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Saturday, September 01, 2012

The Label Doth Protest Too Much, Methinks

Notwithstanding that I carry a Coach purse (albeit the same one for the last nine years, winter and summer for all occasions, and it bought second-hand) I've never been one for designer labels (in the realm of clothing and accessories, at least), so working in estate sales has been an enlightening experience.  I now know, for example, that Hermes is pronounced "Uhr-MEZ", that St. John's is an insanely overpriced suitmaker for the over-fifty set, and that even a mostly-used bottle of perfume with a Paris label will tempt a shoptlifter.  Of course, people also steal bobbins out of sewing machines, as I discovered to my disgust at a sale last summer, so there's no remarkable exclusivity there.

Although the things we sell are not ours, or perhaps precisely because they are not ours (and to tell truth we're all OCD sufferers to one degree or another), we feel compelled to do "due diligence" in researching pieces that may have some special value.  Chief among these items are those bearing designer labels, particularly those prominently printed all over with initials, like LV.  The question is, are they the real thing? 

In DC, there are a lot of people with more money than sense.  Ostentation is the order of the day, and Chanel this, Gucci that, Jimmy Choo and Fendi are just a few amongst the names that are de rigeur for your "normal" well-accoutered Washingtonian.  I confess I'd never even heard of Tod's before I came here, and thought Givenchy was something exclusive to Audrey Hepburn films.  Country come to town, I was.  I've been caught, and humiliated, not knowing what a pot de creme was, nor tole.  Never again will I forget. 

But even those who are willing to spend on the real brand-name have occasionally sunk to purchasing knock-offs, albeit at prices that most reasonable people would laugh at--what, $450 for a fake designer bag?  Most of us wouldn't spend that kind of cash on the real thing.  But if the real thing costs $2000, and image is everything?  Maybe someone rationalized it that way.  One way or the other, the re-sale value depends on whether they are real or not, and recently we had several of these good-looking purses that had a lot of paperwork with them claiming they were genuine.  But something just didn't smell right, and it was up to us to discover the truth.

We have a good team, our company does.  Amongst us are a former window-dresser, two perfume representatives, a former jewelry-store employee, a fabrics specialist, a new mother, a book collector, a women's clothing retailer, and several artists and artisans.  If we don't know about something ourselves, we know whom to ask.  My Yugoslavian coworker sidled up to a Louis Vuitton representative and showed him the bags, paperwork and all.  He declared them fakes--no real Louis would be allowed to leave the factory with a zipper that made a sound as it opened, or a medallion with the edges not machined to polished perfection.  As my art dealer boss once told me, "If it comes with a Certificate of Authenticity, it's certifiably worth nothing". 

Even with the open and repeated declaration that we had been assured by experts that they were fakes, the LV bags still went for 200 bucks each at the sale.

I paid $40 for my real Coach purse almost a decade ago, and wouldn't pay much more than that for it now. 

People are nuts.

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