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NYC Proposes Counterfeit Bag Crackdown


Counterfeit handbags
Photo Credit

For our weekly fashion news column, we usually talk about the latest designer collaborations, makeup collections and even red carpet events. However, this week, we wanted to talk about a controversial issue that has been a hot discussion topic lately: counterfeit merchandise, like the purses pictured above.

Just last week, The New York Post reported that NY councilwoman Margaret Chin planned to propose a bill that would fine anyone seen purchasing counterfeit designer merchandise in New York City. If the bill passes, buyers of counterfeit goods could face a $1,000 fine or up to one year in jail.

Although the punishment seems kind of harsh, Chin said that oftentimes money from counterfeit goods funds unsafe child labor and even terrorism. Lawmakers hope the bill will stop consumers from buying cheap designer knockoffs.

Of course, the bill doesn’t target anyone who is unaware that the merchandise they purchased is fake. Also, you have to be caught actually buying a counterfeit item to be charged — if you already own a knock-off purchased in the past, you can’t get in trouble for that.


What do you think of this proposed bill? Are you for or against it? Do you think it would actually stop people from buying counterfeits? Do you own any knockoffs? Please let us know what you think by leaving a comment!

Posted on on May 2, 2011 / Filed Under: Fashion News / Tags: , , , , ,

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38 Responses to “NYC Proposes Counterfeit Bag Crackdown”

  1. 1
    May 2nd, 2011 at 9:56 am

    I understand the concern and the major loss of potential revenue but that won’ t stop people. Also don’t think for a moment its only to thwart terrorism. Every year NY loses more than 90 million dollar on counterfeits. People will just buy it off the internet if they haven’t already. Getting the vendor is more effective than getting individuals. Remember the pirating of music and movies. They went after individuals and it didn’t work, then they went after sites putting fines on them and that made a bigger impact.

    I personally do not own any knock-offs I get those things second hand if I want them. Wouldn’t people making the fakes try to make them more believable or have a store then being on a street corner?

  2. 2
    May 2nd, 2011 at 10:28 am

    I agree with Julianne, they should be getting the vendors not the buyers. Also, how would they plan on differentiating between people who knowingly and unknowingly purchase counterfeits? As they write up the fine or arrest you, you just say, “Hey! I didn’t know it was a fake!” and they let you go? I think people know that street vendors sell these “designer” purses at such good prices because they are FAKE not because they have a special connection or anything. Although, some of these are so poorly designed, it’s hard to tell…

    I owned a knockoff Kate Spade in middle school that I bought from a NYC vendor, but I took the fabric “Kate Spade” sticker off (yes, it was a sticker! ) because even back then I thought it was tacky. I got the bag because I liked the bright colors and functional square bottom, not because it was made to look like a designer purse. I would never have bought a “real” designer purse since I didn’t (and still don’t!) have $500 to spend..

    The dilemma with knockoffs is that you either let them be sold, and potentially benefit terrorism and child labor, since people who buy them would never buy the real thing. Let’s be real, yes, most could save up to buy the real thing, and it would be an investment, but they won’t. OR you crack down, and these sales don’t happen, and our economy suffers. Most of these purses are horrible quality and only slightly resemble what they are meant to. What if these producers just switch up their designs so they are not counterfeiting anymore, and keep using child labor and funding terrorism? That would be just as bad, and this proposed law would not punish those people.

  3. 3
    May 2nd, 2011 at 10:50 am

    I agree with Julianne. When I am in China town with my friends from out of town they always want those bags. About a week later, the bags start to fall apart. Its a big waste of money! Why not just buy the real thing at shops or even cheaper places like Century 21 or cheaper places like TJ Maxx.
    My friends want the experience, but its not worth it in the end. I can spot a fake a mile away, and I am sure they do not fool anyone.

  4. 4
    May 2nd, 2011 at 11:08 am

    I do support the idea, but can anyone explain to me why are consumers getting punished and not the people who sell the conterfeit goods? It’s like with making us feel guilty for buying a fish that maybe was caught in a restricted area or bashing us for buying clothes that maybe were produced by the underpaid chlidren workers in China. But how are we supposed to check all this stuff? We, the consumers, are at the very end of the chain, and there is a lot of people on the way from the manufacturer to the consumer whose duty is to make sure everything is right with the product we’re getting. Yet somehow, when it appears to not be right, we are the one to blame for “not checking” and buying a “wrong” thing.

  5. 5
    May 2nd, 2011 at 11:38 am

    I agree that they’re aiming at the wrong place–they should be cracking down on vendors. Places like Canal Street, which has a huge counterfeit black market, are actual tourist destinations for people who are on vacation in NYC. This isn’t going to stop them from doing buying knock-offs–I bet a lot of out of towners probably won’t even be aware of the law if it passes. Yet another case of the government taking aim at the smaller problems and avoiding the larger issues (also, the possibility of getting one year in jail for buying a fake Coach bag? That seems a bit excessive). What happens to the vendor when the person is caught?

    The reasoning behind this also annoys me a little bit. I am sure that it is true that some of this money does go to fund illegal work environments and that it is extremely important to try to stop that, but also I have a feeling that the real reason–and the one that the NYC government would not want to publicize for fear of looking greedy–why they’re so into this is that they’re missing out on a LOT of a sales tax revenue from these bags.

  6. 6
    May 2nd, 2011 at 11:41 am

    I think the concept under this law is to discourage people from buying this stuff since it’s pretty hard to catch the sellers and the producers.
    As long as people buy knockoffs,there will be people who produce knockoffs,but if you prevent people from buying fakes,there will be no market,then and so you should stop also sellers and producers.
    Of course it’s a kind of utopia. Nobody will ever prevent people from buying knockoffs, but I think it’s worth the try.
    @Audrey: buyers can be unaware that they are buying knockoffs,actually. Even shops sometimes sell knockoffs as if they were original,but at a lower price-sometimes even at full price-,not talking about the markets,where you can find stuff absolutely identical to the original item but,obviously,fake.
    I was told by a friend of mine that in a market here in town they sell designer’s ballerinas at a lower price. She was enthusiastic with this,but I immediately thought “Ok,fake”.
    It can happen that you think you’re buying an original item at a great place and you have bought a fake.
    The matter is that it’s almost impossible to prove that you bought a knockoff being unaware of what you were actually buying or if you were concious that the item you were buying was a fake.
    Situations can speak,of course. A knockoff bought in a shop would really easily pass for original, but if you buy a fake chanel bag on the street it’s almost sure you know it’s fake. But again,can the situation be an evidence of unawareness? I think it’s not.
    Still,I don’t understand why people buy fakes. It’s so tacky. I prefer buying non designer stuff than buying imitations because I don’t have the money to buy the original. Come on,wearing a knockoff is like screaming “I’ve no money and I’m a wannabe!”. Ok that nobody can really afford a very expensive piece like a chanel bag…but do we need to buy a fake chanel bag because we can’t afford the real one? What’s wrong with non designer,more cheap purses? They are great PLUS the quality is waay better than fake bags. People should think about this.

  7. 7
    May 2nd, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    There’s a similar statute in Paris.. anyone seen carrying counterfeit designer goods is charged .. I want to say 1000 Euros but I could be quite wrong.. I am definite about the existence of the law, though!

    I think the relation here is about simply supply and demand. If the demand is cut, the supply will be definitively staggered. They cannot cut to the suppliers because there are far too many, and if the counterfeit industry is really valued at 7 billion dollars, then there is NO way that powerful entities have secured ties with the law enforcement.. It cannot be that all these goods have been sold in a black market way without cops cracking down EVERY TIME.

    I live very close to NYC and visit Chinatown a few times during the year. Over the years, there has been a huge change in the market of designer goods. Between the years 2003-2007, Coach bags were hawked like CRAZY! You simply have to walk ten steps before you’re asked, “Miss, Coach? Prada, Gucci.. You want Louis Vuitton?? I have Chanel also, Miss.. What are you looking for, miss??”

    However, since then, the NYPD regularly parades down the street, looking for purchases being made.. If you go to Canal St. now, almost ANYONE who is purchasing a fake good, is doing so stealthily and in private. Many people are escorted to a second location (an apartment a few blocks away, etc).. A lot of the street vendors carry these bags in massive suitcases or boxes that are tied in black cloth and ropes.

    And yes, I’ll be the first one to admit I have purchased bags from here. I would say about four Coach bags, three Chanel purses, eight wallets (LV, Coach, Chanel, Gucci), a Gucci bag, two LV Speedy 30s.. and those are only the ones I remember. I can tell a fake from a real in an INSTANT, so I would never buy a bag that was very obviously fake (come on, cherries on the Monogram canvas?? yuck!) Do I still use them? NO way. I am embarrassed that through my purchases, I funded illegal activities.

    I completely laud the efforts going into this.. this market needs some light shed on.

    BTW, if anyone is interested.. Harper’s Bazaar has done some VERY interesting reports on counterfeit goods, over the years.. If you’ve purchased a fake designer perfume, you’re going to be PISSED (ahem) to find out one of the main ingredients…


  8. 8
    May 2nd, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    Both vendors and buyers should be fined. I would never buy knock offs – I’d rather buy a cheaper bag, than a fake designer bag. Or save up. Or for instance buy, like I have, Marc by Marc Jacobs in stead of Marc Jacobs because you can save so much and still get a gorgeous quality designer bag.

  9. 9
    May 2nd, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    Maybe I’m missing something, but shouldn’t they be targeting the vendors? Punishing the people purchasing knockoffs seems a little misdirected.

  10. 10
    May 2nd, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    …because there’s nothing more Important going on In the country right now than the fight against counterfeits.

  11. 11
    May 2nd, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    Knowingly buying a knockoff bag is pathetic, even worthy of punishment in my opinion; however, I also think it would be more effective to crack down on the vendors. Either way, both parties are guilty. I’m not sure why I feel so strongly about this topic, but I definitely hope the bill goes through.

  12. 12
    May 2nd, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    I feel like it’s sort of a waste of resources…police should focus on catching drug dealers or violent criminals instead.

  13. 13
    May 2nd, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    Punishing the consumers isn’t the answer, it should definitely be the vendors. And someone made a good point, I don’t know if it would really help anything because a lot of the bags could be made the same way but they stop making “knockoffs” and just create cheap bags, maybe “inspired” by designer bags. It still wouldn’t help agaist child labour, etc.

    And of course, how would they differentiate people who thought they were real and the ones who knowingly were buying fakes? It doesn’t make sense. I think they could be concentrating their time passing more important bills than this.

  14. 14
    May 2nd, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    I think the big difference here are people along the main drag of Canal Street purchasing ‘nockoffs’ at the stalls along there (which have to follow certain regulations so that the bags are easily differentiated from the real deal), to people who bought a counterfeit at a consignment shop (where they most likely assumed it was the real thing), to what cg mentioned (those who seek out the sellers of the ‘good’ nockoffs and go to an out-of-the-way location to make the transaction. It’s hard to claim you didn’t know you were buying a fake when you’re in the basement of a massage parlor surrounded by walls of fakes. On top of that, you’re usually given large black plastic bags to carry your purchase around in. It’s very hard to be inconspicuous when you’re hauling that around.

  15. 15
    May 2nd, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    I have mixed feelings about this. Personally, I really enjoy slaving away and saving up my money and getting that amazing feeling when I can FINALLY afford the real designer bag – but at the same time, we can’t all afford designer stuff. A knockoff can give those who don’t have frivolous money to throw away a chance to enjoy the high fashion area on a discount.

    I totally agree that NYC should be cracking down on VENDORS, not consumers. If they are using child laborers, THEY should be shut-down. A buyer has no idea how the bag came about, just that it’s about $2000 cheaper!

  16. 16
    May 2nd, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    I think people buy counterfeits for cheap since they can not afford the real thing since it is way too expensive. So they buy the cheap ones to fit into the in crowd. No, I do not buy anything fake.

  17. 17
    May 2nd, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    Even name brand goods can rely on child or sweatshop labor, probably not to the extent that the counterfeit industry does, but to treat child and sweatshop labor like it is something that only applies to fashion sold illegally in the US is naive. Forever 21 has been accused of unfair wages and sweatshop conditions multiple times, yet it still shows up on this site in nearly every post. What us consumers of the fashion industry really need to focus on is ethics in the fashion industry as a whole by researching where our money is going before slapping the cash on the counter.

  18. 18
    May 2nd, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    I think they should go after the vendors, not the people buying the bags, as some people already said. Many people who are in NYC are just tourists and really may not know any better. My parents bought me and my best friend fake bags when we were I’d say 14 and in NYC for the day. We wanted the bags because the popular girls at school had the designer versions, but we didn’t know anything about designer bags at the time, we just wanted to fit it. I don’t think my parents even knew the bags were fake either, they’re not into labels at all. My aunt bought my mom a Juicy Couture bracelet and she had no idea what it was. So I don’t think they should fine the people buying these bags. Some people really don’t know any better.
    I would never buy a fake bag now, I’m happy with the one real coach bag that I own and my less expensive non-designer bags. Nothing is like owning a real designer bag, I’m saving up for a second one now. I don’t understand people that would knowingly buy a fake bag, even if you fool everyone, you still know it’s a fake.

  19. 19
    May 2nd, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    I think this hot topic of counterfeits is covering up deeper issues. Forcing the sale of counterfeit purses further underground by enforcing ridiculous measures is not going to stop terrorism or child-labor. Period. In fact, I find it almost laughable that buying counterfeit purses aids terrorists!

    Sorry, but I will still probably buy a counterfeit if I like the style.

  20. 20
    May 2nd, 2011 at 6:01 pm

    The vendors, I presume, have city permits and legal obligations already. They might be a fit subject for restriction. The consumers, I should think, are entitled to do what they like with their own money. This is ridiculous.

  21. 21
    May 2nd, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    I know many people have already said this in the comments but I definitely think it’s the vendors who should be fined. Maybe to prevent a “black market” the buyer should also be charged a smaller fine if caught.

  22. 22
    May 2nd, 2011 at 6:49 pm

    I personally think that the vendor should be penalized because indeed that is illegal, but the buyer should not be punished (at that harshly in fact!). I own a knockoff channel bag from Atlantic City that I got awhile ago and yea of course it isnt made as well as an authentic and you can CLEARLY tell its fake….for those who can’t always afford a CHANNEL bag, its fine. For a knockaround bag its fine!

  23. 23
    May 2nd, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    Personal I think the whole thing is stupid. If you didn’t sell the bags for so high people wouldn’t make fakes, and you can get the bags at any flea market or normal town too, it’s not just New York or even get them on the internet. I don’t see the point of a designer bag if everyone is going to have one just like it. I would rather have a unique piece that only I had.

  24. 24
    May 2nd, 2011 at 10:49 pm

    Okay so I’ve never really understood the point of buying knock-off designer stuff. If I see a girl stepping out of a raggedy Honda in an otherwise cheap-looking outfit sporting a Chanel bag, obviously the first thing I think is that it’s fake! There are plenty of inexpensive yet still cute bags at Target and the like, and yet women still want to buy these fakes. For what? To give off the illusion of owning a status symbol? Puhlease.

    Oh, and like most of the other commenters, I agree that the crackdown should be on the producers, not the consumers. It’s the same as punishing drug users instead of investing the same time and energy to shut down dealers: pointless.

  25. 25
    May 2nd, 2011 at 11:05 pm

    I agree with Chelsea. Police shouldn’t have to spend time trying to catch people with designer bags when there are much more important problems like violence and drugs.

    Sometimes I feel like the people who want to enforce these strict laws are people who have designer bags and don’t want anyone else to be able to have something similar to that symbol. Unfair child labor and sweat shop conditions aren’t something unique to knock off bags, as someone else said regarding Forever21 and other places I can imagine like Walmart. I wonder how many people who don’t have any interest in owning a designer bag believe passionately that knock offs should be eradicated.

  26. 26
    May 2nd, 2011 at 11:53 pm

    Elitist much? I’m not exactly sure where this bill came from. It’s not like the United States ever cared in the slightest about exploiting workers anyways. Why, all of the sudden, are knock-off bags the cradle of evil and exploitation? Many, many US companies turn to sweatshops, maquiladoras and…really, any way for them to obtain cheaper labor and avoid stricter environmental laws. I’m not sure why the mayor of NYC suddenly decided to fine people who can’t afford real designer bags for purchasing knock-offs. If it’s because they are stealing artistic design….then that’s on the designer/vendor. Not the consumer. I just really don’t understand this at all and I don’t know why the mayor and police don’t have anything better to do. I think the mayor probably just hates knock-offs herself and has made it her personal mission to abolish them.

  27. 27
    May 3rd, 2011 at 4:58 am

    Doesn’t the government have better things to do than to worry about fashion knock-offs? The reason people have them is because they can’t afford the real ones, so I don’t see this being all too beneficial to citizens.

  28. 28
    May 3rd, 2011 at 6:10 am

    I moved to China a while ago, and this post made me laugh!
    Mostly because that such a bill could never be passed over here! There are fake goods EVERYWHERE.

  29. 29
    May 3rd, 2011 at 6:50 am

    this is f_ing crazy
    u cant punish the people who buy it
    brands like topshop have refused to join the ethical trading initiative…..what do they have to hide
    its not just knock offs that use child labour….and please dont say it creates employment for them…..the reason they are being used is coz they are cheap labour with no minimum wage or trade unions to help them
    i dont think the consumers should be punished for this
    btw there are many other problame that the gov should be focusing on like cracking down on the companies for using child labour…..including big brands

  30. 30
    May 3rd, 2011 at 11:59 am

    They are cracking down on the consumers because if they stop buying them, the manufacturers will stop making them.

  31. 31
    May 3rd, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    I find it a good measure to try to stop this fake-frenzy we are in. Fining the sellers doesn’t seem to work, because, at least here in Spain, they are here illegaly, which means they don’t have an identity and are hard to track down.
    But the buyers have more to loose and maybe this will stop them, or at least a great percentage of them.
    I LOVE a Chanel, but as a college student I don’t have the means to buy it, but I don’t run to the “bag dealer” down the street because first, IT’S FAKE, and second, well I want Chanel, Prada, Louis Vuiton, Dior and so on to keep making those great bags and shoes that turn me mad.
    So if getting music and movies illegaly is fined, people should be fine for buying those bags.

  32. 32
    May 3rd, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    The vendors need to be punished, not the consumers. While I don’t buy fakes, if that’s how I wanted to spend my money, I should be allowed to spend it that way…

  33. 33
    May 3rd, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    I buy my bags at Target or the thrift store. I couldn’t care less about designer bags, real or fake, and don’t understand what’s so great about them. This “omg fake bags are horrible” issue annoys me, however. Any idiot can see that the real issues regarding fake bags are: 1. the state losing money on sales tax, 2. elitists getting all pissy about the riff-raff being able to carry around their status symbols.

    If the lawmakers and other people campaigning against fake bags really believed in their own line about terrorism and child labor they’d have to shut down our entire economy!

  34. 34
    May 4th, 2011 at 11:59 am

    This seems like a waste of time. The classism of, “Oh, people who will sink to the level of purchasing a counterfeit deserve punishment” – get over yourselves, please. Business is not being taken from designer brands anyway: I’m willing to bet the majority of people who purchase knockoff items aren’t going to suddenly be willing to purchase legitimate designer goods now that knockoffs aren’t as readily available.

    And this is coming from a person that doesn’t own a designer knock off.

    Also, I take umbrage at eliminating unsafe child labor. (Is there really such thing as “safe” child labor, at least in an industrial, production-based sector?) Please. If we were concerned with eliminating child labor, we would charge anyone purchasing Nestle or Nike products. Or many of the other mass-produced items we purchase at discount stores.

  35. 35
    May 4th, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    This is one of the reasons I refrain from buying pirated ”DVDs” and such stuff because of the chances that the money goes to fund other illegal or terrorist operations among others.

    For those asking why they are deciding to punish the buyers of vendors, the reason is pretty simple economics – demand leads to supply and buyers/ civilians are more easy to scare compared to someone who earns his livelihood selling illegal stuff.

  36. 36
    May 4th, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    Purses? Please. Try knock-off clothing. Everything we buy from Target, Kohl’s, and even Macy’s and Von Maur are designer ‘inspired’. I can find almost exact replicas of designer clothing in stores for way cheaper. How much child labor/low wages goes into that? Nothing is honest except fair trade.

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