When you're looking to invest in a designer handbag, nothing is more important than knowing your intended purchase is the real thing. Authenticity becomes even more of a concern when you're buying second hand, and with a rise in designer fakes it's important to have your wits about you before you buy - or better still, to arm yourself with some insider knowledge on recognising quality to help you weed out those convincing copies.

I recently travelled to Paris to get an expert view on how to avoid buying counterfeit goods from luxury resale site Vestiaire Collective; an online store and community where you can buy and sell designer fashion items here in the UK. Similar in its concept to Ebay but with a fantastic curation, valuation and delivery service from beginning to end, it's a great new destination for finding luxe fashion at great prices, or to guarantee a good return for those looking to sell. The latest pieces in their arsenal of designer gear can be found here, and you can also keep up with their Instagram account for behind-the-scenes action.

Sounds good? You can also WIN A £500 voucher to spend at Vestiaire Collective with our sister site, Shoewawa.com. 

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Vintage Louis Vuitton luggage sold at Vestiaire Collective. Louis Vuitton is one of the most widely copied labels in the world, but Vestiaire's team can spot a fake from a photograph

The curation team at Vestiaire's French HQ receive more than 800 pieces a day, so they're a real authority on what to look out for when you're buying designer: each member of the team has been trained by the biggest fashion houses and works closely with labels including Chanel, Celine and Louis Vuitton, and they've recently signed an online charter against counterfeiting.

Real or Fake - can you tell the difference?

I asked the team for some trade tips on what to look out for, and they showed me some very convincing examples of designer fakes. Can you tell the difference between the three Celine bags below? Only one is real, the other two are fakes. Scroll to the end of the article to see if you guessed right!

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before you guess the answer, here are some pointers...

What to look for when buying a designer bag:

  • Leather quality. Although counterfeiters are getting better at imitating the premium leathers used by major fashion houses, many still slip up on this important detail. In many cases the leather used to make a faked handbag will look shinier than that of a genuine piece, while others may have a 'plasticky' quality. Remember to look inside the bag as well: this is often where you can see the biggest difference in leather quality. Again, it's important to familiarise yourself with the look and feel of the genuine piece first.
  • Sizing and measurements. Two pieces can look very similar at first glance, and there may be no difference to the colour, embellishments or logo visible to the naked eye. This is when you need to get your ruler out! Many brands have hard-and-fast rules about the sizing of their bags, the distance from pocket to handle, etc. You can find these out by asking the brand to send you the measurements of the bag you want to buy: in most cases they'll be pleased to pass these on.

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  • Logos. Many fashion houses deliberately make their logos hard to copy, but even a basic-looking logo can be hard to imitate. There will be a particular bespoke font used in most cases, and the logo will be set at a specific size on each bag. Sometimes, a simple comparison will reveal a blatant difference in size between the logo of an original and copy, so you may not even need to use instruments.
     
  • Designer codes. Most designer brands issue serial numbers on their pieces, which can be easily checked with the label. However, to ensure these codes are not simply copied, many have more secretive systems in place that only those in the know can identify. A better-known example is Louis Vuitton's practice of placing an 'LV' monogram on every ninth square in its chequered fabric. Be sure to count the squares every time you buy a classic check item by Louis Vuitton! Hermes, meanwhile, has a long-established system of letters to denote the age and origin of its coveted Birkin bags.

  • Finishing touches. According to Vestiaire's authentication team, these are the biggest give-aways when it comes to spotting fakes. Embellishments, tags and other add-ons can be difficult to copy, and lower quality can be easy to spot. Look closely at these elements of the authentic pieces so you can recognise any deviations.

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Answer: The real Celine bag is the blue one on the left: the other two are fakes. The only way to tell the difference here is to measure the bags and the placement of the detailing on them.