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.”

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Comments

  1. ms. black says

    This article was awful.  I thought (from reading the title) that it would be an editorial as to whether or not it was worth it to buy a real Louis or if a good fake can get the job done.  All this article said was that by buying a real LV I could be associated with those who live the good life, but how stupid would it for me a person who does not live a life of luxury to spend a 1000 dollars on a bag when I know that my life does not resemble anything that the bag represents.  I don’t go to presidential luncheons and I can’t shop at Barney’s, not even on pay day.  In order for me to have money in the bank and my rent and bills paid, I seek out the Loemanns, Nordstoms, TJ Maxx’s and Outlet malls to get my fashion fix.  Not to mention ebay for “designer” bags.  Hey when I took my Fendi Spy bag from ebay to Neimans, not one sales person could tell the difference, in fact I got compliments.  As an owner of a great Louis Vuitton fake, I can attest, a good fake can indeed get the job done- and fool every employee at the LV store while doing it!

  2. says

    Wow! This article really struck a chord with me. All the stories in fashion magazines warning people not to buy counterfeit items because it contributes to child labor didn’t make the anti-counterfeit point as well as this story. Whether we spend $700 on the original or $25 for the fake, we’re not buying it for the style but for the lifestyle the brand represents. I don’t pretend to be anything less than an Old Navy-wearing, coupon clipping, middle-class, public servant and I would be fooling no one with my faux LV Murakami bag (which I eventually did buy back in 2003). If we (consumers) gave up all the ideas and dreams that brands envoke, I bet the economy would crash. Marketing companies and commercials would go out of business. It’s really an evil trap we’re in.

    Give up and watch the economy plummet and poor saps around the world to lose their jobs by the millions Or stay in the game and watch our self-esteem fall because we can’t achieve the dream status that the (faux or real) Bag/Brand represents.

  3. says

    If I ever become crazy rich, wealthy enough to afford one of those without breaking the bank, I would buy a fake one instead and have everyone else impute that it’s real, due to my reputation for wealth.  That would be kind of funny.  Otherwise, I would never get ‘em because they’re damn tacky.

  4. CONSTANCE says

    IF U ASK ME I DON’T THINK IT REALLY MATTERS IF UR LOUIS VITOUN BAG IZ REAL OR FAKE.  THE ONLY THING THAT MATTERS IZ YOU BOUGHT AND IT IZ URS AND IF PPL DONT LIKE THEN OH WELL TO BAD FOR THEM.

  5. Cara says

    A- f***ing -MEN!

    Ugly – Yes!
    Overpriced – Yes!
    All about “status” – Yes!

    Ridiculous. Such a waste.

  6. Stephanie says

    I love my fake Louis…not because it makes me feel like I’m living the rich life (it cost me $30 for pete’s sake), but because if I take it anywhere, if I throw a pen in and the cap comes off, if I don’t baby it, it doesn’t matter! I would be so worried about a $500 bag that I would probably never take it out of the house. With a fake, I get the style I love, and I don’t have to worry if I get pen on the lining, or someone spills something on the outside. It looks great without the worry. Maybe when I’m out of college, with a job of my own, then I’ll upgrade to real, but living in the dorms? A fake works just fine for me.

  7. says

    Well this may make many of you mad but, I have the real thing and many of them… I went from a single middle class struggle and built my own company..I worked hard for my money…but, when you get among other people in the upper class of who you want to spend money with your company you must carry the real thing and spend money like they do…You can tell “old money”from “new money” I spend money on things like this in order to keep people “old money” from treating you like trash… do i love the purse not really … as for the comment of dont spend money on it and treat your friends…once you have money the only reason you have friends is they want somthing…people that I have had as freinds my whole life either dont speak anymore because I now have money or I have all the friends I need as long as I dish it out…You see having money is not the answer to problems and it does not make you feel good either..dont be fooled..

  8. alice says

    somehow too late, but cant stand not to comment. If LV just too pricey, why just everyone try to buy the fake of it? Are they trying to buy “lifestyle” they cant really afford? Are they trying to buy “personal achievements” they are not really achieve? Let me put it this way, if I cant buy an original one, I will not certainly buy the fake one. I buy other brand that is original and cheaper in price, like u have mentioned, coach. Because, what I really buy is the quality, the craftmanship, like stated in the post.Dont buy fake, it will just “increase” the popularity of a certain bag.When u cant afford, u cant afford.

  9. katgrrrl says

    I used to be addicted to fake handbags! Loved goin’ down to Canal Street to get the latest “it” bag that I happened to fall in love with.  NO MORE!  This is only because my experience wtih the fakes has not been good.  They fall apart on me.  I’d rather invest in a real designer bag or just get a good non-designer bag.  To each his or her own.  I don’t believe that if you buy fakes, you’re supporting terrorism, child labor, organized crime and you’re goin’ straight to hell.  I’ve heard that but no one can provide any solid proof so, it’s all bollocks to me.  Anywho, get what ya like n’ as long as YOU’re happy with it, who cares.?  :)

  10. majic says

    one question for all of you if you only buy real bags who are you trying to impress?. if you paid 600-1500 for a bag your are trying to impress someone. i have a friend who works at a coach store and a friend who sells replica coach and the friend at the store cant tell the diffrence, also some of the stores your getting your product from my not be as truthful as you think, i have friends from cali—NY and all them talk about how big name stores get replicas for 60-150 bucks and sell to you fools for 500-1200 so while your thinking about if other people bags is real or not check yours.

  11. PKMid says

    I cannot believe any of you are actually PROMOTING FAKES! Do you know they are related to organised crime and the destruction of human rights? You make me sick.

  12. timothy says

    i am really tired of this supposed idea that you are being a person you are not when you buy a fake that is ridiculous you are just expressing yourself and the things you think are appealing or fashionable how in any way is that being fake its not end of story people should like the clothes and bags because they like it not because its louis vuitton like me i love the louis vuitton bisten and alzer not because its louis vuitton but because it reminds me how awesome traveling is it allows me to dream of going on a train and taking a trip through the European union with a beautifully handcrafted suitcase personally if i could afford reals i would but for right now ill buy replicas but someday i swear ill own a bisten or an alzer a HUGE ONE like a 75 or 80 :-)

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