I'm torn.

I love me a good purse—and if the purses I gravitate toward usually end up being designer?

It's not my fault.

It's the price tags I'm not so keen on.

I'm guilty of a splurge here and there, but never without feeling a terrible pang of guilt, with the full realization I could hock my bag and feed an entire Third World nation with the proceeds.

So that's where the problem of the fake-bag thing comes in. As much as I love high-end accessories (Chlo has yet to make a $1,000-plus purse I wouldn't trade my firstborn for—I'm not much for kids anyway, and even if I did have one, I'd probably name her Chlo), and as much as I think of some classic designs as staple pieces that can be carried by anyone from ages 18 through 80, it doesn't really matter to me how well-off you are—a Herms Birkin that can cost anywhere from $7,400 to the five- or six-digit range? (The most expensive Birkin and most expensive handbag ever as of 2006? The Birkin in croc porosus lisse at $148,000—nine carats set in white gold!) A $6,040 embroidered Fendi Spy Bag? A $42,000 Louis Vuitton Tribute Patchwork handbag?

Too much, guys.

When your handbags start costing as much as the down payment for normal people's houses or cars or, like, an entire undergraduate collegiate career, that's where you draw the line.

But that doesn't really mean you should resort to fakes, either.

Yes, there's the whole artistic integrity-oath-of-allegiance shit that we owe to its designers, but sadly, yeah, those dudes sitting pretty over in Paris and Manhattan are giving you a run for your money. How much profit are they gaining off that mass-produced item you just picked up at South Coast Plaza for a month's pay?

The real problem, most of the time, is that it's painfully obvious—like this one here I caught in Brea (she wouldn't let me shoot her face, though . . . funny)—and unless you do your share of research, you're probably going to end up with a discolored pleather piece of crap that has a mysterious sheen to it. Louis Vuitton is by far one of the most counterfeited items, with just a little more than 1 percent of items bearing its iconic "LV" monogram actually being authentic.

I don't even like Louis Vuitton (why would you want the same bag that every other girl you run into has?), let alone monogram-print anything, but even I know that Louis Vuitton monogram purses aren't made of leather (not the actual printed part, at least) but rather a coated canvas; they're not supposed to shine like, well, plastic. Nor are any of the little monograms supposed to be cut off. And the leather trim and handles are supposed to be a light buttery color—at least at first; they'll darken over time with use and sun exposure.

This clutch, a style I don't even think is an authentic Louis Vuitton design, loses at every turn: design, quality, the outfit paired with the shiny plastic $10 accessory acquired in the Fashion District of Downtown Los Angeles.

Sorry, Brea girl. Even a canvas tote bag would have made a stronger statement of individuality.

—Vickie Chang


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