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THE MANNERIST

Don't ask, do tell

November 04, 2007|Monica Corcoran | Times Staff Writer

Q: For my last birthday, I treated myself to a Birkin. Well, it's a really expensive fake Birkin bag. This is one of those $2,000 ones that I ordered from Asia, and I have heard that even Hermes can't tell them apart. Anyway, I told my friend where I got it, and she now feels compelled to tell everyone that it's not real. If we're together and someone compliments my bag, she immediately says, "She got it from China." She says I have to 'fess up to it being a fake because it's only fair. Am I a big phony if I just keep my mouth shut and pretend that it's the real deal?

--

Dear P.K.,

Ah, counterfetiquette. In this synthetic age, it's sometimes difficult to discern between benign and venal falsities. Forged signatures on checks are illegal and obviously not up for discussion. Same goes for trafficking in imitation luxury merchandise under false pretense. But do you have to admit to a disingenuous smile on a bad first date? Or tell your husband that your nails are actually acrylic? If so, shouldn't dinner guests be forewarned that you used "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter!" in the mashed potatoes?

Simon Doonan, creative director at Barneys, sniffs at any masquerade of affluence. "It's always good to tell people that it's fake because otherwise, you're promoting yourself as having more money than you do, and that's pathetic," says Doonan, author of the upcoming book "Eccentric Glamour: Creating an Insanely More Fabulous You." Doonan is personally against fakes but adds: "I can't imagine that anybody really cares."

Other than Hermes, of course, which no longer authenticates bags. "I have heard that if you walk into an Hermes store with a fake Birkin, they can confiscate it," says Tina Craig of Bagsnob.com, a website devoted to designer accessories. (According to Hermes in Beverly Hills, that urban legend is about as authentic as your purse.)

Actually, snagging a real Birkin has become so arduous that more and more fakes abound. Nationwide waiting lists for the iconic bag are closed. Even the Hermes location in Vienna, Va. -- which was rumored to be the last store taking names -- has 500 people waiting for a Birkin.

"We only take names of local people right now," a salesman says with a sigh. He admits that he's been offered "crazy bribes" to hopscotch to the top of the list.

Craig, who owns eight Birkins, three Kelly bags and a mini-pochette by Hermes -- almost $80,000 worth of authentic Hermes purses -- is more pragmatic than Doonan when it comes to owning up.

"It's a woman's prerogative if she wants to admit that it's fake or not," she says. "But either way, most people can tell."

Clearly, the choice is yours. I wouldn't admit to a mock croc bogus Birkin unless someone outright asked me whether my purse was born in Paris or China. What concerns me more than your appetite for imitation accessories, however, is your taste in acquaintances. If that supposed pal can't keep the copycat in the bag, she's what I call a make-believe friend.

--

Have a burning social woe or a beef about bad behavior in Hollywood? Send questions to the Mannerist at monica.corcoran@latimes.com.

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