Have you ever found yourself looking at a piece of clothing online and hesitating to press ‘Check Out’ for fear of falling prey to counterfeit goods? Nowadays, it’s easy to unintentionally purchase fake goods due to the increase in the counterfeit’s quality. Sometimes, the resemblance to the real thing is uncanny. There’s no guarantee that the products that resale sites feature are authentic.
We all know that supporting counterfeit goods is bad…but do we know why? Whether intentional or not, the simple act of consuming of counterfeit products have a far greater impact than we can imagine. In doing so, we not only devalue the non-tangible worth of the product and disregard the expertise required to make it, we contribute to the prevalence of illegal practices in manufacturing (child labour, unsanitary working conditions, etc.)
Introducing: Vestiaire Collective. They are a luxury resale site that aims to provide a trusted platform where members can buy and sell luxury fashion. Founded in 2009, they now have over 7.5 million members in 50 countries worldwide. In May 2017, they launched in Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia, bringing the movement of sustainable fashion over to Asia.
Each week, the global curation team sift through over 35,000 submissions, selecting only the most desirable and sought-after pieces to sell on the site. Expert authenticators go through a stringent process of authenticity checks to ensure that the product is genuine. With such a large variety of products submitted for review, it’s a given that authenticators require a sharp eye for detail and an expansive knowledge about luxury goods. We speak to the Head of Authentication APAC, Morgane Peyrin to find out more about what it takes to be an authenticator at Vestiaire Collective.
How quickly can you identify a counterfeit from a real product?
It could take anywhere between a few minutes to hours depending on the product.
What qualities should an authenticator possess?
Attention to detail: You may spot the tiniest mistake just by looking at the typography of the packaging or the stitching of a label, so you are expected to be meticulous and thorough.
Good memory: An authenticator needs to have vast knowledge on how products from each fashion house are made — from craftsmanship to brand signatures, down to the use of fabrics and the manufacturing country for each product category. The look, smell and feel of an item are also good indicators but these mostly come from experience and memory.
Interest in fashion: This job lives and breathes fashion both old and new, so it’s important to possess a natural interest in fashion.
What are some lesser-known difficulties that authenticators face?
Brands are constantly launching new products every season, so apart from learning about the history of fashion brands, we need to keep up-to-date with the latest collections as well. You also have to keep up with current trends. Luxury streetwear, for example, is a new product category for authentication.
Which category of product is the hardest to authenticate?
Old vintage pieces are typically the most difficult to authenticate as they require in-depth knowledge of the history of fashion and brand developments over time.
Most interesting part of your job?
I am constantly surrounded by beautiful, rare pieces on a daily basis, and they never fail to captivate me.
There’s a surprisingly high percentage of the consumer population that are unable to distinguish between a real and a fake product. Here’s what to look out for the next time you purchase a luxury good from a reseller.
Handbags are one of the top counterfeit items purchased. According to Peyrin, a major telltale sign of a fake bag lies in its label and stitching. Minor inconsistencies of the label such as irregular printing and uneven stitching is a common manufacturing defect present in counterfeits. When purchasing the bag IRL, it’s good to test out the smoothness of the zipper as well as fake bags usually have poor quality zippers that get stuck.
Jewellery is one of the easiest products to fake. But being Peyrin’s area of expertise, she acknowledges that to the untrained naked eye, even counterfeit jewellery looks alarmingly real. Each piece of jewellery is assigned its own serial number — checking it’s validity is the quickest way to ascertain whether its real. Diamond quality is another major factor. She cites Cartier as an example of a jewellery brand that uses the purest and whitest of diamonds.
Widely known as the hardest category of goods to authenticate, Peyrin emphasises on the importance of studying the history of the brand to understand how their products were made in the past. Often, for vintage goods, poorer quality leather may not be a sure indicator of counterfeiting as it is simply the standard that was used back in the day.
Popping up in large quantity at pasar malams and street vendors, luxury streetwear has recently gained popularity due to brands shifting their focus to streetwear as a way to appeal to the masses. Because of this, it’s hard to differentiate a real good from a fake one. Peyrin advises to first look at the spelling of the brand as that’s the most easily recognisable deviation. For sneakers, one can examine the quality of stitching and whether it smells strongly of glue — an obvious indicator of poor craftsmanship.