Lisa, a 38-year-old Manhattan woman, has this superrich friend. She has a massive Birkin collection, a $10 million dollar house in the Hamptons, and flies everywhere in private jets. “I just assumed everything was real,” says Lisa. Then one day, the friend lets her in on a secret. Those Birkins? They’re fake. She gets them at “Tupperware parties” for replica designer bags.
This was Lisa’s first brush with the fake-handbag world, and soon she was hooked. A stay-at-home mom with a household income she says caps around $3 million a year, Lisa already owned a number of authentic pieces. But since discovering replicas, she’s sold almost all of them, funneling the money into a cache of counterfeit Birkins. Her Instagram, which is dedicated to the collection, is full of photos of them —arranged around her dog, on various pristine beaches, on the tables of expensive restaurants in the city. She’s spent something like $10,000 on reps in the last year. “That way, my husband doesn’t get mad at me, because I’m not really spending real money.”
And those Tupperware parties? Lisa was intrigued, but a lifetime of shrewd shopping told her the bag lady must be getting the goods from somewhere. “I’m going to cut her out,” she thought. “That’s how I found RepLadies.”
RepLadies is a sub-Reddit dedicated to counterfeit luxury goods, and where a community of mostly millennial women gather to acquire them. Exquisite replicas of everything from designer shoes to Rimowa suitcases are available, but the bags are the real attraction. You can get just about anything in any color for one to 10 percent of the price of the authentic —classic flap Chanels, croc-skin Birkins, Telfar totes, even “fantasy” items in fanciful colors and prints or plated with something like glitter hardware.
Founded in 2016, the sub-Reddit has nearly 200,000 members, making it neither the largest nor oldest replica community on the internet. It is, however, tight-knit with a distinct culture marked by a kind of derision for authentic goods and the belief that buying replicas is a way of subverting the system and sticking it to the man; reps “take a shit on theyou can’t sit with usmentality of designer brands,” as one RepLady put it in a post. The sub is a repository of insider knowledge, featuring detailed guides on how to communicate in Chinese, avoid getting doxed, and buy bags from sellers with made-up names who liaise for factories in the “middle of nowhere China.” Such are the challenges of doing business here, warns the FAQ: “We all want the best, but we’re dealing with a black market.”
Although the majority of RepLadies are based in New York City, you’d be mistaken to think of the sub as some kind of virtual Canal Street. According to a self-reported survey it released last year, the group spent more than $3 million on replicas in 2021, and among its members were several chief executives, venture capitalists, a diplomat, and a Big Tech ethics adviser. In fact, the community seems to be largely made up of wealthy women who own authentic bags, can absolutely afford more, and continue to buy fakes. There are hundreds of posts comparing the two, with RepLadies analyzing the fake within an inch of its life: Is the stitch count exact? The glazing rich? Are the specks of paint on a Goyard rep daubed correctly? Does it smell “fufu” or not?
These gimlet-eyed assessments usually reveal the reps as indistinguishable from the authentics. Sometimes, the fakes are actually better. But RepLadies aren’t just here for the quality; the know-how required to navigate the high-end replica market is in itself a kind of currency, one that seems to appeal to even the wealthiest of women. For this cadre of rep obsessives, status isn’t a massive collection of real luxury bags; it’s the ability to find a fake so perfect it feels more theirs than the real thing.
“It’s about the atavistic thrill of the hunt —the feeling of getting a bargain,” says a former real-estate developer who retired a few years ago at age 30. “I don’t just want a thing; I want to feel like I’ve gotten it for a deal.” She claims to own “hundreds, probably thousands of reps” including nearly a hundred bags and a rep Bulgari necklace set that cost more than $10,000. (The real thing can run you over $75,000.) When asked about her money, she says she was born rich and “bet everything on a friend’s start-up that was sold to Apple.”
And in spite of her household’s seven-figure income, Lisa (who requested a pseudonym) loves a good sale.“My friends that spend a lot on authentics have either never worked a day in their life or they’ve married rich guys,” she says. “But if you’re working hard for your money, you don’t want to spend it on stupid stuff. In New York especially, wealthy people just have more interesting things to do with their money. They invest in crypto. They reinvest in their businesses. They invest in their children.”
Still, most of Lisa’s rich friends ignore her suggestions to buy reps. “It’s just a snobbery thing,” she says. “They’ve literally told me, ‘I’m too good to buy reps.’” Instead, “they’re out here buying authentic Hermès, and they are stressing out every single day. ‘Will I get the bag?’ ‘What if it runs out?’ I’m just like, You literally don’t need this stress in your life; you can just be happy.”
She echoed a number of women I spoke with who think authentic customers are the ones getting played. “These days, the reps just tend to be better made,” a Hamptons-based chief strategy officer tells me. “They last longer. There’s more attention to detail. You can tell that things have been done by hand.” Meanwhile, luxury brands have recently implemented thousands of dollars worth of price hikes — the cost of Chanel’s medium flap bag, for example, has increased 60 percent since 2019 — leaving shoppers wondering what exactly buying authentic does for them.
Take Cindy, a stay-at-home mom in Flushing who found her way to reps after spending a couple thousand on a Dior that fell apart at the seams. “Imagine we were just spending all of our money on authentic handbags,” she says. “You would never grow your wealth that way, right?”
Getting a good rep requires a certain amount of savvy, and while the internet is one way to do that, some New Yorkers turn to one of the city’s many middlemen. While there’s a markup, it’s less “sketchy,” says one buyer. “There’s a veneer of legitimacy because it’s an actual person,” explains Lisa. “You’re not just sending money to China hoping you get a bag in return.”
One reseller is something of an urban legend. A kind of counterfeit doyenne, she shills reps out of her Tribeca penthouse and uptown, where the extra room in her classic six serves as a showroom. “All the moms buy from her,” one Upper West Side rep buyer noted, while another described a party at which guests were encouraged to compare the doyenne’s real Birkins with the fake ones she was selling. “I have seen a lot of influencers at them and a few reality stars,” says the Hamptons-based RepLady.
Lisa may have been approached by her out of the blue. “There’s this lady on the Upper East Side who looks like a rich Asian mom,” she says when I mention the rumors to her. “She stopped me on the street carrying a red Kelly Danse and was like, ‘Do you like the Birkin I’m carrying? I can take you somewhere to get one.’”
Perhaps there is a kingpin, but what’s more likely is that a number of New Yorkers, some of them wealthy, are acting as middlemen, shipping the bags over in bulk and holding the parties. One of them is Bree, a 20-something single mom who works with a network of some 60 sellers to source bags for her “thousands of loyal clients” —mostly Long Island women she manages on a private Facebook page. The sellers usually let her keep 10 percent, and she estimates that she makes around $5,000 a month. She’s less concerned about getting in trouble with the law than about Facebook shutting her down. “Then I would have to start all over again,” she says.
Although replicas are something of an open secret, buyers do worry about repercussions. “I don’t want to be caught red-handed with thousands of dollars of Chinese merchandise,” frets one in the midst of building a second closet for her fakes. “You could get in minor trouble for that.”
How much trouble? “No one has ever served prison time for importing a few of these items for personal use,” says fashion lawyer Douglas Hand. Stateside resellers are violating trademark laws, he explains, but buyers “can always say, ‘I wasn’t aware it was inauthentic.’” The China-based sellers can also be punished, but even if they could be located, “we’re limited on what we can do outside of our border,” say representatives from Customs and Border Protection, who added that China “can be difficult to work with” when it comes to cracking down on fakes.
Still, the bags do occasionally get seized, and RepLadies have shared terrifying disciplinary letters sent directly from fashion houses. They typically contain grand threats —prison terms, multimillion-dollar fines —and are “intended to shock and awe the recipients,” says Hand. But these letters are one of the few cards fashion houses can play; the global rep market is made up of countless, many-headed hydras, and with enforcement almost entirely on brands, there is little they can do outside of spending millions on lawyers to litigate trademark cases across jurisdictions.
Chanel and Louis Vuitton, two of the most frequently purchased replica brands on RepLadies, declined to comment, but Hand says the companies are “acutely” aware of the problem, which is worsening as reps become more sophisticated. As well as aesthetic accuracy, many have the same date codes, stamps, locks, French-tannery labels, and serial numbers used to distinguish their real counterparts. Some even have authentication technology —QR codes and chips —that have yet to be implemented in the real thing.
There are a number of theories among RepLadies about where the super-replicas come from. One posits that the fashion houses own the rep factories so they can monetize at every level, while another says that reps are “factory extras” —bags that didn’t pass quality control and are being sold by employees on the side. Some say workers make replicas with the unused materials from the authentics, while others claim that the replica factories operate completely independent of any brand. One RepLady heard this last theory from a popular Hermès replicator. “They buy an authentic, and they rip that bitch apart, and they use it like a pattern,” she tells me. “And they get better and better with every new one that comes out.”
The mystery is part of the appeal, another mused. “It’s like, Oh, are you getting the real thing? Maybe.”
With the right contacts and social-media accounts, anyone can get a fake bag, but access to high-quality replicas is becoming more rarefied. RepLadies has, for some months now, been splintering into private social channels, where the savviest replica buyers seem to spend most of their time. Here, they can access more exclusive facets of the rep world, like its massive secondhand market and top-tier Hermès sellers, and even make custom orders with a factory.
But these smaller, more intimate coteries go beyond a shared love of reps. “We’ve been to each other’s houses,” Lisa tells me of her replica group. “We’ve met each other’s kids. We all know each other. It’s not what you think a bunch of people buying fake bags would be like.” And for many women in circles where social currency can be purchased, rep-buying has evolved into a kind of edgy declaration of identity. To them, status isn’t having the means to join the $10,000-handbag clique—anyone could be so basic. It’s waltzing into brunch with a fake that takes chutzpah.
“What is even considered authentic?” Cindy mused. “Authentic could cost you thousands; used could cost you half. And now you’re telling me a replica could be 10 percent of the real thing and you can’t even tell?”
Can you? For around $200, I procured a Gucci Jackie Mini, which retails for $2,500. It came in an apple-green Gucci box complete with tags, a dust bag, and Gucci-branded desiccant packs. I brought them all to an authenticator in a popular Upper East Side consignment store, the nice, boutiquey kind that keeps “carefully authenticated” Louis Vuittons in locked glass cases. After peering at the fake for several minutes, the woman behind the counter sighed.
“I can do $975 or give you $1,100 in store credit,” she said. “What do you think?”
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The Birkin's pockets made it highly functional, and the bag seals to prevent anything from spilling. Hermès makes the bags in France using premium materials like calf skin, alligator skin, and even ostrich skin. Each bag is made entirely by hand.Why do people pay so much for Birkin bags? ›
Although quality comes at a cost, it's this reverence for traditional craftsmanship that makes the Hermès Birkin bag the ultimate investment piece. Simply put: it lasts. A Birkin is for life, not just a season, which is why you'll still find so many beautiful vintage styles on the secondhand market.Who are the RepLadies? ›
RepLadies is a sub-Reddit dedicated to counterfeit luxury goods, and where a community of mostly millennial women gather to acquire them. Exquisite replicas of everything from designer shoes to Rimowa suitcases are available, but the bags are the real attraction.How much should I pay for a fake bag in Turkey? ›
These bags would go for around 4,000 to 6,000 Turkish Lira – making around 1,000 to 1,500 USD. When the shops were really good they would even give you a box and and a dust bag that came pretty close to the real packaging.Do celebrities get free Birkins? ›
Yep, that's right: Hermes doesn't “gift” bags to celebrities. It doesn't have to. Let's be real: every handbag lover knows of the infamous Hermes Birkin, but for most people, spotting this bag in the wild can be rare.How much is the cheapest Birkin bag? ›
In some cases a Birkin can sell for multiples of the original retail price. A leather Birkin bag purchased directly from the store starts at $9,000 and can sell for $30,000 depending on size, color, material and condition.How much do you have to spend to get invited to buy a Birkin? ›
There is no “set amount” that you must spend to be offered a Birkin or Kelly in the US. Also, it is unlikely that an Hermes SA will tell you a specific amount that you must spend.Can a regular person buy a Birkin bag? ›
Birkins are not available to be purchased by just anyone. Instead, sales associates choose whether or not to offer clients quota bags (either Birkins or Kellys, the latter of which are arguably just as popular and elusive) based on a myriad of factors, some known and some unknown.Why can't just anyone buy a Birkin? ›
The problem isn't only that Hermès makes it very difficult to get your hands on a Birkin, but it also limits the number of Birkins you can buy per year. This hyper-limited supply and pent-up demand have created a robust resale market.Is it OK to buy fake designer bags? ›
Health Risks Of Counterfeited Designer Items
Not only do these knockoffs have poor craftsmanship, but they also do not comply with safety standards and therefore are possibly lethal! Sometimes these items contain dyes and toxins that are harmful. When we said designer bags are to die for this is NOT what we meant.
Yes, it's bad to wear fake designer goods because there are a lot more negative consequences of wearing fake items than there are positive consequences. Even though you might think buying fake goods doesn't cause any harm and saves you money, the truth is fake goods can harm you and your community.What percentage of designer bags are fake? ›
She estimates that about 75% to 80% of the bags she sees are indeed fake. While Houston says there are a multitude of factors that need to be explored when determining whether or not a handbag is genuine, she offered these tips for those wondering if their designer find is the real thing: 1. Check the hardware.Where does money for fake bags go? ›
While the price of the bag may be comparatively low, the money paid will most likely end up funding organized crime, human trafficking, or terrorist activities around the world.Is it a crime to sell fake bags? ›
In the U.S., it's illegal for a person to sell counterfeit merchandise. Both state and federal laws prohibit this type of conduct. If you knowingly sell or intend to sell a fake item, you could be sentenced to years in prison and/or be ordered to pay steep fines.Where in Turkey is best for fakes? ›
Merter is the heart of Turkey's textile industry. Most of the companies that manufacture textiles both in Turkey and abroad are located in Merter. Even private fashion shows are organized in Merter. Merter AVM is the most important place where you can buy fake products.Which celebrity owns the most Birkins? ›
The wardrobe of Jamie Chua is filled with an impressive collection of more than 200 Hermès bags. Aside from that, the wardrobe also contains 300 pairs of shoes and drawers of diamond jewellery. Chua is said to own the largest and most expensive collection of Hermès bags in the world.What celebrity stole a Birkin? ›
Almost a year ago, on February 19, a $15,995 Hermès Birkin bag was stolen from Penny Pinchers, a consignment store in Bedford, New York.How many Birkin bags does Kim Kardashian own? ›
A girl after our own heart, Kim is a huge fan of the Hermes Birkin and is thought to own over 30.Which is cheaper Kelly or Birkin? ›
Generally, Birkin bags tend to be more expensive than Kelly bags when purchased at an Hermès boutique. In the secondary market, however, the price of a Kelly bag can be greater than a Birkin bag of identical size and leather depending on the supply and the demand.How much is a Birkin bag 2023? ›
The Birkin 30 has also continued to increase in value, with auction results for leather examples in 2023 rising over 28% and nearly matching those of the Birkin 25, which remains stable at just shy of $23,500. Ostrich Birkin 30 has increased nearly 30% as well, approaching an average of $31,300.
As of 2023, you can only purchase one quota bag from Hermes. The Hermes quota bags include The Birkin, The Kelly, and the Constance bag. These quota bags are the highly coveted and desired bags Hermes makes. With only being able to purchase 1 quota bag a year, make sure that you purchase the exact bag you want.How long is the waitlist for a Birkin? ›
Hermes implement strict rules as to who is able to acquire one of their iconic bags. There are long waiting lists that can stretch up to six years. Even getting on the waiting list is a struggle, with customers ranked on previous purchases and reputation with the company.How many Birkins can you buy per year? ›
Customers must have a purchase history with the brand, and boutiques are only allowed to order a limited number of Birkins twice a year.Do men carry Birkin bags? ›
The Birkin Bag Becomes a Fashion Favourite for Both Men and Women.How can you tell the difference between a real Birkin bag and a fake? ›
A genuine Birkin should stand up on its four studs without toppling or slouching and the handles should stand to attention and not flop. Pay close attention to both the Hermès stamp and the blind stamp. The Hermès stamp is gently embossed into the leather at the front and center of the bag, just below the stitching.How much does it cost to create a Birkin bag? ›
Yet the many man-hours and fine materials that go into the making of the bag may not account for much of its price: Luca Solca, an equity analyst at Exane BNP Paribas, estimates that the production cost of a basic Birkin is around $800.”Do the Kardashians have Birkins? ›
The Niloticus Crocodile Himalayan Birkin is no doubt a bag of billionaires. Both of the two billionaires of the family, Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner, have shown off a Niloticus Crocodile Himalayan Birkin 30 on special occasions as well as on their social media.Does Beyonce own a Birkin? ›
It's out with the old and in with the new in Beyoncé's closet, or at least that is true for her Hermès Birkin bag which has been swapped with a vegan leather tote made by Black-owned brand Telfar.Who owns Birkin bags? ›
The Birkin bag (or simply Birkin) is a kind of tote bag introduced in 1984 by the French luxury goods maker Hermès.Can you go to jail for selling fake designer bags? ›
Penalties for Counterfeit Merchandise
Under federal law, any individual who knowingly distributes, wholesales, or sells counterfeit merchandise faces substantial penalties: Imprisonment for the first offense up to 10 years and up to 20 years for repeat offenders.
Fraudsters are higher-income consumers who can afford to purchase luxury brands but are willing to pay a premium for high-grade counterfeit items. They think the design and material quality used in counterfeits should be comparable to the real thing and see them as low-risk purchases.Why do people buy fake goods? ›
In general, price is the common reason why people prefer to buy fake goods. People think that original products are too expensive compared to fake ones. However, in determining the price of a product, the creator considers a lot of aspects.Do people notice fake bags? ›
Fake bags carry no status and won't impress anyone. In fact, because the vast majority of fakes are relatively easy to spot by anyone who owns the real thing, many people will know you are carrying a fake.Why do fake bags smell? ›
The toxic chemical
Dimethylformamide (DMFa) is a commonly used solvent in the production of plastics, rubber, and polyurethane (PU) coating, also known as synthetic leather. The chemical has a strong smell in the finished product and is also used for producing synthetic fibres.
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)What is the most counterfeited Louis Vuitton bag? ›
Louis Vuitton Monogram Neverfull
It's also one of the most counterfeited designer bags globally. And while the handbag may look legitimate at face value, there are a number of critical elements that make it inauthentic. The red along the shoulder straps is too bright when compared to the original.
New York City's Canal Street is the holy grail for bargain shoppers - especially when it comes to knockoff (or wait... could some of them be real?) watches, accessories and handbags.Where can I find good fake designers? ›
- Aliexpress.com. Aliexpress.com. You might have heard enough about Aliexpress. ...
- Dhgate.com. Dhgate.com. ...
- Alibaba.com. Alibaba.com. ...
- Wholesaleclearance.co.uk. Wholesaleclearance.co.uk. ...
Aug 05, 2020 · While is it illegal to buy fake purses in nyc in most instances it is not illegal to purchase a counterfeit handbag, it is illegal to purchase such handbags knowing that they are counterfeits with the intent to resell them as genuine articles.Is it illegal to sell fake bags on Facebook? ›
Please note that counterfeit goods may be unlawful even if the seller explicitly says that the goods are counterfeit, or otherwise disclaims authenticity of the goods. If you believe content on Facebook is selling or promoting counterfeit goods, you may report that content by filling out this form.
Contact The Anti-Fraud Centre
Just be prepared to provide them with information like your card number, the date you purchased the item, the address or website, the amount you paid for the item, and a few pictures.
Replica purse imports violate intellectual property rights. These products can be seized by Customs and Border Protection (CBP).Is it legal to sell fake designer bags NYC? ›
If you sell knockoff items in New York, you may be charged with trademark counterfeiting. In order to be guilty of this crime, you need to purposely copy the exact branding or notable features of another established item. For example, you might copy the “Medusa” icon of Versace on a handbag.Can you go to jail for buying a fake bag? ›
It is illegal to purchase counterfeit goods. Bringing them into the United States may result in civil or criminal penalties and purchasing counterfeit goods often supports criminal activities, such as forced labor or human trafficking. Help to stop the funding of criminal enterprises by buying authentic goods.Where are most fakes from? ›
Size of the market for counterfeit products in China
80% of the world's counterfeits originate from China.
The most well-known Turkish market is probably the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul and the streets around it that create the city's market district. There you can find luxury fashion houses from Gucci to Prada and Louis Vuitton, handbags, sunglasses, watches, perfumes, electronic products and the list goes on.
While the bag gained some popularity after being seen on the arm of Jane Birkin, it wasn't until the 90s that it became an it-bag. These notorious bags are the epitome of luxury, handmade in France out of all variety of materials from calfskin to alligator skin, to own a Birkin is a symbol of your wealth and status.What is the big deal about Birkin? ›
The Hermès Birkin bag is a symbol of luxury and exclusivity in the world of fashion. The iconic Birkin bag story began in 1984 when actress and singer Jane Birkin met Hermès CEO Jean-Louis Dumas on a flight from Paris to London.How did Birkin bags become so popular? ›
It was only recognized worldwide as a fashion symbol with its appearance in an episode of Sex and the City in 2001. The character Samantha Jones was responsible for bringing attention to it, using a famous client's name to skip the five-year waiting list for the Birkin bag.Are Birkins really a good investment? ›
The rarity of the Birkin, and also the brand's Kelly bags, is one of the reasons they are so widely coveted. Annual price hikes – the start of 2023 saw an 8-10 per cent increase across Birkin and Kelly styles – mean the bags are naturally an investment if they are bought with a long-term view in mind.
The wardrobe of Jamie Chua is filled with an impressive collection of more than 200 Hermès bags. Aside from that, the wardrobe also contains 300 pairs of shoes and drawers of diamond jewellery. Chua is said to own the largest and most expensive collection of Hermès bags in the world.What celebrity stole a Birkin bag? ›
Almost a year ago, on February 19, a $15,995 Hermès Birkin bag was stolen from Penny Pinchers, a consignment store in Bedford, New York.How much should I spend on Birkin? ›
How Much Does a Birkin Bag Cost? "As of 2022, the retail prices for the most popular models are around $10,145 for a Birkin 25, $11,200 for a Birkin 30, and $12,450 for a Bikin 35. These vary by country and tax rate," Rose explains.Why do people love Hermès bags? ›
Infamous for its exceptional craftsmanship and jaw-dropping price that continues to rise, it has become the most iconic it bag worldwide. Hermès has triumphed in maintaining the bag's untouchable reputation, as one of the world's most desirable luxury handbags, the Birkin has always been the ultimate symbol of status.How much does it cost to make a Birkin bag? ›
Yet the many man-hours and fine materials that go into the making of the bag may not account for much of its price: Luca Solca, an equity analyst at Exane BNP Paribas, estimates that the production cost of a basic Birkin is around $800.”How much is a brand new Birkin? ›
The Hermès Birkin bag is the single most highly coveted luxury handbag on the planet. With the Birkin bag price ranging from $8,500 to over $300,000 at the boutique, it's also the most expensive bag in fashion history.Why is Birkin so rare? ›
Hermès only produces a limited quantity of its iconic Birkin each year, making the maison's special editions, released every few years, incredibly difficult to get one's hands on. Created from start to finish by one craftsman, these handbags come in an array of materials and colours, and demand has never been higher.What is the most in demand Birkin size? ›
1 | The Hermès Birkin: Timeless and Most Coveted
The four most popular sizes of Birkin are the Birkin 25, Birkin 30, Birkin 35, and Birkin 40 (the original size). Even at its smallest, the Birkin 25 can fit all your necessities including phone, wallet, sunglasses, and keys.