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Chanel or Channel? A guide to spotting a fake Chanel handbag

4th April 2018. By Hannah Forrest

The iconic Chanel leather flap handbag with its distinctive quilted finish and chain-link straps has been a fashion staple since it was first designed by Coco Chanel in the 1920s. Sported by the likes of Audrey Hepburn, Princess Diana and Jackie Kennedy Onassis, the Chanel bag is still a firm fashion favourite today.

These bags cost thousands of pounds at retail prices and there is a thriving market for vintage and second hand handbags at auction, which can fetch in the region of £1,000-2,000. As prices have increased, the number of fake handbags has risen too; whilst it is always best to buy from a specialist auctioneer or dealer, here are a few tips to help you differentiate the real from the fake.

Poor quality finishing to the handle on a fake bag

QUALITY Firstly – check the overall finish of the bag. How is the stitching – is it even and neat? Are there any scruffy or unfinished edges? Chanel products will always have an immaculate finish which stands the test of time, and large, clumsy stitches usually ring alarm bells. If a bag is going to be sold for thousands of pounds, it should appear that every tiny detail is perfect.

Top: A genuine Chanel logo with rounded ‘C’s’ interlocking at the correct points

Middle: A badly stamped fake Chanel logo

Bottom: Clumsy, unclear logo on a fake bag.

LOGO The signature intertwined ‘CC’ logo for Chanel should always have the right hand ‘C’ overlapping at the top and the left hand ‘C’ overlapping at the bottom. The lettering should be proportional and evenly spaced – Chanel’s ‘C’s’ can be continued to make perfect circles, whereas fake ‘C’s’ often have an elongated or stretched appearance. Stamped logos should be crisp, straight and even. Of course – don’t forget to check it is spelled correctly!

Perfectly symmetrical quilting on a genuine Chanel bag, with stitching that continues across the pocket

SYMMETRY Check the overall placement of the quilted squares, which should be perfectly symmetrical from all angles, and both ends of the bag should match. If there is a patch pocket, the quilting pattern should continue perfectly.

INTERIOR How does the lining feel? Often this is where counterfeit items show themselves as the linings can often be cheap polyester or pleather. Real Chanel bags usually have high quality lambskin leather.

Top: A poorly made, cheap looking zip with no branding in a fake bag

Bottom: Crisp, smart branding to a clasp fastening on a genuine bag

FASTENINGS Most genuine bags sport zips stamped with a ‘CC’ motif, a ‘C’ or ‘Chanel that is crisp, even and clear. If the stamping is clumsy or distorted, this is a sign of a fake. The quality of a zip can give a fake away too – be wary of bags with cheap plastic zips.

An example of a fake bag, with only 7 stitches per side

QUILTING Chanel bags will usually have about 11 or 12 stitches to each edge of the quilted squares, which gives a genuine bag an evenly quilted finish. Fakes often have fewer bigger stitches, which give the bag a slightly ‘puffy’ appearance.

STRUCTURE If you place the bag on the table, does it sit evenly? Real bags should sit up straight, keeping their rigid structure and clean lines. Fakes will often appear uneven in their posture, tilting to one side or appearing fatter at one end than the other.

AGEING If the bag is older and well used, how has it stood the test of time? Real Chanel bags are so well made they age well – the leather may wrinkle and crease, but the bag shouldn’t be falling apart.

Serial number sticker on a genuine bag

SERIAL NUMBERS Chanel bags usually have a serial sticker – however, as with all vintage goods there are exceptions – and the number of this sticker can help to determine the age of the bag. If there is no sticker, are there any signs of one being removed, perhaps a mark where it once sat? If you bag has an authenticity card, this serial number should match the number on the card.

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