Tuesday, February 6, 2007

The Real Thing

A friend/client is smitten with a particular Miu Miu bag that she can't find. She sent me a request to keep an eye peeled for it and a link to an eBay auction of one so I'd know what it looked like.

(It looks like this. Cute, huh?)

I did a little research and wound up talking to a lovely gal named Renée at the Miu Miu boutique in Soho. Since I didn't have the style number for the bag, she asked if I could forward the photos of the bag to her via e-mail. A little later (big points for Miu Miu customer service, by the way) she phoned me back to give me some details about the bag and another really interesting fact: Miu Miu never produced that particular bag in red. What that means is that the bag in the photo above is counterfeit.

So, yeah, the counterfeit thing. I think many of us know that a big percentage of what goes for genuine on eBay is counterfeit. And I guess a lot of folks don't care. Apparently enough people don't care that the counterfeit market is a huge and ever-growing one. I'm not going to spend a lot of time here lecturing you with all the specific reasons why counterfeiting is not a victimless crime. I'll leave the economic arguments to wiser and pointier heads than mine. Suffice to say that along with generally frowning on ripping off other people's ideas & intellectual property, I don't want to carry a bag that was made by a little Chinese girl whose legs had been broken so she couldn't escape from the factory. I don't know about you, but I don't think my karma is sturdy enough to withstand that sort of assault.

But people do buy these fakes, squillions of 'em, and some of the reason, I think, can be found in little bon-bons like this:

(Yves Saint Laurent -- the Muse.)

Oh, I love this thing. I cannot tell you why, there's just something about it that resonates with the harmonics of my aesthetic soul. (That's fancy talk for "Preeeeeeetty!!") I'm not the sort who often falls prey to the It Bag Syndrome. I think we've firmly established that I am an Olympic-level Shoe Ho, but handbags do not usually inspire this sort of palpitations in me. Of course, I like a good handbag. I am one of those folks who feels that the old saw about accessories being the place to put your money is true. But some of my very favorite bags are little vintage sweeties I've picked up for less than 20 bucks.

(Candy-apple red patent. Oh, the love...)

But that Muse bag... oh, that's a beauty. I've seen them in person. The same stroll through Neiman's that unleashed the Want Monster I talked about a while back also gave me a chance to introduce myself to this lovely. It is a beautifully-made bag, it hung perfectly from my shoulder, it was surprisingly light for its size. Very, very nice. I really love this bag, and if I had scads of spare cash I'd buy it in a minute. "Scads" is the operative word here, because this baby costs $1300.

Plus tax.

Ya know what? That is crazy. It is crazy that they are selling $1300 handbags and it is crazy that we are buying them and I'm just as crazy because the truth is I lust in my heart for that thing and I know that if I had $1300 just lying around (under the coffee table, maybe, or in the sock drawer), I'd buy it! So for all those people with Want Monsters more persistent than mine, who also don't have that kind of scratch to throw at what's basically the glorified descendant of the saddlebag, suddenly the $199 version available on the 'Bay might not look like such a bad idea. Hey, ya know -- it's leather, it's nice, it looks real... What the hell, right? There are even websites devoted to them where they make no bones about them being counterfeit -- only they call them "replicas" so it sounds nicer. (No, I'm not giving you any links to any of those sites! Little Chinese girls, remember?? Broken legs!!) So at the risk of playing Blame the Victim, I have to ask -- are the companies making the $1300 bags in some way contributing to their own problem? I'm well aware that there are some design labels whose financial foundations are built on their accessories lines, especially their bags, and so those companies are going to work those bags for all they are worth. But. Is it possible that if the real things were a little bit more accessible there might be less demand for the fakes? I dunno. Maybe.

Now, I am a big believer in "you get what you pay for." I do believe that there is a noticeable difference in quality between that Muse and the $30 vinyl number you can buy at the big box discount store, but I don't know if it's honestly $1270 worth of difference. And I'd like to think that even if I had the means I wouldn't fall prey to this sort of outlandish consumerism, but I don't know if that's true, either.

I'm the sort of person who's never going to be happy with the "replica" version of anything -- every time I looked at it I'd remember that it was a fake, and it would rob me of all my enjoyment -- and this means it's not really a decision I have to make. I'm never going to buy the counterfeit. But for those of you who might not feel that way, those of you perhaps perusing eBay stores that promise you genuine designer goods at a fraction of the price, I'm going to just say it one more time:

Little Chinese girls. Broken legs.

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Patty said...

I think about a couple of bags way too much for my comfort. The Fendi Spy bag is at the top of my list for a bag that just has me enraptured. And then I look at the fakes, and I just *KNOW* that if I got one, I would know it was fake and that it was not really what I wanted.

But over 1k for a handbag, unless it is made of broken legs, is ridiculous. I'd go $800 for a really great bag, but over 1k, I just can't do it, no leather is that expensive or design that original.

StyleSpy said...

Ah, Fendi. The Spy didn't get me, but there were several versions of the "B"-bag that made me whimper.

msjustine2u said...

One thing that cracks me up about fake handbags is that any of my friends who use them *immediately* reply "thanks, its a fake," if I compliment them on their bag. Isn't the point of a good fake that nobody can tell? I think they come clean because they are feeling a tiny bit guilty. Like they're cheating.

I don't have any fake handbags. But I can see the attraction. Especially for the "replicas" that still cost a few hundred and are made of real leather, etc. Ah yes, those are tempting.

StyleSpy said...

Well, I don't usually advocate guilt, but I must say that in this case I'm all for it.

Haute said...

i refuse to believe really good fakes are made by little chinese girls.

I have genuine designer bags and a few really good replicas. The craftmanship is superb (hardwares don't tarnish, stitches are even, and they have held up for years). This perfect of a craftmanship can only be done by a skilled worker, and not some 10 year old chinese kid. Maybe you're talking about the really awful fakes.