How to authenticate a Louis Vuitton Alma: 5 steps
Alongside Gucci and Chanel, Louis Vuitton bags are one of the most counterfeited. Therefore following on from the great response to our “how to authenticate a Chanel flap bag” last week I thought I might give you my top tips on how to authenticate a Louis Vuitton Alma. You could choose to watch the video or if you prefer; read the blog below.
With the counter-fitters getting ever cleverer, fake bags are coming with receipts and even stood side by side with a genuine bag are hard to tell apart. At this point, I will quickly point out that choosing to purchase a fake bag is not without consequence. Apart from the basic fact that it is illegal it also supports the black market, underage workers, bad working and bad working conditions. If you're interested in this you may wish to read the article by the BBC "What's wrong with buying fake luxury goods?". Furthermore, despite spending sometimes £300+ on your bag, it has no onward value. As you can imagine, fake goods are the bane of the second-hand market and that is why I am pleased to share with you at the end of the article how we use technology to fight fakes. Beyond purchasing authentic preloved Louis Vuitton bags from a reputable store...Here are my top tips for authenticating at home:
1) THE MONOGRAM
Photo attributable to Laarni B N'style
b) After looking at the print in the leather - it is important to look carefully at the LV print itself. The Monogram should always be symmetric. The specific symbols should flow equally from start to finish in all areas of the handbag and should always flow from stitch line to stitch line in a balanced manner, starting and finishing with the same symbol.
- Correct: LV + LV + LV → Begins and ends with the same symbol
- Wrong: O + O + O + → Begins and ends with a different symbol
For example, see below an example of an authentic Louis Vuitton Speedy.
(i) If the Louis Vuitton monogram starts with a partial symbol due to the stitch line separation of two distinct areas of the bag, then the specific sequence should end with the same remaining partial symbol being sliced by the stitch line at the same spot:
Correct: ) + O + O + ( → Begins and ends with half circle
Wrong: ) + O + O + O → Begins with half circle and ends with a full circle
(ii) A crucial point here is that Louis Vuitton will not partially cut their LV logo symbol, such that that the LV logo will always be 100% visible. Any stitch line slicing through a LV logo is an automatic red flag. However, partial secondary symbols are ok as long as they remain consistent with the (aforementioned) points.
If "|" represents a stitch line then: |LV or LV| would be considered correct.
If "|" represents a stitch line then: L|V or L| or |V [etc] would be incorrect.
For an example of a fake monogram print please see below.
attributable to: spotfakehandbags.com
2) THE CLOCHETTE
The Clochette should again have a milder stamp of the Louis Vuitton logo than most fake bags manage to achieve. I used the image from BrandsBlogger to demonstrate this below. Often fake bags will have more stitches of poorer quality. The key numbers should also match up to your padlock.
3) THE LINING & STITCHING
For the Louis Vuitton Alma Vernis, you can see that the colour of the lining matches the outside of the bag. Beyond this, it is important to notice the quality of the stitching inside the bag as well as on the outside. For example, in the video above I show you that there is a 0.5cm hem on the fabric of the pocket. The logo and stitching of all the internal plaques will also be perfect. The one thing I often think does look funny inside real bags is the printing of the date code. So don't be put off if you think the font looks a little "cheap".
The external stitching is faultless in fact I can spend some time just admiring it - on a slow day that is! Areas to note in particular are the number of stitches at the base of the handles. There should be five - as demonstrated in the image below.
4) THE HARDWARE
I feel like a bit of a broken record but again it all comes down to the quality of the imprint into the metal. Having seen a lot of bags now it is perhaps more of an experience thing but the authentic bags have a lighter logo embossing into the metal. Further to this "Louis Vuitton" is not emblazoned on every piece of hardware - only on particular places. On the Alma Vernis, as in my video, you can see that it is not on the hardware where the handles join the bag.
5) THE DATE CODE
From the 1980’s onwards there was date stamping. But early on you might not recognise what the codes were like - they were simply 3 digit codes that represent the year and month of manufacturer. From the 1990s this has now evolved using letters and numbers.
Date codes are often hard to find - luckily on the one I used above it is on a leather tab and I can see it clearly but often on other LV bags if the lining is the microfibre suede they are near on impossible to find. You can see from the image below what I mean about the font used on the date codes. I think it looks inexpensive and a little off-brand. Date codes are now found on almost every piece apart from some luggage and limited editions.
How to read the modern date codes: We will use the image below to explain. The letter at the beginning corresponds to the factory of manufacturer. So you can see that FL = made in the USA. The first and third letter corresponds to the month (the week after 2007) of manufacturer so in this case 02 is the second month = February. The second and third number corresponds to the year of manufacture with was 2002. Please see below for a list of factory codes.
Louis Vuitton Factory Location Codes
Note this is not a complete list.
|France||A0, A1, A2, AA, AAS (Special Order), AH, AN, AR, AS, BA, BJ, BU, DR, DU, DR, DT, CO, CT, CX, ET, FL, LW, MB, MI, NO, RA, RI, SA, SD, SF, SL, SN, SP, SR, TA, TJ, TH, TN, TR, TS, VI, VX|
|Italy||BC, BO, CE, FO, MA, NZ, OB, PL, RC, RE, SA, TD|
|Spain||BC, CA, LO, LB, LM, LW, GI, UB|
|USA||FC, FH, LA, OS, SD, FL, TX|
Inside the bag in the video, the date code was SN4104 this corresponds to France - 40 months of 2014.
6) THE ONLY STEP YOU NEED
The steps above will most certainly get you out of the woods when dealing with "regular fake bags". The bad quality ones that you can pick up for £50 or so. However, the rise of the "super fake" is causing authentication by eye to become increasingly difficult. Even sat side by side it can sometimes be near on impossible to tell the difference. As Louis Vuitton continue to increase their prices (the current price of an Alma PM in Vernis Leather is £1630 in August 2019) the market for people paying in the region of £150 for a super fake is growing.
Therefore to date I have yet to come across anything better than Entrupy for telling unequivocally if a bag is genuine or not. Entrupy goes beyond just what the human eye can see, touch and feel and actually use technology to investigate at the microscopic level. We currently use this at Sign of the Times and would be delighted to use it to authenticate your bags for you. You can bring your items to us for authentication at our office in Chelsea, London. Alternatively you can post them to us. Either way please do contact us to organise.
Entrupy works by taking microscopic pictures of the leather to see if there are any plastic particles or inconsistencies to an authentic piece. It is over 99% accurate and works using artificial intelligence to keep learning.
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