By nature, I am a rule follower. I like following instructions, and I participate in very few illegal activities. I am a model citizen in that, after receiving a $165 speeding fine, I now actually follow the speed limit (on that particular road, anyhow) more closely.
But I have recently found that when it comes to illegal Chinese designer knockoff handbags, all bets are off. I have bought knockoff handbags in The City before, the ones you get from street vendors or in any one of the millions of tiny identical shops on Canal Street. The ones that look like designer bags but lack the labels...the handbag equivalent of a dime bag that's really just oregano mixed with catnip.
Apparently, unbeknownst to my sometimes naive self, Canal Street is a lot like Amsterdam's Red Light District...except that the constant passing whispers aren't "treeps, treeps, cocaine...", but "Louis Vitton, Gucci, Prada...". I'm not sure if this is mandated or not, but all of the whispering young Asian women seem to wear the same coat--the long puffy North Face one that makes you look like you're wearing a big black sleeping bag. Respond to their beckoning, and they will lead you a block or 2 off Canal Street to one of many nondescript buildings where bountiful illegal merchanise awaits.
The first one we entered was filled with Chinese men playing ping-pong. I have been told that there was a sign on the door that read "Chinese Ping Pong Training Center," but I didn't see it myself. We were shuffled past the players into a makeshift room smaller than my kitchen. It was filled with handbags...Coach, Prada, Louis Vitton, you get the idea. At first, in my ignorance (and also because my brother-in-law said so), I believed that at least some of these bags were the Real Thing, but now I'm fairly certain that at most, they were just very good imitations. We didn't buy anything at the Chinese Ping Pong Training Center because our one seasoned buyer couldn't negotiate the kind of deal she wanted. I sadly put down the 3 bags I had in my hands and we left.
Later, we ended up in a warehouse type space that had been outfitted with 4 or 5 of the small rooms. They were each run by someone different. I ended up with a Prada, a Coach, and a Balenciaga bag, plus a small Coach wristlet, all for about $100. Of course they aren't real, though the Coach I got is an excellent reproduction, and even has a very real-looking price tag (MSRP: $280). The Balenciaga is a piece of crap...it's pretty much made of plastic but they certainly did a good job with the overall look of it. Note to self: next time, check the inside first to make sure the prong of the fake metal label isn't actually poking through the fabric. The Prada seems to be decent quality-wise, and might even be real leather, though the lining is not of the highest quality. My mom is getting it for Christmas. The Coach bags are for my sister. Being in the midwest, they don't have access to these things, so what may seem ubiquitous and cheap to us on the east coast is probably going to be pretty exciting for them as they stumble mindlessly through the cornfields, eating cheese and watching for tornados. I won't try to pass the bags off to them as the real thing. While I may be capable of such naughtiness as making off-Canal Street illegal purchases, I'm still a shitty liar.