Purchasing a second hand designer bag is tricky business – is your seller reputable? How do you make sure it really isn’t fake? Will this bankrupt you? Okay we might be joking about the latter but the fear of purchasing a fake is too real so that’s where we turned to the experts for advice. Namely, Nejla Matam-Finn, the founder of The Fifth Collection – a 4-year-old local business that specialises in second hand luxury goods.
If you’re looking to drop some serious dough on a second hand bag, this article is only 6 slides long and that’s nothing compared to the relief you’ll feel when your newly purchased baby is in your hands.
I would love to be able to give you a checklist of what to look for when purchasing some pieces on the second hand market to ensure that they are authentic, to tell you to count the stitches, to measure the size of the logo or even use your nose to detect cheap glue that is widely used by counterfeiters. Unfortunately, I simply can’t for two main reasons.
The first one being how it’s almost like being an art curator – it takes years or training as well as experience to acquire the right knowledge for one brand or even one particular model. Your knowledge needs a continued education as brands often change how their bags are made. In other words any checklist can become obsolete if you don’t keep up with those changes.
The second reason is that counterfeiters are here to trick the eye and if you were able to watch the countless unboxing videos on Youtube or tutorials on how to authenticate such a piece, so did they. I might take the chance of disappointing you by actually not sharing with you those continuously evolving checklists. We are in a business that is also here to fight counterfeiters and not to feed them crucial information.
1. Do your due diligence by researching on the company – Google to see if it is registered. Keep in mind that a phone number doesn’t protect you from being cheated. And yes, read the terms of condition or even better, request them before making the purchase.
2. Ask questions using email, or a call and expect an answer.
3. Check that you are protected in case your item is deemed fake – an honest company or even individual will have no problem backing up their promise with some form of guarantees.
4. 100% authentic does mean a thing, it is either authentic or it’s not.
5. Don’t believe the hype of the numbers of followers that a seller has on social media as those can be easily purchased to trick you into thinking you are dealing with a legit seller.
6. What you see is not necessarily what you get so make sure the item that you are eyeing is in possession of the seller. We have seen way too many unscrupulous sellers just screenshotting a legit picture and making it pass off as theirs.
7. No one, and I mean no one, can authenticate on pictures alone. Check if the item is in their possession versus drop shipping where sites let customer upload their own item before doing an authentication.
8. Does the piece come with box, dustbag, authenticity card and an invoice is a question we get a lot. Let me tell you all of those can easily be counterfeited as well and let’s not forget that some individuals do sell the real box paper bags that come with designer goods.
9. Ensure that you make the payment via Paypal or a credit card and do not do a bank transfer or cash on delivery because you are not protected if you do so.
10. If when you ask about how an item is authenticated by a company and they answer that they work with the brands, that’s a no-go. Most brands don’t see the second hand market as being part of the same ecosystem – for now.
At The Fifth Collection, authentication has always been a priority, which is also they offer an unlimited money-back authenticity guarantee on every item we sell. But they also believe that a sophisticated problem requires a sophisticated solution. That is why they jumped at the opportunity to invest and help develop the world’s most advanced luxury goods authentication technology.
How does it work? The technology takes microscopic pictures of the surface of the item and uses computer deep learning to compare the images against a database of millions of pictures of authentic and counterfeit items. The imaging is so sensitive, it can fingerprint the item and recognise it the next time it is scanned.
Some brands like Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Hermès make it easier as they provide a date stamp inside the bags. For the ones that don’t, we do lots of individual research on the pieces. We retrace the history of the piece and time of birth and, work closely with our selling collectors who provide information on the pieces they consign with us. Sometimes it takes minutes and sometimes we can spend days researching on just on piece.
Our work is just like one of an art curator. You educate yourself, your eye and on the way the material feels, the kind of zipper that were used and we analyse tiny detail in order to help us find the most accurate answer when it comes to dating a piece.
Sometimes the difficulty is to first retrace the different diffusion or license that certain brands use to have. For instance, Louis Vuitton used to have a licensing agreement with a luggage maker in the US named The French Company from the 70’s till the early 90’s and the bags did use the current monogram canvas. But, the hardware was different as well and as the stamping.
Even with the best care such as ventilation, AC and control of the humidity level, Singapore’s weather can be really harsh on particular pieces. One thing for sure is making sure your item gets used which prevents mold as it won’t won’t grow on something that you actually use versus being stored away all year long.
Stay away from certain patent leathers. It is hard to explain which is good and which is not so unless you are an expert. Patent leather with rare use can become sticky with time and light-coloured ones can even develop dark spots. Having said that if the patent leather is a vintage piece and is still in good condition, then go ahead. If it survived till now, it can survive for longer.
I personally stay clear of anything in clear plastic as they often yellow and disintegrate overtime. Some brands do better than others in those categories.
Another thing that doesn’t do well in our weather are the tips of heels. Most tips are made of plastic and they often disintegrate moreover if the shoes are hardly use. Rest assured that this does not represent the way the shoes where kept – it is more of chemical reaction that happens because of humidity. The good news is that a trip at the cobbler will fix it.