WEST CHESTER, Ohio -- Although they’re cheaply made as a rule, knockoffs of luxury goods such as shoes, bags and sunglasses make up a $461 billion global industry, according to Designer Items and More Chief "Luxury" Officer Felisa Insignares.
Her shop specializes in the real deal, which is why she’s had to develop an eye for ersatz imitators: the Guccls, Prados and Louis Yuittons of the world. These products look enough like their authentic cousins to fool consumers at first sight, but their quality is often significantly lower.
Although we’re certainly not averse to a realistic-looking dupe if it’s just for show, we asked her to share some tips for separating the wheat from the chaff in search of true-blue, long-lasting designer goods.
- Check the stitching in shoes and bags. Designer brands maintain their reputations via strict quality assurance processes, which means you should never see a Prada bag with crooked stitching on the sales floor. Small details that indicate construction quality are a reliable giveaway when it comes to imitation goods.
- Make sure the logo looks right. Knockoff brands often attempt to mimic designer logos but lack access to the same fonts used by the original, making the brand label look slightly off. Few of us are font experts, but if you’re shopping for a luxury bag, chances are you have a smartphone. Search for an image of the brand logo and compare it to the one on your prospective purchase to make sure they match.
- And the rest of the text, too. A lack of quality assurance in production can lead to counterfeits arriving on the sales floor with some truly strange text gracing their tags and soles. Prada shoes are handmade in Italy; a knockoff, on the other hand, might declare itself "Handmade in Taly." Given the international reach of the most famous high-end brands, it’s unlikely they would be sending anything to be sold with broken English on its tag.
- Teeny, tiny details make the difference. Things as small as a production number on a pair of sunglasses indicate the care and precision with which designer goods are constructed. If you look up the specific product you want ahead of time, you should be able to learn what unique traits to search for in person.
By the time you've gathered the cash and the courage to drop money on high-end accessories, you deserve to get the thing you really wanted. Get out there and shop, but remember to take care, pay attention and don't waste your money.
(And don’t tell John we stole his slogan.)