On November 15, 2018, The Fashion Law reported that Chanel has filed a lawsuit against luxury reseller The RealReal for allegedly selling “at least seven counterfeit CHANEL handbags”.
In the court document, Chanel states that “after inspection of some of the CHANEL-branded handbags and the serial numbers” indicated on the authentication cards, as well as the leather or fabric on The RealReal’s website, “Chanel determined certain handbags to be counterfeits because certain purported CHANEL serial numbers on the Cartes D’Authenticite do not correspond with the serial numbers designated for the particular style of handbag.” Furthermore, Chanel asserts that on other counterfeit bags, “the serial numbers were not genuine and that the hardware or other aspects of certain of the handbags were counterfeit.”
The seven Chanel bags are listed in Exhibit E of the Complaint (Chanel, Inc., v. The RealReal, Inc., 1:18-cv-10626-VSB).
Authentication of luxury goods is loosely defined and there is no international industry standard in place so it can easily get into the he said, she said dispute. Authenticators are human and human errors are inevitable. One of the seven bags Chanel pointed out (the “Chanel Naked Flap Bag” below), however, is an obvious example of a careless mistake of quality control and it does not take an authenticator to recognize the serial number tag of this bag is completely fake.
Others, however, are less explicit. While constant monitoring of the top of the counterfeiting pyramid has equipped me with a unique defense system, I can totally see more and more super replicas slip through the eyes of even experienced authenticators, who might not have the exposure or awareness of how counterfeiting evolves.
Just by looking at publicly available photos of the remaining six bags, I am confident to assert that at least two of them are inauthentic and it seems that it didn’t raise a red flag for whoever inspected them.
The first one was quite obvious to identify. By examining the texture of the grained leather, one can easily tell the one on the left is inconsistent with genuine Chanel Caviar leather.
The second one is somewhat tricky but the date code of the “Chanel Classic Black Flap Bag” has many subtle traces of imitation, which I could not afford to elaborate. I put it next to some of the genuine 15 series numbers and just a hint, a 15 series Chanel bag was made in early 2010s and for bags that are almost a decade old, you would expect some sort of oxidation.
Careless mistakes are easiest to fix, what is troublesome is the possibility that the authenticators were simply not able to inspect and identify super replicas. Afterall, how many people in the world have seen enough super replicas to tell the difference.
For consumers who are looking to buy a genuine Chanel bag from a reseller, my advice is be really careful with bags made after 2010, so 14 series above.
Welcome to the era of super replicas.