Real vs. Fake Louis Vuitton? Our Guest Contributor Says “Neither”

Author, blogger, graphic designer, and handbag critic David Weinberger give us his thoughts on the ubiquitous fake Louis Vuitton Bags

What’s the ugliest bag you’ve ever seen? Close your eyes, I’ll remind you. Start with an unfashionable color, add a poorly executed two-letter-combination logo and top if off with some flowers that look like clip art. Can you picture it? Need another hint? It’s also the bag on the top of your wish list.

If you live in New York, you see it everywhere. Everywhere. The subway, the elevator, and chances are, your apartment. Thousands of them line the walls and ceilings of shops down on Canal Street where you can buy movies on DVD two weeks before they hit theaters. You can buy baby turtles, Rolex watches and silk kimonos in all sizes. You can buy a $5 CD clearly labeled Jay-Z, “The Black Album” although chances are when you hit play, it’ll be “ABBA’s Greatest Hits”.  You can buy a massage, on the street, or pose for a live portrait. And, you can buy 100% authentic Louis Vuitton replica handbags.

OK, maybe the Louis Vuitton “Alma” isn’t the ugliest bag you’ve ever seen, but it does cost over seven hundred dollars. Seven Hundred F***ing Dollars! Do people buy bags for seven hundred dollars? Why? You can buy 25 Isaac Mizrahi bags from Target for the same price and have gifts for all of your friends. They probably even hold the same amount of stuff.

“So I have this business plan. I’m going to sell leather purses at a 6,000 percent markup to rich people.”
“Cool, I’m going to do the same with coffee.”
“Cool.”
“Cool.”

That conversation can never happen without branding. I know, you’re sick of branding. For the last few years, brands are all you’ve heard about. Everything’s a brand. Some experts say the brand phenomenon is fading. Some people even make fun of the word. It happened to me the other day. That’s just fine. “The New York Times”, that’s a brand. Oprah is a brand. I’m pretty sure “Sex and the City” is a brand. Get over it. They’re all brands and they all use branding. Louis Vuitton is a great BRAND.

Louis Vuitton started in 1854 as a manufacturer of trunks in Paris and is currently owned by LVMH, an ultra-luxury holding company, which includes companies and brands such as Dom Prignon, Veuve Clicquot, TAG Heuer, Marc Jacobs, Fendi , and Kenzo, among countless others. Pretty impressive, huh?

Louis Vuitton bags are very well made. Extremely well made. I’m not dismissing the value of craftsmen, but luxury brands are about association more than craft. If you can instill thoughts of hipness or royalty or whatever happens to be a desirable association for your product, into your product, then everything else, including craft, can take a back seat. Don’t believe me? How about the craftsmen (factory workers) that make $400 Dolce & Gabanna jeans? Or the bartender that hands me a $12 Heineken with attitude in an Ian Schrager hotel? Or the line cooks who make the food at a Wolfgang Puck Express? Yep, brands are about association.

The point, and I find it remarkable, is that this is a highly sought after product which sells for a lot of money, but is essentially ugly. That’s amazing to me especially because this is a fashion product. So, what are you buying for seven hundred f***ing dollars? It certainly isn’t the leather. It is the lifestyle, the envy, the feeling of success and accomplishment. Being established. The name, the identity, the image of sitting in the middle of Ducasse sipping tea. Lounging by the pool with Mommy and Philippe. Walking Muffy on Park Avenue. It is a Harry Winston necklace, Mikimoto pearls and having the driver pull the car around. It is a presidential fundraising luncheon. It is everything, all rolled into a seven hundred dollar bag.

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David Weinberger is a graphic designer and brand consultant based in New York City. At FutureBrand, New York, David creates visual and strategic branding programs for clients such as General Motors, Rubbermaid and United Way. He is also an author for “Speak Up,” graphic design’s most widely-read and influential online forum. Parts of this article previously appeared on “Speak Up.”