retailers who are in this to lose money. So before you buy, know not only your item but also your seller.

Real businesses have a permanent retail address, and most probably a corporate head office. They will likely have a business number, and they will want to charge you taxes (in most cases). They will have executives in charge of corporate development, marketing and sales, as well as distribution, and they’ll be happy to give you their credentials. The best ones will have a financial backbone with annual statements and, for you savvy shoppers, good refund/return policies.

If your seller has none of these, and there is no tried-and-tested way for you to get your money back within 48 hours, you’re in for disappointment. Don’t be fooled by “full money back” guarantees over the Internet. The statement may be wonderful, but do you know how and where to get that money back? What good is a guarantee if your seller is nowhere to be found or protected by the laws of another country?

Elementary, my dear Watson

I recently received a comment as a follow-up to one of my articles. The person was not satisfied with her purchase at the retailer I was discussing. I take these statements very seriously, especially when I put my name on the line by endorsing certain places. Fortunately, the owner of the place assured me the situation had been resolved, thanks to a flawless money-back guarantee and a permanent retail address.

I know for that customer, the place has nonetheless lost its appeal. I can understand that. But a retailer that admits to an error, and sees to repair it promptly deserves another chance in my book. So I am willing to overlook that discretion… with one tiny piece of advice: if you know your merchandise (I hate using this word when it comes to couture but let’s, for the sake of clarity) comes from Asia, it is very likely counterfeit. I am not saying all products distributed out of Asia are fakes – don’t put words in my mouth – but I can’t think of one designer house that distributes their collection through generic retailers in Asia, or any part of the world that is not on the best-of-fashion map for that matter. And through unauthorized dealers no less.

Several lines are indeed manufactured in Asia, and there may be knock-offs sold from these factories as “authentic but flawed,” but don’t fall for these lies. Logic dictates that no designer would agree to have flawed products on the market, anywhere in the world. So if you are being told that a product is cheap because it is flawed, put your hard-earned (I assume) cash back in your brand new Gucci bag and walk away. You can do better than that.

*Complete policy available at LXR.
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