Want to purchase a designer handbag, but worried it might be a counterfeit? Angie Houston, founder of MyPoupette.com started a site in 1999 to educate consumers about designer purses, and to teach them how to spot a fake handbag. Angie's experience comes from running a high-end boutique and her own love of designer handbags. She has worked at authenticating purses for many years.
Designer Handbag Authentication
LoveToKnow (LTK): There are so many stories of people who have purchased purses online and even in person, only to find out later they've paid way too much for a shoddy fake. What is your advice to anyone thinking about buying a designer purse from a secondary source?
Angie Houston (AH): The best advice I can give is that the purchaser know how the item should look. Go to the retailer and get a good look and feel for the item. Also, get a few reference photos from trusted sources (such as the designer's web site or from department store sites) so there is a way to compare the contemplated purchase with the real thing.
LTK: You authenticate items by sellers. Tell us a little about this process and why your visitors can trust that the items are genuine.
AH: We take regular trips to major retailers so we know how the product should look and feel, we check stitching, materials and workmanship. We also rely on our many years of expertise, as well as a database of more than 10 million images of various bags. We may need to have the person send us the bag to inspect in person. With that, we could end up taking the bag to the retailer to do our own side by side inspection. If we are still in doubt, we inform the customer that we are unable to authenticate the item.
Most of our authentications are done by photo, no matter the designer. However, there are cases where we absolutely have to see the item in person. We need to see the item in person when something appears just off, or if we need to see views that cannot be captured by photo. This might include hard to reach labels, stitching inside pockets, or simply to touch and smell the materials.
LTK: What is the best way to protect yourself when purchasing an item? What are the specific steps you would take as a purchaser?
AH: Besides knowing how the item should look, try to purchase from a reputable seller. If purchasing on Ebay, check out the seller's feedback. If you are unfamiliar with the item, have someone who is knowledgeable give you a second opinion and ask questions of the seller, such as where the bag came from and how he/she knows it is authentic. The answers should be something that makes you as a buyer feel comfortable. Also, purchase using a method that gives you recourse for a refund in case anything goes wrong. This would include Paypal or a credit card. Paying by check, wire or money order to a seller that you are uncertain about can leave you without recourse.
LTK: There are some fake "My Poupette" logos and letters floating around. How can readers know if the authentication is fake?
AH: There is always a confirmation page for people to check to see whether the person or an item has been authenticated.
- Specifically, when a seller has an item authenticated, if they have provided their item number, we list it on the confirmation page.
- If the person is using the MPRS (My Poupette Recommended Seller) logo, their name should appear on the Recommended Seller page.
- The My PoupetteRS web site was created for sellers who were hassled by Ebay about referencing a site that "competed" with Ebay. By the way, the "RS" at the end of My Poupette means "Recommended Seller."
Future Plans for My Poupette
LTK: Any plans for expanding My Poupette?
AH: Yes! My Poupette is already exceeding capacity to adequately service our clients. We are definitely working on expansion so that we have more authenticators and more locations where people can drop off their items for authentication. There are other plans as well, but I am not at liberty to discuss them at this time.
More About Angie Houston and My Poupette
LTK: Can you tell us a little about why you decided to start MyPoupette.com?
AH: I started My Poupette almost ten years ago, when I saw the need for people to have a resource for information about authentic Louis Vuitton. This was during a time when Ebay was just becoming popular for sales of designer bags that people wanted to get off their closet shelves. Some people believed they were selling authentic merchandise, but many of their items were counterfeits. I wrote to tell them that their items were not authentic. Some were happy for the information and others told me to get lost. After about a year, I decided to start a web site that would provide information for avid purchasers of Louis Vuitton. Since that time, we have expanded to authenticate other designers as well.
LTK: Have you always had an interest in fashion?
AH: I am not a fashionista and frankly do not follow trends. I am truly a non-conformist. My goal is to follow handbags, specifically, so I can help in my consumer protection efforts.
Find out more about My Poupette, including authenticators' expericene, at the About My Poupette page. You can also find a number of additional resources to further your education about the counterfeit industry and how to protect yourself from fraud on the web site. By being aware and using available resources, buyers can safely find authenticate handbags -- and don't have to fall prey to fake handbag scams.