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September 18, 2013

Imposter Purses


I was robbed on Hill Street this weekend. Swindled by the estate sale bandits of Southampton. Since this is our fashion week issue, I've decided to address a legitimate problem in the fashion industry, counterfeit designer goods.

We all know that purchasing counterfeit designer products is wrong, yet a lot of people do it anyway. I've never been able to buy these knockoffs for so many reasons, like the human trafficking, loss of American jobs, copyright infringement or child labor that results from the sale of these types of items, but that's a whole different rant. I would much rather save up for the real thing or engage in one of my favorite pastimes, bargain hunting.

Living in Southampton, I feel, gives us great opportunities when it comes to bargain, thrift, and consignment shopping. I've come across some really great finds in my day. At the Lucia's Angels handbag sale this summer, I purchased a leather Giorgio Armani tote for $8 and a Jimmy Choo handbag for $30. Original retail value would have been approximately $4000 on these two items combined. I've had them authenticated and they are 100 percent the real deal.

Once I was at the ARF Thrift shop, they had a promotion where you could buy anything that would fit in a bag for $5. I walked out with a bag of fantastic blazers that would have originally retailed for over $2000. At Super Saturday this year I left with bags full of Trina Turk dresses for $20 a pop, about a 90 percent discount. These deals do exist and I'm really good at finding them . . . usually.

My husband and I went yardsaling on Sunday. We stopped at an estate sale that seemed to have some really amazing finds. The home was located on famed American painter William Merritt Chase's Artist Colony which makes up the Southampton Art Village. It is currently on the market for $3.5 million. Other Art Village property owners have included, Kate and Andy Spade (Kate Spade, the handbag designer). The setting, as described by the home's real estate listing: "private rose garden and swinging porch verandas portray a setting where guests can sit strewn amongst green privets and those famous secret hedges of the Hamptons socialites." Yeah, that kind of rich.

So when the women working the estate sale gave me a believable, yet really amazing, deal on what looked like four designer handbags, I took the bait. Spoiler alert, three out of four bags were complete fakes. I'm usually on my game when it comes to spotting counterfeits. I don't know if it was the multi-million dollar home, the real bags mixed with the very-well-done fake bags, or the price points. But they got me, and they got me good.

Beyond excited, I decided to take my new finds to the experts when I got home. I stopped by The Perfect Purse in Southampton. The Perfect Purse sells the best-of-the-best in used designer handbags and everything is guaranteed authentic.

The verdict . . . Hermès, fake. Louis Vuitton, fake. Prada, real. Miu Miu, really fake. The kicker, the same women who sold me the bags had already brought them in for appraisal. She knew they were fake. She had lied to my face. "That's a Louis Vuitton you know," she said to me as I was browsing. Um, yes, I know.

"You're getting a really good deal! Wear them in good health," she told me as I handed her nearly half a week's paycheck (before taxes). Wear them in good health?!? How about sell them in good conscience? If I were to visit Paris this winter, which I very well may, caught with that fake Louis Vuitton bag, I could have landed up to three years in prison and been stuck with nearly a $500,000 fine. I'm serious.

We went back to the estate and asked nicely for a refund. I was, of course, willing to keep the authentic items I purchased. She refunded us $250 for the extremely worn Hermès counterfeit but wouldn't budge on the rest. I left behind the other fraudulent items. As I stated earlier, I have no use for a fake bag.

Moral of the story, don't buy or sell fake designer items. It's not a victimless crime. Even when the victim is an innocent yardsaler.

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