Fakes are Getting Better

Source: WSJ, Jun 2011

Ms. Gurjian-Angelo fell victim to a new generation of counterfeit fashion goods, offering much more convincing facsimiles of actual products. They are a far cry from cheap knockoffs, with “Prado” or “Cucci” logos sold out of trash bags on street corners to consumers who know they’re buying fakes. The goods are made of high-quality materials, with zippers and grommets boasting the brand name, and are stamped with what appears to be the proper manufacturing location and date. They’re fooling even savvy shoppers, especially online.

A fake Hermès bag imitates the real bag’s leather ‘veining,’ but doesn’t feel as supple, says Elizabeth Bernstein, an expert in authenticating luxury goods. Other signs of a fake: hardware that feels lightweight and zippers that catch.

Vendors selling fake merchandise can easily set up legitimate-looking ecommerce sites, with full product descriptions as well as marketing images and logos that look like those on websites selling authentic goods. They also buy keyword advertisements on search engines to lure in bargain-hunting shoppers, said Frederick Felman, chief marketing officer at MarkMonitor, a firm that helps companies protect their brands.

The prices of the imitators are rising, confusing customers who are looking for the real deal at a discounted price. Still, the higher-priced fakes are just a fraction of what a real item would cost. YSL’s authentic version of Ms. Gurjian-Angelo’s bag sells for more than $1,500.

More than 60% of counterfeit goods seized by U.S. agents last year came from China, which has a sizeable pool of highly skilled labor and is increasingly the source of legitimate luxury goods manufacturing. Seizures from China rose 18%, in part the result of higher mail activity.

Recently, a Louis Vuitton bag had the proper stamp of the year, week and location from which the bag was produced. “They’re making better and better fakes every day,” Ms. Bernstein said.

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