The RealReal Fights Fake Handbags With A Fake Canal Street Store

New York’s Canal Street is notorious for street vendors selling counterfeit luxury goods. So perhaps it’s no surprise that what looks like a new RealReal store on Canal Street is actually stocked with counterfeits. What may be unexpected, though: this store is fronted by The RealReal itself.

Look through the window at 301 Canal Street, off Broadway, through early September and you’ll see 35 authentic-looking luxury handbags from such brands as Hermes, Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Gucci. But under “Hours,” a sign on the window notes that the store is Closed Monday – Sunday.”

The window also includes a QR code that takes users to a RealReal website page titled “Ask Yourself What’s Real” in which the fashion reseller explains that “these are fake bags we caught during our authentication process….We’re doing this to start a conversation. It’s never been harder to tell what’s real and what isn’t.”



The page is unjudgmental toward anyone owning replica goods. “We’re not going to judge anyone for owning a shady Celine or carrying a bullsh*t Bottega,” it says. “We get that fakes can seem cool. They’re a response to the exclusivity of luxury fashion (so are we!).”

After running down a list of the consequences of counterfeit fashion (e.g., they’re often from cartels and crime syndicates funding illegal firearms, narcotics and terrorism; they often use forced labor and the work of minors, they undercut the hard work of legit designers and artisans, and they’re made with cheap materials and likely to end up in landfills harming the environment),

The RealReal goes on to invite the public to visit the “store” this Saturday, June 22, or July 20 or August 17, when the retailer will “take any fake bag off your hands with no questions asked.”

Those surrendering their replica bags won’t get to enter the “store” itself, though.  Instead, they’ll be directed to an office above the store, which The RealReal and the fake store’s co-creator Mythology, say is “reminiscent of the back rooms of Canal Street where the ‘best’ fakes are sold.”

In return for turning in their counterfeits, shoppers will be entered in a sweepstakes to “win the real thing.”

Some of those “real things” can be seen at “Canal Street Classics,” a RealReal online curation that launched last week. It includes not only authentic versions of frequently counterfeited handbags like the Louis Vuitton Speed and Hermes Birkin, Chanel Flap Bag, Dior and Goyard totes, but also other designer accessories, such as Gucci belts and Rolex watches.

For TheRealReal, making sure its customers aren’t buying fake merchandise traded in by others has been a big concern throughout the reseller’s 13-year history. The company says, that out of over 39.2 million items authenticated during that time period, it has now kept 250,000 fraudulent items off the market, with the amount now averaging about 5,000 items monthly.

To this end, the retailer says it employs over 100 experts, including gemologists and horologists, who inspect thousands of items daily.  Machine learning and AI techniques are also part of the authentication process.

While Hermes, Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Gucci dupes are among the most common handbag imitations received, The RealReal notes that counterfeits of the “most coveted quiet luxury brands, such as The Row and Celine, are being produced at record-speeds as well.”


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