Knockoff Handbags

I love you, Gloss readers. I really do. It’s incredibly helpful to have a community of stylish, badass women to turn to when I’m clueless about something. You guys have helped me form an opinion on nude eyebrows (blegh), you’ve helped me wrap my mind around the concept of Normcore (meh), and I’ve loved hearing your thoughts about men grooming their eyebrows (eh!). We had a fun little discussion yesterday about whether or not it’s worth it to dye your hair unnatural colors as an adult, and today I have another burning question that requires your input. How do we feel about knockoff handbags?

Related: How To Tell If That Designer Bag Is A Great Deal Or Just A Great Knockoff

Everyone has an aunt or an older coworker who’s always taking trips to the nearest Chinatown to procure purses that may or may not be held together with horse glue, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve met someone who paints the bottoms of her shoes to create faux-Loubs. I’ve seen a handful of really believable knockoffs in my lifetime (this one girl in high school claimed her Louis Vuitton bag was the real deal, but I got a whiff of it once and it smelled suspiciously like plastic), and on the other side of the spectrum, I’ve seen some disasters. Kate Spayed. Prado. Yves Saint Laurence. Channel. I can’t make sense of it all.

The way I see it, there are a few reasons why someone would want a knockoff bag:

  • To look like they have more money than they really do, perhaps to convince people that they’re successful, deserve a raise, don’t need a man, etc.
  • To recreate a style from a magazine or runway that would otherwise be totally inaccessible to us Normals.
  • To get a bag that they know other people will like, for less than it costs to get a more bland one from a retailer.
  • Because designers sell their products for, like, a thousand times more than they’re worth and it’s fun to stick it to the man.
  • Because they feel like it.

And there are, of course, some legitimate arguments against them. For instance:

  • Why give in to the pressure to look rich? Why act like wealth is a virtue?
  • Why support an underground business that steals artists’ designs?
  • Why support an underground business that likely abuses the people who make the products?
  • What’s the point?

So here’s what I want to know: Do you judge people who carry knockoffs? Do you carry one yourself? Do you think it’s stupid to pretend you’re fancy? Do you think it’s stupid to look down on someone for buying an imitation item? How do you feel about them in general?

Tell Us How You Feel About Knockoff Bags

I honestly would have no idea unless someone told me outright if they had an expensive bag, to begin with. I don’t look at people’s purses? or shoes for that matter. All I could tell you is if I liked it or not. though I’m not gonna lie, I’d probably judge someone if they told me they paid over $100 for a purse. it’s a purse.

  • Jen: I paid $100 for a Coach bag about 8 years ago. It’s still my everyday purse. It’s beat to shit. It’s dirty. But it is perfect for what I need. I’ve not bought another purse in 8 years. I think it’s finally meeting the end of its life, but I was/am ok with paying that kind of money since…you know I didn’t have to buy another bag. Before that, I was buying 4-5 $20 purses a year. So I spent the same amount that year but saved several hundred over the last 7 years. Of course, if you’re spending $100 on a purse every couple of months that completely makes my story pointless.
  • Sara: There’s nothing wrong with knock-offs! I’ve personally never had one, but that’s because I generally only get off-brand stuff, nothing designer. The bag I carried up until now cost like $15 from a shop in London and the one I have now was a freebie and I have no idea who made it. Of this topic I’ll say what I say about pretty much everything: do you. You can’t really go wrong with a “do you” policy!
  • Heather: I hate knock-offs/counterfeits, not least because I don’t find the whole shopping experience of choosing a bag out of some guy’s a van/in a damp basement enjoyable. Just buy some bag from Forever 21 and H&M that is inspired by the designer one, at least that those aren’t illegal.
  • Elizabeth: Can’t do it. The conditions illegal handbags are made in are appalling, even compared with fast fashion factory conditions. There was a section about the knockoff handbag trade-in Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster and it was genuinely appalling.
  • Tammy: I’ve bought a few knock-offs before and in my opinion, they’re not worth it. They are usually of poor quality (zippers break, linings tear, etc.) and smell like plastic. Buy the real thing gently used or shop the outlets to save money.
  • Charmless: I’m weirded out by people who buy knockoffs in an attempt to pass them off as the real thing. These people need to think long and hard about whom they’re trying to impress and why. It’s probably the wrong people for the wrong reasons. On the other hand, I have bought knockoffs without realizing they were knockoffs because I had no idea a designer version existed in the first place. I have a pair of Steve Madden shoes that are apparently Prada knockoffs and I had a little clutch from I can’t remember where that I found out years later was a Chanel design. I find this is often the case with fast fashion, but it’s not like H&M is trying to disguise itself as D&G. And I don’t buy the excuse that knock-offs take business away from designers. People who can afford $500 dresses aren’t usually going to Forever21 to buy the $20 version instead. Your second bullet point is on the mark. With the exception of indie designers and artists, I’ll knowingly wear a stolen design I like if it doesn’t have any fake designer logos or tags. A fake bag with monogrammed fabric?
  • ktree: I’m the same way with shoes! I saw an article a year or two ago about cheaper designers making “knock-offs” of designer shoes. I actually own one pair of shoes. I’m not exactly in the market for $1200 shoes so how would I know? And many shoe designs are pretty basic, I am pretty sure if I started “designing” shoes today I would inadvertently rip off all sorts of labels.
  • Samantha: I wish I could say I don’t occasionally go “ooooh” at designer labels, but that would be a lie because sometimes I do! Sometimes I just love a designer, so I get stoked on anything made by them. That said, I don’t think I would ever purchase a knockoff. (1) You usually have to do so sketchily, and (2) Even if those designers sell bags for exorbitant amounts, I don’t like the idea of copying something original and not benefiting the one who created it. (That said, I have a lot less empathy for rich designers who make millions of dollars and use sweatshops to create their products getting ripped off than I do for independent ones who get ripped off because that’s just fed up.)
  • Jen Pires: When I graduated college my dad bought me a Louis Vuitton as a gift. I was a huge designer whore back then and I had begged for it for 3 years and the deal was if I graduated he would buy it for me. We went to the store together and I picked the one I wanted, It was one of the black ones with colored monograms on it and it was 1300 ( ya, I know…) The funny thing is it is one of the crappier purses I have. It feels PLASTIC and it’s just cheaply made. I also hardly ever carry it around because ( at least back then) so many women had fake colored Louis Vuitton and I felt like just carrying it everyone would assume it was a fake and I felt silly. I’m completely over that designer phase now( not that anything is wrong with that anyway) and I get sooo many compliments on random 20 dollar purses. I feel like knockoff designer bags are a little tacky maybe? like driving a beat-up car with a BMW decal across the windshield. There are soooooo many unique cute cheap purses out there that I don’t see why if people can’t afford a high-end designer one they don’t just buy one of those instead. Just my opinion on it.
  • Noelle: Do you still have that Louis and if so, would you be interested in selling it? Sorry, I received one as a gift as well, and while I could never have afforded to buy it myself it’s my favorite bag. I have carried it every day for the last four years and can not even look at another bag. As for knock-offs, I wouldn’t bother buying one.
  • Ellen: I remember working for a high-end dept store in the handbag buying office, a woman came in and asked us if the ‘Prada’ handbag her friend purchased on her behalf in Hong Kong for $300 was real. It took us a while to confirm it was a fake. It was a damn good fake they just made the mistake of not riveting the Prada triangle correctly. She was very upset and said she would not use it if it was a fake…. this made no sense to me…. she wanted a ‘cheap’ Prada handbag but not a fake one.. the only way she could get one cheaply is if it was illegally obtained…. so from how I saw it she was ok with theft but didn’t want to be seen as someone who buys fake (fake is theft as well but whatever) I buy what I like and what I can afford. My favorite handbag was $5 from a local charity shop (damn thing fell apart 6 years after I bought it!!! I should really complain and ask for my money back :-D). There are designer bags I covet but I would prefer to buy a real sensibly priced nice bag to a fake designer bag… Mind you I have a ‘fake’ Thursday Friday Balenciaga printed tote that doesn’t even try to be the real thing lol
  • Elizabeth: I once read an article about sweatshops that make knockoffs that used child labor, and the children had their legs broken and chained so all they could do was work. Even if that’s not true, is a small risk that it is worth the shitty handbag? Plus just the process of buying a knockoff is so skeevy and like a drug deal. it’s not cute. You might advertise to the world “my persona is as fake as this bag!” Just go to a store and just buy a nice bag even though it doesn’t have a label. or save up and buy the real thing. there is literally no good reason to ever purchase a knockoff.
  • ktree: The way I look at it, if you pay $300 for a knock-off, why not just buy a real bag from a designer that’s cheaper or shop consignment? I got a Pucci bag on super sale, for like 1/4 of the price, from TJ Maxx, I have never had a designer bag before and I am in love with the quality, especially since I can be hard on bags. It feels like buying a knock-off would defeat the purpose of owning a quality product.
  • LynnKell: I personally feel tacky wearing or displaying big logos, so knock-offs make me even more self-conscious. I know I can’t afford high-end stuff so if I like something I try to look for a similar piece in fast fashion or I hang around indie friends who have designing abilities and buy their stuff.
  • Michelle: I know, I find really obvious labels annoying. I can tell when someone has a knockoff bag as well. It is pretty obvious.
  • Holly: I don’t really know anything about the story or history of where knockoffs come from, and if what everyone is saying is true, then that’s terrible and no, no one should be buying them. Other than that, I’ve always wondered why people bothered. I guess if you saw a design and really liked it and couldn’t afford the real price? I don’t know. It seems silly.
  • aemccarthy: I have a serious designer handbag problem, but only second-hand. There is joy in scoring a ridiculous deal on bags, like the totally authentic LV Speedys I picked up at a garage sale for $30/each. I collect vintage Vuitton, and I’ve never paid over $250 for a bag. For other designers, I use Google Alerts to troll Craigslist, eBay, Poshmark, etc, for the specific bag I’m looking for. I just bought my Michael Kors Selma (retail $358) for $150 from a Craigslist seller who had never even taken it out of the gift bag. Research and ye shall have amazing handbags for the cost of a garbage bag.
  • Seresy: Yes! I have a few gently-used LV bags, but they’re almost all 15+ years old (I love 90s epi colors), they’re real, and they’re still in amazing condition. None cost more than $250 and a few were under $200. It just takes time, patience, and some research into where you can buy them second-hand and be fairly certain about authenticity. (also, there are resources out there that can help authenticate.) The search is part of the fun.
  • Anne: There are wayyyyy too many issues with knockoff manufacturing and selling, not the least of which being that there are a lot of criminal organizations that use them to generate income, and, as you mentioned, their high-profit margins come from exploitative slave or near-slave labor. I like a good deal as much as the next girl, but I can’t do it when I know I pay a little because someone else is paying much more dearly for it.
  • sydneyb79: Not a knock-off fan, but that’s mainly because I’ve never been a huge fan of the styles that get knocked off. I like good-quality leather bags, but I don’t need a logo all over the thing (and actually, the less logo, the better). I’ve done well with Cole Haan, for the most part, this way, their styles are fairly classic and their logos are discreet. And they hold up to the fact that I abuse them. Also can recommend Cambridge Satchel for this (if you like the style).

Leave us a comment and maybe we can solve this mystery together!

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