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Published:May 2nd, 2006 06:50 EST
The Truth about Knockoffs....

The Truth about Knockoffs....

By Melissa Austria

Women tend to crawl, stumble, and fall deeply in love when they find that special one.  Christian Dior and Louis Vuitton are two of the several handbags that women long for and crave.  Even though these name brand purses can run from $500 to $1,000, women will take risks to have that special touch on their shoulder or that warm feeling on the palm of their hand. Gucci, Fendi, Prada and Coach are a few of the famous name brand purses that have gained popularity for its uniqueness and design.   Many purses are well known for its distinctive monogram cover, which is a primary reason women buy these certain purses.

Love at First Sight

The appearance and looks of a brand name purse have become the new trophy for many women in today`s society.  The pricey purses give women a high status or position in the culture of the fashion world. Having a purse has replaced the feeling you experienced when you found a new boyfriend.  When a woman walks by and sees another woman with a Louis Vuitton purse, she can`t help but feel the envy.  Or when she sees someone with a Gucci purse, she can`t help but wonder what she does for a living to be that successful.

But purchasing an $800 purse isn`t that simple.  When women want an accessory to match their latest outfit for next week`s celebration, they don`t want to wait for their paychecks to add up.  They want it right there and right now, instant gratification.

Counterfeit fashion trade is the latest fashion trend and gives women the opportunity to buy at least the image of a luxury purse for a much cheaper, more reasonable price.  In reality, women who buy these counterfeit purses are really buying a knockoff or a near -mirror image replica of name brand handbags.

Even though the purses are just an imitation of the real thing, this fakeness doesn`t stop people from seeking them out or selling them. 

The First Date

The busy streets of Canal Street in New York or in Washington D.C. are easy access locations that sell these knockoff purses for great deals. But why do people choose to purchase fakes that are considered illegal and may not last very long?

Street vendor`s help customers feel like they are saving money and customers walk off feeling special that they found their new companion.

Even though these purses are illegal, I`m still going to buy them because the real ones cost too much and this allows broke ladies to feel like they`re rich, " said Alice Mills, a student and customer of knockoffs.

In Chinatown off Canal Street and D.C., many vendors anticipate the crowds that swarm the metal racks of hanging copycats but are often thought by many customers as the real thing.  Many street vendors have been in the business for years and rarely have to convince their customers to buy a purse.  Someone else is always waiting to come along and regardless their business is doubling each year.

I am aware that this is illegal but I`ve been doing it for 15 years, " said a street vendor from Georgetown.  The West African man and his friends have been in the business for a long time and are making a lot of money to continue their trade.  The famous spot is located across from Wet Seal and French Connection off Wisconsin Avenue.  The two white vans signify that they are open.

We are here everyday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., " said the Georgetown street vendor.   They started off by selling watches and sooner or later watches turned into purses which ended being the most sought after item on the rack.

Locals and tourists come by these vendors to cut great deals and to spend an average of $35-$50.  But if a person knows good business then the price can even go lower.

I prefer the real purses but I can only afford the fake ones that usually cost from   $25 to $70, " Mills said. 

The Georgetown location has two vendors that also sell name brand wallets and belts to match the knockoff purses.

Buying knockoffs is affordable and plus they have a wide variety, " said Angela Reyes, who purchased a fake Gucci purse.

But when business is good, usually police come and try to confiscate their fake purses every month or so.  And that`s when they run and use those two vans for what it`s really worth, to drive away.

As customers leave and make their final purchases, they show off their new accessory or they put in a black bag for time being. 

Although Georgetown provides people with its own official brand Coach store off M street, there are people who feel discouraged at the prices and can only enjoy the view of it from the outside window.  They continue to hope that someday that they can afford the real thing but until then they prefer the ones hanging off the metal racks.  A Party Bag to Go

Purse parties are also the latest trend in fashion counterfeiting.  Many purse parties are held privately in the homes of an individual who purchases knockoffs for a cheaper price than its original price. Purse parties have replaced the famous social event of Tupperware parties.

A Florida mother not only stays home to take care of her two kids but works to take care of the fashion community in her local neighborhood.  After meeting a man in New York, Beverly decided to sell fake name brand purses for extra money.  The initial purse party started in December and is still continuing. 

Before the event, a stock of the purses are shipped to Beverly`s home and paid for after it is received.  The Florida mother said she likes to sell Coach, Fendi, Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior.

Each purse is purchased for $15-$45 and sold at these purse parties for $30-$150. 

The purse parties are not advertised by written invitations but by word of mouth.  Beverly will ask friends if they want purses and her friends will ask their friends the same question. 

A few acquaintances of Beverly who are also interested in the purse fad can also host a purse party at their home.  If the host sells a good number of bags, Beverly honors them with a free purse.

A One Night Stand

Those who purchase counterfeit purses will soon realize that it usually does not last.  A few trips to the mall and a couple of celebrations can overpower a knockoff and cause it to break away or even fade away.  So it really worth buying the $500 purse vs. the $50 one?

Louis Vuitton and Gucci are two admired purses that are known for its famous monogram design but not for its history.

Louis Vuitton was created in 1854.  The founder, who was a craftsman, gave the company to his son, George Vuitton who created the famous monogram.  Gucci was produced in 1921 by Guccio Gucci who opened a small luggage store in Florence selling exclusive leather goods that were produced by Florentine craftsmen.  Currently, all Gucci products are made in Italy except for time pieces.             

Louis Vuitton takes all legal action necessary to prosecute individuals associated with production and distribution of counterfeit items, " said Sarah Carter, a Louis Vuitton associate. 

Carter says Louis Vuitton relies on reliable customer and local law enforcements to handle such activity.  Once the company is informed of individuals or businesses associated with the counterfeit industry, Louis Vuitton follows all necessary protocol to investigate and build a case. 

The International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition in D.C. says the U.S. economy loses millions of dollars in tax revenue and jobs because of the distribution and sale of counterfeit goods.  This results in few schools, hospitals and police officers. 

An IACC representative says counterfeiting makes it harder for legitimate retailers to compete in the marketplace. 

The IACC also allows individuals to report any suspicious counterfeiting activity by email, phone, or letter.  The reporter must inform IACC with the location, date and brands that were involved.

Even though it is illegal, I don`t believe I am causing any harm if I already know they are fake, " said Jennifer Greene, a customer of both real and fake purses.               

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

Protecting the brand name purses and the original designer can be a difficult job.  Even though counterfeiting is considered a serious matter, many women don`t believe so. 

The companion of a brand name purse whether it`s real or fake, leaves women obsessed and infatuated with the attention from other women who can relate to the same experience. 

Falling in love with that special purse can create a feeling of warmth and love that no one else can replace.  Although this type of relationship seems so real, it can turn out to be a lie.  As your lovely mate and relationship start to fall apart, you can only blame yourself because you knew from the start that a love like this could never last.