NEW YORK — It used to be that to find a knockoff Louis Vuitton handbag, all you had to do was jump in a cab to the corner of Broadway and Canal, hop out and quickly barter for the first fake Murakami in sight while the taxi waited.
These days, in light of the luxury goods industry’s enormous counterfeit crackdown, that same effort has moved off the streets and underground.
In the last six months, brands such as LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton have pumped up their legal pursuits against counterfeiters. And it’s clearly having an impact — walking along sparsely populated Canal Street Thursday, there was nary a fake Vuitton, Fendi, Gucci, Chanel or Dior bag in sight. The closest knockoffs hanging in stalls were striped Kate Spade and Marc Jacobs look-alikes, but none bore any logo or brand. Ironically, there was a tote resembling an “It” bag by Dooney & Bourke — against which Vuitton filed suit for trademark infringement of its Murakami design but was denied motion for a preliminary injunction.
Last month, LVMH successfully sued 29 Chinatown retailers selling counterfeit items, as a federal judge upheld the company’s claims of trademark infringement and ordered each to pay $16 million in statutory damages. Additionally, the judge ordered the vendors to relinquish all imitation bags and accessories. It could be a symbolic victory, though, since Vuitton still has to find the vendors involved, all of whom were identified as John Does in the motion.
Most shopkeepers in the area said they didn’t carry fake Vuitton bags. But the action hasn’t disappeared. Counterfeiters continue to sell fake Murakami and other Vuitton styles from buildings a few blocks from their stalls on Canal Street.
One vendor initially denied she had any fake Vuittons for sale, but her partner followed me out to the sidewalk and said she indeed had some on hand. I told her I was looking for a big Murakami-style bag, but all she offered were small purses or wallets. After calling her brother on her cell phone, she said if I waited five minutes he would bring them. Asked if I could see everything she had before committing to buy, she said, “Follow me.”She led me to an office building two blocks away on Broadway. Signs outside advertised manicures and pedicures on offer. We went through an unmarked door and went down in the elevator to a dank and muddy basement and entered a hallway lined with storage rooms. She opened a door to a closet-sized space to reveal approximately 20 counterfeit Louis Vuitton bags on display and 40 bagged up to sell.
There were fake Murakami wallets, pochettes and mini Speedy bags in the trademark multicolored monogram and cherry-blossom prints. She also sold copies of the traditional brown monogram Speedy bag and an Epi bag, all from $15 to $45, depending on the buyer’s negotiating skills.
Back on the street, another vendor whispered in that hushed contraband voice, “Louis Vuitton, Louis Vuitton.” Curious whether he had a Murakami dungeon as well (there were none in his stall), I followed him to yet another building a few blocks up on Lafayette. This building was much cleaner and contained a series of shop fronts on its lower level that almost seemed like a minimall. Again I was led to a windowless storage room.
Unlike the first room, this one had a large selection of counterfeit Gucci logo purses and wallets, Dior saddlebags and quilted Chanel bags, none of which I had seen being sold on the street. I asked him about a fake Chanel Ligne Cambon bag, the real version of which is owned by celebrities such as Madonna and Uma Thurman, that was hanging on the wall. A wholesaler from Florida, the vendor said, bought nearly 40 from him at $85 apiece and sold them back in Miami for $400 each.
Clearly, here is where all the counterfeits had gone — into storage rooms like this. There were more fake Murakami bags than I could ever want — although perhaps not enough for some. The selection even included a pink and gold logo canvas Theda knockoff, a style coveted by the designer set.
Last year, LVMH invested nearly $13.6 million in its efforts to fight counterfeit goods.
My character, Dinah Madani, is just the coolest, [most] badass woman imaginable," says @amberroserevah. The actress stars in @marvel's newest series on @netflix, @thepunisher. To prepare for her role, Revah sat down with Homeland agents to get a real sense of with Dinah's day-to-day life is really like. Read our full interview on WWD.com. #wwdeye (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
A scene from the 91st annual @macys Thanksgiving Day Parade. The parade, which boasts 50 million TV viewers and 3.5 million on-site spectators, is considered one of the largest and most watched parades in the world. (📷: Jason Szenes/EPA-REX)
The circus came to @bloomingdales 59th Street on Tuesday night and lit up Lexington Avenue with acrobatic dancers, death-defying knife throwing, sword swallowing and aerial acts with no net. The 45 minutes of theatrics built up to unveiling the holiday windows depicting @swarovski crystal-encrusted circus pieces and scenes from “The Greatest Showman” – songs from the soundtrack included. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: Joshua Scott)
The psychedelic fashion that pervaded the ’60s is back with an exhibit at the @museumofcityny. “Mode New York: Fashion Takes a Trip” chronicles the changing styles from 1960 through 1973 and features designers such as @ysl, @oscardelarenta and more. The exhibition, which is on display through April 1, is organized into four periods: First Lady Fasion, Youthquake, New Bohemia and New Nonchalance. Pictured here is model Pat Bardonella during the Garvey Day Parade in 1968. (📷: @kwamebphoto) #wwdeye #wwdfashion
“People should be a lot more honest in expressing both the dark and light of themselves. We need to give each other the space to do that because it’s the only way we can grow and evolve,” says @noelwells of her new film “Mr. Roosevelt,” which is largely based on her own struggles. Unexpectedly leaving @nbcsnl in 2014 after just one season, Wells felt set back in her self-esteem and career trajectory. She quickly refocused her energy to more personal projects, which led to the completion of “Mr. Roosevelt.” Read the rest of WWD’s interview with the “Master of None” actress on WWD.com #wwdeye (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
@barbrastreisand is giving fans a chance to see her perform up close in a new concert series, which makes its debut on @Netflix today. From behind-the-scenes takes to her concert performance in Miami last December, the two-hour streaming special captures Streisand in her element. Pictured here is the singer/actress photographed for WWD in 1963. (📷: Palmieri Tony) #wwdeye #wwdarchive
@chanel and @pharrell dropped what’s being dubbed as the world’s most exclusive sneakers yesterday. The Adidas Originals NMD Hu, which Williams designed in collaboration with Chanel and @adidasoriginals, has a waiting list of over 120K people who pre-registered online at chanelatcolette.fr –– and only 500 pairs are on sale. The singer predicted the resale value of the shoes could reach $40K. Read the full interview on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdfashion (📷: Dominique Maître)
@imanshumpert is diving deeper into his creative endeavors and relaunching his clothing line, Post 90s, and is helping to raise money for the hurricane victims in St. Maarten with a jersey he’s designed with his brother. The Cleveland Cavaliers player talked to WWD about kneeling during the national anthem, working with fashion brands and how he wants to be more than an @nba player. Read the interview on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: George Chinese)