My family went on a huge vacation to China this summer:

The museums, culture, and food were amazing…
But my sisters and I were truly tickled pink by the shopping and great fakes in Shanghai:

In the markets, we rushed from store to store, haggling, bargaining, and bluffing with the ladies who had ‘looks real to me’ Burberry, Puma, Marc Jacobs, Prada, etc.

Thinking I had a good grasp on what real vs. faux looked like, I made my purchases with confidence.

I bought this ‘Burberry’ scarf/shawl (as a souvenir of course!):

for about…$10.
A similar piece:

Is $225 at Saks.

I have a couple real Burberry items…and I honestly thought this scarf was a good match.

The other day I went to the snootiest of snooty sample sales and set my designer imposter scarf on a table. A guy came by to look at wares on the table, so I moved my scarf. As I did he said, “Oh it’s yours. For a second I thought this vendor was selling Burberry Knock Offs.”

I was shocked and awed. I knew that I’d paid $10 for it abroad, but the fact that this snooty man could tell it wasn’t real totally trampled my belief that all the fakes I purchased in China could actually fool anyone in NYC.
I felt…tacky!

My question is this: Are fakes an upgrade or a downgrade?

Let’s weigh the pros:
1. If a fake is actually good enough to fool people, why bother buying the real thing? My sister’s sweet ‘Ferragamo’ clutch is real leather and a nice bag:

and also unique enough that only Anna Wintour would know the difference.
2. Also, I think Mr. Ferragamo is charging wayyy too much for his $800 bags. In the spirit of democracy, luxury aspirations, and fashion, is it so bad to rock a *great* fake?
3. Who cares if Mr. Snooty knows the difference? Most people can’t tell at all. A fashion assistant friend of mine complimented me profusely on my shawl before I dropped the “I got it in China” bomb.

Then again, the cons:
1. Apparently buying fakes is immoral. Counterfeit sales negatively affect Burberry’s billion dollar business…and according to a WWD article last year by Liza Casabona, buying fakes contributes to organized crime:(
2. Why bother with super fancy labels at all? In Fabulosity, Kimora Lee says, “…Don’t buy fake luxury-brand pieces–the people you’re trying to impress will know right away you got that Louis Vuitton on Canal Street. Go for unexpected middle pieces from middle-tier brands (the ones other women probably won’t pick).” Good point.
3.Lastly, the tacky factor. Tackiness=fashion suicide.

So, are fakes ok? Or not so much?
Should I walk my ‘Burberry’ over to the Salvation Army?
What do you think?


PS The NYTimes writes about the perils of carrying large handbags here.

*Paul & Joe’s Sample Sale is this Thursday-Sunday from 12-7 at 361 W. 17th St. Between 8-9th Aves. Lauren Moffatt makes an appearance on Friday December 8th! Visa, mc, amex & cash.
*Theory Sample Sale care of Clothingline: 261 W 36th Street (between 7th & 8th Ave). 2nd Floor. New York, NY 10018

40 thoughts on “Knock Offs: Upgrade or Downgrade? My Experience Buying Fakes in China”

  1. I understand the temptation to purchase fakes since purchasing the real thing can really hurt your wallet. But I do think that buying fakes is wrong. People buy the real thing often because of the quality and workmanship associated with luxury products. Although sometimes this isn’t the case (ie. the Marc Jacobs bag I bought where the dye ran all over my white shirt), but I think it should be one of the main reasons to purchase. Buying the fakes just makes you seem like a label whore who can’t afford the real thing. Boo to the fakes!

  2. Look, not everyone is meant to have a Louis Vuitton. That’s why its a luxury item and priced accordingly. This is why Coach exists, for people who want luxury but cant afford the super high end items.
    I dont see a point in buying knock offs. Its really gauche. Besides, its NYC and if you cant find bargains here then you arent worth a shopping salt. I got Gucci loafers for $150 and Miu Miu pants for $22. Its not hard, just put in the work.

  3. Gurl, walk that scarf down to the nearest Salvation Army….
    Fakes are tacky! For 10 people that may not know the difference, there will be 20 people that will! Not cute…

  4. i can tell a fake.. and i could tell that your burberry scarf is REALLY fake by looking at the width of the stripes

    burberry copyrighted and patented their stripes because its THEIR signature. folks dont know that they measure each width and length of the design. and on your knockoff, those stripes are wide.

    but when i go to festivals and such and they sell knockoffs, they have the audacity to sell if for like $100.. i’m like “i aint gunna pay 100 bucks for a fake!” in that case, u might as well buy the real deal

    i dont like european designers because its so commerical and everyone wears it. i like indie designers better because its 1 of a kind..word is bond

  5. co-sign, fakes are tacky when it comes to threads. jewelry, however, can be worn…like the bling from my 8 dollar flea market diamond watch that peeps are CONSTANTLY commenting on. I say no to fake threads and bags, yes to fake jewelry in moderation. then again, i think clothing plastered with labels are pretty tacky too.

  6. Look, y’all, Claire went to China, which makes her bootleg scarf way hotter than buying something in one of these makeshift China Towns.

    Who cares what it is? Knock off, or brand name, the fact is she didn’t go to Canal street to buy it, she went to China like, the real China, where they have like, real Chinese people.

    I say, rock that fake scarf you got Claire, because how many people wearing the real stuff can actually say they’ve been shopping in China? Not many, because the center of their world is 5th Ave and high end clothing stores.

    I think you all are missing the underlying point. Claire is a global fashionista.

  7. I have seen you in that scarf before and I thought it looked great on you. I had no idea it was fake! I personally don’t see any problem with you continuing to rock it! It’s warm, very cute & was only $10. I don’t think most people would be able to tell the difference. Plus who would take the time to stare at you long enough to measure the width of the stripes? I have a Fendi bag that is 100% authentic and a couple of people still thought it was a fake. People are always going to size you up and hate. You are gorgeous and oozing with style. Let them hate while you keep lookin fierce in your scarf from CHINA!!

  8. Listen, not all of us can afford $3000 bags or $200 scarfs, quality or not…and even if I could afford a name brand bags for ridiculous prices I wouldn’t make the purchase. I really have trouble believing that a bag, from leather of the best and healthiest cows sewn with the finest thread by the wisest and most able seamstresses, could be worth what these designers are asking by a long stretch. So you know what Claire, you stick it to em, wear your scarves and bags, they look good. And when haters with the real bags and the real scarfs call you out remember that the money you saved bought you a business class ticket to China.
    You are totally global

  9. Huey Says: “I say, rock that fake scarf you got Claire, because how many people wearing the real stuff can actually say they’ve been shopping in China?”

    So by your standards, shopping for knock off merchandise in Shanghai is “shopping in china?” Im sorry…what?? My mom went to China and brought back jade and small hand carved antiques. As much as I like Claire, going all the way to China and buying knock off British merchandise is such a waste of time I cant begin to fathom it.

  10. ” My mom went to China and brought back jade and small hand carved antiques” – Upperwestsidedummy

    How do you know those antiques were hand carved? Sounds like you never been to China, so I’m probably right in saying you weren’t there to see your mom purchase these items. I’ll even bet my bottom dollar she didn’t see the vendors actually make the hand carved antiques.

    Seeing as how sensitive you are, your mother probably told you the jade was real and the antiques were hand carved, but in reality she picked them up at the Duty Free shop while her plane was delayed.

    Have you ever even been on a plane? Do you know how cold those things are? So please believe Claire bought the scarf in the name of function not fashion.

  11. i’m all about buying things that look cute. couldn’t care less who’s name is on the label. if i love a top from target, i’m gettin’ it. if i see a cheap scarf in china that is super cute (and i know i could get something just like it on 5th ave for 50x the price), i’m gettin’ it.

    for me shopping is so much less about who made it and so much more about how it looks on me. so if you love the scarf and it makes you feel hot, rock on.

    ps – although i will say that the organized crime fact isn’t too cool…

  12. Upperwestsideguy,
    As Claire’s sister who did accompany her on that trip to China I can vouch that the entirety of the trip was not spent shopping for European knock-offs. We bought all the things your mother bough with the understanding, as anonymous stated, that China is a country catering to millions of tourists and that EVERYTHING you buy has the possibility of being fake. Let’s not knock Claire for her take on “shopping” in China. She was in China, she bought something, that pretty much constitute a shopping trip in my book.
    And more importantly, this is a blog entry about countefeits, I am sure at another point Claire could do an entire entry on the more “cultural” trinkets she has acquired all over the world (and trust me, this girl is global) but not today.
    Claire: Let your haters be your motivators!

  13. I really don’t think that “most” people can tell a knock-off.

    1-The majority of people in the streets are not wealthy enough to buy the real thing. I think many people could care less, and/or do not even go into these high end designer stores. If you never really pay attention, how could you know?

    So really, I think the people who notice are the types that are clothes-whores (nothing wrong with being a clothes-whores), and especially those who can afford to buy the stuff. So in the end I think it depends on who who may/may not be trying to impress!

    For me a really good knock-off, or unique knock-off is okay. A bunch of my friends live in NYC and buy the fendi/gucci/LV knock-offs.. obviously the whole circle knows they are fakes. Of course, I would never spend $100s of dollars on a knock off like they do, but hey, to each your own! When we are “Balllliinnn” in 10 years we’ll get the realdeal.

    I love this blog! Claire you seem like a true YBF chic.

  14. Fakes are tacky. If you can’t afford to buy the real thing, you search for that item on sale or save up. Let’s face it, you will always feel paranoid that people know it is fake. Is the stress worth it? I got burned once by a fake Louis and it took me some time but I bought not only the bag but the wallet from Macy’s. I dare anyone to question the authenticity and that is worth the $1500 price tag.

  15. That KLS quote was great! I think fakes are unnecessary. There is always the option to look for the real thing on ebay or at a consignment shop. And also, if you truly love the STYLE of a name brand item you can get a legit “inspired” version (for instance I love those Louboutin Prive pumps, but being out of my price range, I went for a similar Steve Madden style). But if your purpose is just to show off a label (which shouldn’t be a motive for buying clothes), those who are into that brand will know the truth 99% of the time. But hey, each to his/her own…people who want to make it their life’s mission to call out and embarrass people with fakes are just as tacky as those wearing them!

    Love your blog Claire!

  16. personally, i don’t like purchasing phony items. i think it’s tacky, and that there are plenty of beautiful pieces in everybody’s price range if you look for them. some of these fakes are even more expensive then quality bags in the middle-brand realm. it’s really pointless. i agree with the upperwestsideguy, there are deals for luxury items all over the city. i bought my first louis vuitton for $100 in a vintage shop, a bag that’s in great condition, at least 20 years old, meaning the chances of seeing someone else with the same style are slim to none. if you don’t like vintage, check out sample sales (claire has listed plenty). if neither of those options appeal to you, save and get the real thing. there is really no reason to fake it. aesthetically, claire’s scarf is kinda cute, if she wants to keep it, so be it.

  17. I used to be a avid ‘Don’t rock fakes’ beliver, but I would say as long as you don’t rock a TACKY “Goach” instead of Coach, or “Prado” vs. Prada bag it isn’t too bad.

    I recently purchased my FIRST knock-off ever at the nail salon (a mess, I know) but it was too cute to resist. It is a Dolce & Gabbana red leather satchel for only $35! I was getting my nails done and I couldn’t keep my eyes off of it. I get complements on it all the time and the label is really subtle: It has the D&G on a small rectangular bronze plate on the outside.

    I actually want a real Chloe bag but its hard to trust all the choices on ebay.

    I feel u Claire & I love your blog; when I start making that REAL $$$ then I will buy authentic.

  18. Personally I would never buy a fake when there are so many up-and-coming designers who create unique items at affordable prices.

    I can’t knock anyone for buying a knockoff no pun intended), but if there are loose threads, hardwear that is turning color and styles and shapes that don’t even exist then you SCREAM tacky! At least be tactful and carry a piece that is believable.

    If I did decide to purchase designer piece it wouldn’t be saturated with logos. I like simple and classic pieces that are tasteful and timeless.

    What this debate really boils down to is Why do you want to purchase the item (knockoff or not)? If it is because you are inspired by the piece, you like the look and the workmanship is top notch then do it. But if it is to show status (knockoff or not) then you aren’t a true fashionista, you’re simply a lemming following the masses because someone said that this item was hot.

    In closing if Claire loves her scarf and isn’t bothered or embarassed by other peoples opinions then wear your piece with conviction!

  19. People need to stop the madness. I don’t think that its a felony to buy fakes. As has been said, everyone can’t afford to buy the REAL DEAL. For the people who can spot ur scarf and call you out on it being Fake, maybe they oughta spend less of their lives being so anal about shit and be more productive.

    I say rock your scarf with pride!!

  20. I am surprised that this entry sparked this heated a debate, wow. I dont see anything wrong with buying knowck-offs. I personally don’t own any knock-offs because I shop so much that it is in my blood and I can find a bargain on anything. But my aunt always buys knock-offs. I believe fake or not its how you rock it. I know the way I carry myself no one questions whether my real stuff is fake. The way my aunt carries herself no one questions whether her fake stuff is real, they just think its real. Its all in the way you carry it. I will say this, keep it simple. If you get something fake DO NOT get something with labels are over it. I personally can usually tell if something is fake but also look at the way the person carries themself. Thats usually a dead giveaway. That skarf you got, fake or not, is hott and the outfit you are pictured with it sets it off so I say rock it. I love this blog by the way.

  21. I think carrying fakes is a bad idea. Why try to exemplify a lifestyle you truly can’t afford? People look ridiculous carrying/wearing accessories that cost more than the simple things they can barely afford to pay for, such as their car payments, household bills, etc. It’s in short, ghetto! Why not just buy a Nine West bag or something? Stick to the middle brands until you can actually afford the real thing… although splurging on one or two real high-end bags or pair of shoes is okay. But please, don’t fake it. It’s just TACKY.

  22. Lovette, you said “As has been said, everyone can’t afford to buy the REAL DEAL.”…so why *pretend* that you can with a fake? Especially when there are so many other options and brands out there? (not an accusation, but an honest question :-) )

    And true, on the list of criminal activity, counterfeiting isn’t at the top, but I still don’t like the idea of supporting an illegal industry.

  23. Another thought, to anyone who has ever created something – a blog, a manuscript, a piece of artwork… wouldn’t it piss you off to know that there was someone out there profitting with a knock-off of your work? Not someone with a similiar item inspired by your idea, but someone passing off a second-rate item with YOUR name on it. I mean, I know these “poor little fashion designers” are doing quite fine in spite of the counterfeit market, but the principle of the thing burns me.

  24. I am not a big fan of the ‘fake’ags, but if you can get away with…get away with it!! However, I have never seen a fake LV bag that can pass! I am definitely loving the Kimora quote, because it is sssoooo true!

  25. i love this blogggggggggg.. and i believe u should rock ur scarf..

    I think its worst when pple buy fake logo logo bag..i have two.. and im always embarass to carry them into boomings and co.

  26. This debate reminds me of the Sex and the City episode “Sex and Another City” where Samantha buys a fake designer purse (I think it was Fendi) anyway she’s at the Playboy mansion and assumes that one of the playmates stole it. That was too funny.

  27. Girl Rock you Furbery (Fake Burbery)Shawl! I say fake or real if you feel good in it why not, designers are ripping people off w/ some of the prices they charge for their items, some of them make a 300% profit off of their consumers because some of the items are poor quality and don’t even cost that much to make. Don’t get me wrong some designers and pieces are definitley worth investing in but clearly some aren’t. Do your thang and bump what every body else is saying, because they aren’t paying your bills. You’d be surprised by who rocks fake labels and jewels. But damn Ms. Honey at that sample sale did play you though, he sounds like a queen to me and they can be very cruel…screw em though.

  28. I think buying fake pursases makes you look cheap or even tacky esp when its obvious that its fake and just lets the whole world know that youre so set on labels that you cant even afford e.g LV’s. Dont return the scarf since it was only $10 and its your souvenir. But i’d be barking at you if you had spent $50 or more on a fake Burb scarf.

  29. Love your blog! I don’t like fakes. I plan on having my own fashion line one day, and I would hate to see one of my own knock offs being sold.

  30. HAs anyone ever been to G oto the site and tell me after looking at these knock- offs would you really buy the real thing?! These look so authentic its sickning…let me know what you think

  31. I know you must have felt horrible, but what a funny incident! By-the-way, were you at the Burberry Sample Sale at Woodbury Commons in NY? Anyway, that man should have been ashamed of himself, calling you out like that. Some people have no grace at all.

  32. Personally, I’ve always felt that if you can’t afford the real thing, then buy the best QUALITY accessories that you can afford. You will always look authentic. High end brands like Gucci, Louis Vuitton and others are a lifestyle. When you buy knockoff, it seems and looks..well…fake?

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