It’s been three years since I first wrote about authenticating a Balenciaga City bag. While the City bag never really regained its early 2000s steam, its replica counterparts did not just drop and move on. Over the years, this lukewarm style continued to evolve alongside the more popular Gucci, Saint Laurent, (all members of the Kering group and sharing the same manufacturing standards and practices enabled counterfeiters to reduce marginal costs and achieve economy of scale) and at some point, it started to trick eyes and was sold next to genuine pre-owned Balenciaga products as new comers in the resale space were not experienced enough to tell.
The top knocked-off City bag is the post Wang era Mini City in classic Arena leather, whose quality is undeniably so high that it is hailed as “identical” with the real thing. While it certainly took a village to get to 95% or even 99% lookalike, the last one percent might be more difficult to achieve than a complete technology disruption. And - it still takes less than one second to spot the one percent difference.
The “B” engraving at zipper back is a symbol of the beginning of the Wang era. Despite continuous refinement to the hardware, it still takes less than one second to tell these are straight up fakes.
Waxed handle bind, bales and rivets have all been improved on the newer fakes.
One interesting thing about Balenciaga is - its brand hallmark changes very frequently over the past two decades. For the City bag alone, the stamping has changed at least six times for a little over a decade, alongside major or minor branding updates to logo, typography, hardware or a combination of two or all of them. Notches to the rivets may or may not exist; “Made In Italy” may or may not be in all caps; “Fabriqué en Italie” may or may not appear. Matching these characteristics to the corresponding features of hardware, logo stamp, and other construction details are the real fun part that I cannot afford to elaborate.
The volume of super replica circulating in the resale market is often correlated to the popularity of the genuine products. It’s unlikely to come across fakes of the same quality of the example offered in this article but be careful, at least you know that don’t judge a City bag by its bales or “B”s.