I think that a true blue Singapore woman is more than likely a shopaholic and a true blue Singapore office lady would love her designer bags. So it’s unsurprising to find out from a UOB survey that the top items on most Singapore women’s wishlist are designer handbags.

I completely understand the obsession because I feel that designer handbags not only put a glamorous spin to my outfits, these bags also grant me an undeniable spring in my step whenever I look at them.

The only caveat? They are expensive and the prices seem to only increase from year to year!

This fact drives many savvy Singapore office ladies to look for bargains from parallel importers and secondhand shops in a bid to buy the same item at a lower price.

Yet not all affordably-priced designer bags are the real deal, so it’s important to safeguard yourself from buying a fake bag.

Before you start shopping for pre-owned designer bags, do try the bag out at the boutique first. Most ladies tend to rely only on pictures and videos for their decision making process – which in my opinion is terribly insufficient. Go to the boutique and try out the real bag in person, to get a look at how the real deal looks on you. Trying is free of charge anyway!

Then move on to these next steps when you’re ready to shop; I share the six crucial pointers to bear in mind, for your next pre-owned handbag purchase.

1. Know the source

Reliable retailers will place a lot of emphasis on customer service. Most of them will provide very comprehensive FAQs (frequently answered questions) about their stores online, as well as tips on shopping for pre-owned designer bags. The website will usually provide a customer service phone number, an authenticity guarantee and a return policy.

Stores with too many bags of the same styles should raise a red flag because of the high likelihood of these being counterfeits.

In order to maintain the exclusivity, top fashion brands regularly control the number of bags in circulation either through production or by limiting the number of bags a consumer can purchase in a specific period of time. This policy of course, affects the second-hand retailers too; which is why it looks particularly suspicious when there are too many of the same bag style in one shop.

If you still can’t decide, go with your gut feeling. If the shop or website looks shabby, sorry babes, chances are these products are fakes.

2. Cost
While bags with low price tags can be extremely enticing, you do get what you pay for.

Discounts may be available for authentic designer bags. But these will never be marked down to rock bottom clearance prices; brands will not do so, to protect the exclusivity of their products. So if you do see a brand new Chanel 2.55 bag priced at $300, it’s very likely to be a counterfeit.

The only exception to the rule: When a secondhand find has gone through a lot of wear and tear, which thus lowers its price. If you don’t mind such scratches, it is still possible to find a majorly discounted yet authentic handbag.

3. The leather – how it smells and feels

Most of the designer bags made are of genuine leather, with the exceptions of brands such as Stella McCartney that use faux leather for eco-conscious reasons.

Real leather should feel smooth, supple, dry and warm to the touch. Synthetic leather is generally rigid, and it feels cold and lifeless. Real leather has a deep aroma, with a subtle animal smell. It should not have any plasticky scent, which is the dead giveaway of cheap man-made leathers.

3. The hardware – zippers, clasps, closures and all metal components

These are often one of the most telling factors. Zippers should always open and close smoothly. Hardware on a designer bag should have weight and not feel hollow. These should be of the the same colour and finish, with the exception of French fashion house Chloe, which is the only brand to use hardware in mixed colours.

4. The construction – the seams and stitching

The seams of a designer bag are rarely glued. The stitching should be tight; it should form neat, straight lines and never ever be frayed. Certain luxury brands the likes of Hermes, even have an exact number of stitches for their leather goods. The threads used throughout should also be of the same colour. You should never find a different coloured thread just for 2 stitches.

5. The labels – stamps and logos

Designer bags usually come with alphanumeric serial codes either sewn in or stamped within the interior of the bags. These numbers indicate the date when the bag was made and the batch that it is from. These plates or tags should be crisply printed with no smudges or blotches and they must be aligned.

Most brands have their own specific way of labelling. Chanel uses a special hologram, whereas Fendi tags are firmly fastened to the bags’ lining and cannot be easily peeled off.

6. Documentation – warranty cards, serial numbers and tags

Just because a bag comes with a brand new tag, a card and some numbers doesn’t mean that it is real. Look through the cards and documentations to spot for any misspelling or grammatical errors. Brands like Louis Vuitton and Hermes do not provide such certification cards.

Serial numbers could also be forged. For instance, the number 10218184, is a serial number that is widely used by counterfeits for Chanel bags. Another point to remember:

Authentic bags from Chanel and Hermes do not come attached with any paper tags or wrapping. So if you spot one of these bags at a second-hand store with a tag attached, walk away.

I hope my list of tips have helped you ladies feel empowered to make more informed purchases. Happy shopping!