How to spot a fake designer handbag

I don’t do fakes.

If there’s one thing my friends and customers know about me, it’s that I won’t touch a fake designer handbag in my store – and not just because it would be illegal for me to sell one.

The making of and sale of fake goods – of any kind – is illegal. Buying fake goods is not illegal, but while you may not be punished by the law, there are other ways in which you might suffer.

Very briefly: those who make fakes have no interest in protecting their brand reputation, or the end-user. They are happy to use dangerous materials, make have their goods made in illegal sweatshops or by children, the money made from selling fakes is often diverted into funding other illegal activities, such as human trafficking, drugs or terrorism, and fake goods can damage the income of true brands and put their employees livelihoods at risk. Finally – those who knowingly retail fakes are not likely to be too concerned about what happens to their customers’ personal details or bank details, and you risk identity theft and fraud,

Now, I will admit that before I opened Dress Cheshire and did my research, none of these things were apparent to me, and like any woman the idea of carrying an iconic handbag at a bargain basement price was appealing. However, with knowledge comes understanding, and I wouldn’t cross the road for one, now.

Sadly, as shopping online for all goods and services – even designer clothes and accessories – becomes much more part of our culture, the rise in people being fooled into buying fakes gathers momentum. Buying brand new direct from a recognised retailer – such as Harvey Nichols or the brand itself – of course offers all the protection you need, but there are increasing numbers of resellers of pre-loved designer clothes and bags, and not all are as passionate as I am about never, ever selling on a fake designer bag.

So – how do you spot a fake designer handbag? And what should you do if you think you’ve been fooled? Below are 2 Chanel Timeless Classic handbags, one is real, one is not. Can you tell which is which?

Check the price

Is it a little too good to be true? If the retailer is selling bags they know, or suspect, are dodgy, they’ll be keen to get rid.

Examine the logo/branding

Research the brand and do a side-by-side comparison. There are little nuances that are unique, such as the bottom leg of the E in the CHANEL logo is slightly longer in length than the middle leg in the E.  Who knew?

Check the material the bag is made from

Most designer handbags are of course made from quality leather, so the bag you have should feel like, have the weight of, and smell of a quality leather. Other materials include exotic leathers and fabric.

Check the lining

The internal lining in a true bag will be beautiful either quality fabric, leather and always perfectly fitted. Often those who make fakes will be working from a photo, so it might not even be the correct colour and very often it will be badly fitted or even made of plastic. Look how badly this fake Chanel bag has deteriorated inside because it’s made of plastic.

Check the stitching

A true designer handbag is made by highly trained experts in their craft and goes through rigorous quality control before it is sent to retail. Poor stitching – uneven, wonky, poorly finished – is a sign it hasn’t come from the brand it purports to be made by. The stitching on any luxury brand handbag will be precise, some are even hand stitched to perfection. Louis Vuitton uses a classic mustard coloured stitching on all its classic monogram bags, and a Chanel classic bag will feature a single internal hand stitch just under the flap on each side of the bag. Look at the difference on this picture here (and can you spot the single hand stitch?)

Take a close look at metal elements – d-rings, clips, zips, chains, etc.

Luxury brands use proper alloys, stainless steel and sometimes even plate their hardware with real gold, silver or palladium precious metal. It should look and feel luxurious. There should be a weight to it, so you know nothing is hollow, and it shouldn’t have chips or scratches save for any created by an unruly previous owner! Zips will run smoothly and padlocks will have keys that work. The keys on a Hermès Birkin will feature an engraved number that matches the number on the padlock on the bag itself. There will also be a signature H on the internal zip of a Hermès handbag.

Check the overall design

Is it the right length? Is it precisely the right height? Does it have the right number of pockets? If you are buying a pre-loved Chanel handbag, you will be able to find imagery and descriptions of the real thing online and so can be sure if the model you have bought is the same as the model on retail. A genuine Timeless Classic Chanel features a pocket especially designed to hold a lipstick and a zip pocket on the inside flap – originally designed by Coco Chanel to hold love letters!

What else does it come with?

Designer handbags should come with a quality branded protective cloth bag, correctly logo-ed and ideally with a proof of purchase. I cannot express clearly enough how vital it is that if you are buying a new designer handbag, you hang on to everything it comes with – all the paperwork, boxes, all the bags, everything. Then, should you decide later to resell, life will be much simpler for you. Many luxury brands have now stopped producing authenticity cards in recent times and Hermès has never used them, so if your Birkin has an orange authenticity card, you’ve got a fake bag.

Take it to an expert

If you have made the purchase and just feel it’s a little hinky, but you don’t know for sure, take it to a retailer of the originals or a qualified authenticator and they can assess it for you.

Protect yourself

If you are buying designer pieces from an online retailer of pre-loved items, always pay by credit card. This way, if you item does prove to be fake, and you struggle to get a refund from the retailer, you can request your credit card company to step in and take action. The law is on your side.

Over the years I have developed a bit of a sixth sense when it comes to sniffing out a fake, but on the odd occasion even I have to take third party advice. I recently had a beautiful Chanel handbag sent in, in a dust bag, and it even had a Harrods receipt. The fact that the person attempting to sell it had simply popped it in the first class post to me was my first red flag, and upon examination the bag just felt off. To me it was an obvious fake, but I could see how others could easily be fooled, especially with that receipt which clearly was for the original bag of the same style, but this one had been swapped in its place for a fake.

If you want to buy a pre-loved designer handbag with total assurance you’re getting the real thing, come to me. If you have bought a preloved designer handbag recently and are a little unsure of its true provenance, bring it in, I will be very happy to assess it for you and if I’m not sure, I’ll point you in the right direction for a second opinion.

Did you spot which was the fake and which was the real deal between the pink and black Birkins? Or the 2 Black Timeless Classic Chanel bags? The pink Birkin is the fake, we know this by its poor quality hardware, the machine stitching, the poor quality leather and the little feet underneath screw off (this never happens on a genuine Birkin).

As for the side by side Chanel bags, the one on the left is the fake. It’s got a plastic interior and cheap chrome hardware.

And finally

I fully understand that not everyone can afford a genuine luxury branded handbag, but did you know the money from the sales of fakes fund organised criminal gang crime and terrorism.


Christine x