What’s the Best Way to Identify Knockoffs From Designer Items?

Fake designer bags at a Hong Kong market in 2007.

Photo by Mike Clarke/AFP/Getty Images

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Answer by Tonya Chen Mezrich, founder and creative director, at Mike and Ton:

Fakes are harder and harder to differentiate from the real ones, as production houses that produce the real ones are starting to “knock off” the very work that they do for expensive luxury labels. However, the best way to recognize fakes is to look at the details. Listed below are five good details to look for when distinguishing a fake from a real product.


Stitching on fakes is sloppily done. The lines are not clean, the threads are not trimmed, and often times the seams are not sewn straight.


Logos are often times cut off and not aligned at the seams of fakes. Aligning those logos is time-consuming and is a real sign of expert craftsmanship and expense. It’s way cheaper to just put two pieces of fabric or leather together at any random point than it is to have to carefully align the logo patterns. It may cost way more in fabric or leather costs to have these logos sit perfectly against each other at the seam. Minor details like this go unnoticed in a well-made luxury item and appear “seamless,” as they should, since you are typically plunking down several thousand dollars. Another detail about logos is that they may even be printed incorrectly! How embarrassing if your bag said “Pravda” intend of “Prada.”


The quality of the fabric or leather will be compromised in fakes, because as you know, the way to get costs down is to use a cheaper alternative. If you can produce a fake in China, it’s way cheaper than going to a mill in Italy to have something custom made. Hence the fakes will feel cheaper to your touch. Again, you get what you pay for.

Zippers and buttons or findings will be of substandard quality. Buttons will feel lighter if they are made of plastic-coated in metal instead of real metal. Zippers will come off the tracks or lose teeth prematurely if they are fake.


The goodies. The real bags and shoes always come with the dust bags, the box, even ID cards for certain designers. Cheap imitations will not have these, or if they do, even the dust bags will have a cheap feel to them.

Don’t get caught trying to buy fakes abroad. It is actually illegal in some countries, and rumor has it you could get caught at customs—not a great way to make your way back to the U.S. at all.

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