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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Faux Handbag Update: Chloe, Balenciaga and the "Real Thing" Via a Sample Sale

This post is overdue, but my procrastination has led to a fortuitous conclusion, but you will have to read through to find out…

A couple weeks ago I got an email from Elizabeth, a reader, in response to my series on fake handbag shopping:

“really enjoyed your posts about fake designer handbags and canal street. I
found the site via google.
your post about fake balenciagas and chloe paddington bags on canal street
struck a nerve. I just bought an amazing office balenciaga in smoke grey on
thursday. this particular spot (a few stalls east of the old pearl
river entrance) has great knockoffs. definitely top of the line replicas.
the saleswoman knows it too. she suggested we buy the horrible faux
balenciagas next door (the place that sold them with the nameplate - you can
buy those with or without the plate) when I balked at $200. she also has the
balenciagas in the city size ($140) and clutches ($50). the great copies are
almost sold out. she also has the grade B knockoffs. there are still tons of
chloe paddington bags. really lovely leather and good locks.

my friend and I went back on monday to buy a city balenciaga for his mom.
she was almost sold out of the grade A knockoffs!
you should check out her store the next time you are back in nyc.”

Well, I was really excited about checking them out, and Elizabeth graciously provided details on the location of the stall (which I wont provide here but you can email me to get).

Alas, Elizabeth predicted correctly and by the time I made it over to Canal St in NYC, about four days later on a Sunday, all the good fakes were gone. No real leather or outstanding stitching greeted me, but rather a whole lot of B-grade pleather knockoffs that looked obviously fake to me, even from a distance. There were gaggles of women pouring over them nonetheless, many whom could never pull off even a real-looking faux Chloe or Balenciaga bag simply because of their other clothing (sorry, the truth is sometimes bitchy, and it’s not that you have to wear expensive clothes to be believable, but you do need to be well-coordinated, somewhat trendy/fashion-forward and wear it like you own the look).

The upside (perhaps) was that the Chloe/Balenciaga phenomenon was not limited to that stall, but permeated all of Canal St. They were lining the walls, swinging from hooks and being handled by onlookers all over the place. It was sort of depressing. Took the mystique out of the brands for me – when fakes become that overrepresented, owning one isn’t that special.

Maybe my tide of opinion is turning because I may have personally graduated from fake bags (at least, except for the occasional cheap thrill, like the $20 black clutch I’ve been hunting for). Yesterday, I found a bag at a sample sale in NYC that was truly splendid and is, perhaps, my handbag soul mate. Thus like a proud new mommy, I’m going to gloat with several pictures of my adorable new addition!

I actually was shopping for clothes at the sample sale (Back Fashion Cult, 37th between 8th and 9th Aves), but as I circled the loft, I kept coming back to it, and then back to it again. I’d pick it up and look at it, turned it around and around in my hands, admiring the stitching and leather. I put it back. I walked out of the store and pressed the button to call the elevator.

And then I found myself walking back into the store. Propelled by some force beyond my control. I immediately went for the bag, picked it up, looked it over one more time, and it was mine.

It’s real leather (oh how rich does it smell! I’ve been having people smell it all day), lined with a soft suede interior and is 100% original (at least in my corner of the world), made by Vimoda Paris. And the best part is that since it was at a sample sale (i.e. wholesale) price, I got it for a third of what it retails for (originally $300, I got it for $95).

What I love about it most is that while it is reminiscent of both Balenciaga and Chloe’s slouchy stressed leather and buckle-and-zippered-styles, it is original and fits my distinct personal style.

Sample sale hunting may have ruined me to Canal Street…the rush of finding the perfect deal is even greater when it comes packaged in real leather.


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