Getting good Italian knock-offs

In the bigger Italian cities, everyone had a designer bag — Prada, Chanel, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and plenty of others.

My friend has a bit of a purse obsession and pointed it out to me. They’re knock-offs, she explained. Good fakes, but still fakes. And much cheaper than anywhere else; a man offered us a bag for €15 that had been £50 in London.

We did our shopping towards the end of our trip, in Naples. The weather was nice so there were vendors everywhere near the train station, carts loaded with bags and belts and watches. Towards the city centre, men laid out blankets spread with goods.

There’s an art to buying and selling these knock-offs, but the learning curve can cost you, so know the basics before you start.

Be patient and haggle.

People who sell these all day are pushy. So pushy that more than once we walked away because of that alone. They’ll hand you a bag to look over, then, as you’re deciding, take it out of your hands to wrap up for purchase. They want the sale and nearly everyone has the same items on offer, so they rush you. Don’t get swept up and pressured into buying.

When we’d start walking away, the vendors would, unprompted, shout lower prices at us. When I finally did buy a purse, I offered half of what he’d originally wanted and he accepted immediately.

Smell the leather.

The brand names are fake, but the leather doesn’t have to be. If you’re going to pay a little more for a bag because of the logo, it should still be high-quality so it lasts. You might feel weird doing it, but smell is the best way to tell if something is made of leather or plastic.

Check the logos.

You’ll know the bag isn’t really designer, but on one else needs to. If you aren’t sure about the logo, Google a picture of it. I saw poor knock-offs where the Chanel Cs weren’t crossed and the Louis Vuitton initials were joined at the bottom. It’s the small things that make the bag seem cheap.

It’s also smart to look for bags with the logos printed on them directly. If the brand name is represented by a metal clasp, it can fall off, so only buy it if it feels strong. With the imprinted logos, make sure they’re straight; the real designer wouldn’t print it sloppily.

Look at the sewing.

You don’t want a bag with messy seams that will unravel. A lot of leather bags had big stitching, so check that everything seems secure before making an offer.

And that’s it, the big mishaps to avoid! If you can get a leather bag with good seams and a quality logo with a fair price, who cares it it’s real? It’s real value!


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