Gucci is “the hot bag right now,” says Alexandra Ridolfi of A Second Chance Couture. “If we have the newer ones, they fly off the shelves.” Since 2015, when designer and creative director Alessandro Michele first sent his youthful, fanciful visions down the Gucci runway, the 96-year-old brand is once again fashion’s darling.
But long before Michele, this heritage brand was a favorite of counterfeiters. So the brand’s 2016 partnership with Trevor Andrew, a.k.a. GucciGhost, who made his name tagging New York City with his own take on the iconic Gucci logo, raised some eyebrows at the company — until it raised sales.
“The Real bag (above) was a rather clever take on the ever-growing market for counterfeit goods,” says Julie Zerbo, founder and editor in chief of the Fashion Law website. “It’s always interesting to see the law make its way onto the runway because, to be frank, the creative aspects do not exist in a vacuum, completely separate from legal and branding concerns.”
And what about your purchasing concerns? To help you avoid falling victim to the purveyors of fakes, we’ve compiled expert advice on identifying imposter Gucci bags.
The controllato card comes with every new Gucci bag, evidence the bag was inspected after completion. (Controllato means “checked.”) While every new genuine Gucci bag will have one, its existence does not authenticate the item.
Counterfeiters who can copy a leather bag can also duplicate a simple paper tag. And it is simple; real controllato cards have the Gucci logo in the center, below that the word “controllato” in lower case letters and below that are the numbers 1234567890. Then again, a fake might have this, too.
Inside a Gucci bag, there should be a leather tag stamped with ®, Gucci and “made in Italy.” Check this stamp it carefully for the correct font, spacing, spelling and positioning (generally centered). Also, keep in mind clarity of the stamp itself; real Gucci heat stamps are clear and even, not muddled.
The serial number is on the reverse side of the leather Gucci tag. It’s usually made up of two numbers, one atop the other. (It may also be formatted in one continuous line.) On top is the style number and below is the supplier code. The number “corresponds to a style,” explains Ridolfi. “If you Google that number and what comes up is a totally different bag, that’s a red flag.”
For example, “if you have a hobo, and when you search for that number you get a wallet, clearly something is off.” The serial number should include a total of between 10 to 13 numbers. Because these are heat-stamped into the leather, they present a good opportunity for to assess quality. As with the tag, if the stamp is uneven, sloppy or hard to read, it’s time to reconsider.
Cheap hardware is a common indicator of a replica Gucci bag. Real Gucci hardware is sturdy, solid metal, and most pieces — from the snaps to the zipper — are cleanly engraved with “Gucci.” Fake hardware may be lightweight, chipped, flakey or even rusted. Restorers are extremely careful with real Gucci hardware. “You would never want to put real Gucci hardware on a fake bag,” explains Anthony “Tony” Rago, of Rago Brothers Shoe and Leather Repair.
Know Your Gucci
Gucci offers a bounty of styles, which can make it especially challenging to spot a fake. Spend time on the website or in a boutique familiarizing yourself with what’s available and, importantly, with the details of each bag.
“You can find a really junkie one, and think, ‘How could someone have said this was a Gucci!?’” says Rago. Unfortunately, it’s not always so obvious. The pros look for everything from the stitching to “how the edges of the straps are folded or put together, as well as the length or width of the strap.” Counterfeiters use common penny-pinching tricks, too. For example? “They’ll cheat and put hardware on one side only to save money.”