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Faux Pas

Sometimes, faking it is good – smiling at exes when you want them dead; tofu bacon instead of regular. But then sometimes, faking it is decidedly ba

Sometimes, faking it is good – smiling at exes when you want them dead; tofu bacon instead of regular. But then sometimes, faking it is decidedly bad – especially, it seems, with handbags. As a million faux Pradas continue to flood Canal Street, Harper’s Bazaar holds their annual anti-counterfeit summit today, hoping to educate readers around the world about the ethics of their Chanel purse. But is there really a danger in counterfeit shopping – other than getting caught with a plastic Chloe by Phoebe Philo? Fashionista interviewed Bazaar publisher Valerie Salembier to explore…

It’s a little unreal that you’ve got a whole summit on fake handbags. How did that happen? “It happened four years ago, right after I joined Bazaar. I was in Paris, and saw a brochure they give out in French airports. It shows luxury items with trademarks, like Gucci, Dior, and the brochure said, if you’re caught with a fake trademark, you’ll be arrested and fined 360,000 Euros! For fake Gucci glasses? I know! And I thought on the trip home, no fashion magazine is talking about this. And I spoke to Glenda Bailey, our editor in chief, and we said, "This is an issue worth covering." What we learned that first year was horrfying – if you buy a fake, the money is laundered. It supports terrorist organizations, it supports child labor, and it supports drug cartels. That sounds awfully dramatic… Unfortunately, it’s true. The factories used to produce counterfeit goods are abhorrent. They steal childhoods. And what do your readers say, when you tell them it's the real thing or bust? We've gotten hundreds of letters from women... they say things like, "I tore out the article in your magazine and gave it to my friends..." and "I gave my sister money to buy a fake handbag, but after reading your article, I told her to forget it." Really, there was no awareness of where people's money is going when they purchase a counterfeit, and it's going to a variety of terrible places -organized crime, unregulated labor. Our readers are as upset as we were. Why do you think people love status bags so much? Even fake ones? Because fashion is magical. Everyone at all income levels wants to be part of that magic. Let’s say you love handbags but you can’t afford a Stam. What’s a good bag that one can afford, but still wear into the Bazaar office? Cole Haan and Furla make fabulous handbags at a price point that most any working person can afford. Also, Coach, which has turned into a fashion brand, and the new collection from Banana Republic is out of this world. I’m about to buy that white handbag that they just ran in Bazaar; I’m going to the store tonight. I love it. Remember in Ten Things I Hate About You, where the girls talk about loving their Prada backpack? What can a younger girl get if she can’t have Prada? LeSportsac is good – even Stella McCartney is doing LeSportsac now! American Eagle is cute, too. What about buying a designer bag on Bluefly, or at TJ Maxx? Sure, that’s fine! Discount handbags are fine, as long as there’s proof that it comes from the designer… if TJ Maxx has tags on the handbags from the original company, that’s great. Um, I think I just admitted that I shop at TJ Maxx… That’s okay. Everybody does it! For more information on the anti-counterfeit movement, read this month's Bazaar or visit the IACC.

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