Tips for Spotting a Fake Designer Handbag

Everybody knows that the fashion industry is rife with fake products – counterfeit brand logos on sneakers and phone cases, cheap knock-offs and replicas, and high-end counterfeit designer bags from coveted brands like Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and more.

If you want to own an original designer handbag to treat yourself, it would be a huge letdown if you discovered your purchase was a knock-off. Designer bags can be replicated so closely to the original that some triple-A counterfeit bags can fool even the most seasoned authentication experts on a bad day. As a regular consumer like you, how can you spot a fake handbag on your own? Deciphering between a genuine and fake bag isn’t easy for the untrained eye, but there are tips and tricks you can keep in mind when shopping for a designer tote.

Consider the overall feel

A luxurious YSL designer bag

The handbag’s overall touch and feel – even the smell – have importance. Touch the bag. Does it feel luxurious? Fake bags have lesser quality materials and are assembled with glue or unstable stitches. In contrast, original designer bags tan pieces of leather, requiring top coloring techniques with only the best materials.

Test the smell. Counterfeits tend to smell slightly plastic or chemical due to lower quality pigments used. Designer handbags use premium-grade raw materials and liquids so that they would smell clean and not of pungent leather.

Pay attention to details

A collage of photos of a pink ostrich leather Hermes bag

Luxury is about detail, and counterfeiters tend to replicate the exterior appearance of a genuine product and not focus well on the interior. Look at the material, stitching, and brand stamp. It must feel “designer.” Here are the things to look out for:

Stitching: The first thing to take note of in a bag is its quality. Counterfeit bags come with poor or frayed stitching and, sometimes, even glued seams. Authentic cags have neat stitches that are even and symmetrical. If you find stitches that are inconsistent, we can assume that it’s a fake – and a bad one at that.

Labels and logos: Each designer is different regarding the details they add to their bags as a measure of authenticity. Whatever brand you choose, make sure to research first the characteristics of their authentic bags so you can identify the real ones from the fake when you’re shopping.

Trim: Leather goods usually have a wax casing applied to cover a bag’s raw and exposed edges. Uneven and sloppy paint jobs are a sign of fakeness.

Engraving: Check the quality and consistency of engravings across different metal details, such as the zip, clasps, and shoulder straps. Luxury brands pay attention to all elements of the pieces they create, while counterfeiters try to sell something that looks like it. These embellishments can be a giveaway of a counterfeit.

Zipper: An authentic bag’s zipper will pull smoothly across the bag with equal tension throughout. Some designers also put the brand, initials, or logo on the zipper head.

Hardware: With the exception of bag styles with mixed-colored hardware, most designer bags should have hardware that is of one tone of finish. Chain and other metallic hardware must have some weight to them and must not feel light or hollow.

Serial numbers: Look for font, placement, consistency, and presentation of manufacturing dates. Same as the label, the serial numbers, date, and style codes must be straight and clearly printed. The alphanumeric codes usually indicate the location, date or season, and the model of the bag made. Research how the brand you’re eyeing adds serial numbers to their products – you shouldn’t be buying a bag with a serial code dated years before the bag model was even launched.

Documents: Not all brands come with the same set of packaging and documents, so having extra tags or cards does not guarantee authenticity. For example, Chanel comes with an authenticity card, which matches the bag’s serial number. But you will not see this kind of certification from Louis Vuitton.

Plastic: If your bag comes with loose, translucent plastic covering the handles, there’s a big chance that it’s a counterfeit. Authentic brands don’t usually sell their products this way.

Dust bag: Whether the bag is Gucci, Channel, Dior, or Louis Vuitton, they all come with a dust bag, and those who buy it tend to keep the bag well. If it comes with a dust bag, it may be authentic.

Hangtags: Luxury bags don’t come with leather swatch hangtags. These tags are typically used for sneakers and shoes, so this one’s another red flag.

Know the source

A woman wearing a Chanel handbag in Spain

The source or country of origin is a crucial authentication touchpoint. Where the label says the bag was made is an indicator as to whether a designer bag is real or not. Luxury pieces will feature details like those made in Italy or France since they use craftspeople trained in their production processes. A legitimate Chanel bag will never be made in Paris but in France.

The best manufacturers for specific bag categories and materials tend to vary by country. Brands will produce where there’s a relevant production for a specific style. For instance, Spain is home to a cork, espadrilles, and raffia. So a “Made in Spain” tag on a pair of Chanel espadrilles means it’s authentic and has the highest craftsmanship in the market.

Familiarize yourself with the details to look for in brands

Counterfeiters today can make impressive knock-offs that look impressively close to the real deal, complete with fake serial tags and authenticity cards. Besides the tips and details mentioned above, here’s how you can spot them on designer brands:

1. Louis Vuitton

  • Many counterfeit manufacturers have perfected the monogram pattern, so do not base authenticity on the monogram alone.
  • Look inside the bag for the date code hidden inside the pockets or along the seams. It must be stamped on a small leather tag that denotes when and where the piece was made. The six-digit alphanumeric code indicates the location, week, and year the bag was made. The first two letters represent the factory location, the 3rd and 5th numbers represent the week (for models from 2007) or month (for models from the 1990s), and the 4th and 6th digits represent the year.
  • The “O” in the Louis Vuitton logo must be round, not oval. The “TT” must be close together that they look almost joined.
  • Look for the Vachetta leather straps and handles, as these must be untreated. This means it will create a rich patina with regular wear and use. Knock-offs use plastic and synthetic materials in these areas.
  • The stitching must be impeccable. The zippers must be stamped with the brand name.
  • Since LV is one of the most counterfeited brands in the market, these fakes also tend to come in different models and colorways that the brand never created. Check that the model and the color of the bag you’re buying actually exist.

2. Chanel

  • The Chanel quilt bag is one of the most counterfeited Chanel designer products. Regular Chanel quilting must have 11 stitches per diamond panel. It must be consistent all around the bag with no loose threads and no skipped stitches.
  • On the flap, you can often find the Chanel logo. The right-facing C must cross over the left-facing C at the top and under the left-facing C at the bottom. The double C’s must be affixed to the flap with flathead screws or six-sided star screws.
  • The metal logo might be stamped with an additional notation on older bags, but fake ones can come with an “R” enclosed in a circle.
  • The bags’ serial numbers are date-coded and tell you the period the bag was manufactured. Bags made from 2005 onwards would have 8-digit numbers instead of 7.
  • The serial numbers are unique to a Chanel bag. Counterfeiters typically use the same serial number repeatedly. Among the many serial numbers commonly used in fake bags are 14514163 and 10218184.

3. Yves Saint Laurent

  • YSL designer bags focus on highlighting the quality of the leather, while fake bags often cannot compete with this quality. YSL genuine leather has a satin sheen, while fake bags have shiny plastic or synthetic look and feel.
  • The “N” and “T” in Saint Laurent’s logo must be touching. You must find four subtle nail heads on the logo hardware, the top 2 corners of “Y” and the ends of “S” and “L.” The snap button sockets must also be engraved with Saint Laurent Paris.
  • An authentic chain strap must be a curb link that is slightly flat on both sides. In some models, the chain has a rectangular metal connector with a logo embossed.

4. Hermes

  • Check out the label stamp on top of the bag. The stamp on a fake bag usually appears to sit on top of the leather, while the authentic stamp is part of the fabric. It’s also placed high and close to the stitching, not in the middle between the stitching and the lock.
  • Check the blind stamp. Undo the lock on the bag and pull back the arm to see it. It indicates the year the bag was made. Every Hermes bag is handmade by an artisan, so they put their trademark stamps on it, along with the blind stamp. However, counterfeiters even imitate these details, so in case, look at the quality of the stamp. Fake bags have larger, deep stamps because it was machine-stamped. Real bags have fainter stamps that you can hardly see sometimes.  
  • The paint job in the bag must be perfect. If there’s a little bit of sloppiness and some paint transferred over the edge, it’s a fake. Some may say that Hermes is hand-painted, so there may be inconsistencies. But authentic Hermes keeps every detail impeccable – they are perfectionists.