Canal Street is the New York of the movies. Not the glossy, shiny Manhattan of Breakfast at Tiffany’s and ice-skating at the Rockefeller Center, but the grimy, frentic, smelly, traffic-jammed, rat-scuttling Manhattan where people trade, hustle, shout, elbow, swear, in the shadow of old tenement buildings.


At the far end of Broadway, with SoHo’s boutiques to the north, and bordered by the chaos of Chinatown to the east this is what I think of as proper New York. I like to walk around (looking purposeful, you can’t really wander around here without being mown down by sheep-like tourists) just watching people, before heading to Chinatown for dumplings and grocery shopping.


Whilst Canal Street is great for getting phones unlocked, and picking up electrical peripherals, the area is also known for the preponderence of Chinese men & women sidling up to tourists muttering fake bags, fake watches under their breath.

(I often get stopped in the street by tourists asking where to buy counterfeits, and take enormous pleasure in mis-directing them.)

So, given that Manhattan is over run with Christmas shoppers, searching for bargains, I thought this would be a good point at which to say: there are better souvenirs of New York available than a knock off bag or watch of dubious quality, flogged by underpaid and desperate workers, made by exploited sweatshop workers in filthy, dangerous conditions and sold to finance Triads, sex trafficking, the drugs trade and gun running. (I’m not pretending that genuine designer goods are always made in perfect environments but, believe me, fakes never are.)

Buying fake bags is NOT a harmless activity, is not a victimless crime. Here is Dana Thomas, author of ‘Deluxe: How Luxury Lost its Lustre in a piece in US Harper’s Bazaar last year.

“It is estimated that up to 7 percent of our annual world trade — $600 billion worth — is counterfeit or pirated; that fakes are believed to be directly responsible for the loss of more than 750,000 American jobs…

…I recall the raid I went on with Chinese police in a tenement in Guangzhou and what we discovered when we walked in: two dozen sad, tired, dirty children, ages 8 to 14, making fake Dunhill, Versace, and Hugo Boss handbags on old, rusty sewing machines. It was like something out of Dickens, Oliver Twist in the 21st century.” (Read the rest of Dana Thomas’ excellent article here.)

Every time you loop the handle or strap of your shiny new fake around your wrist, think of the tortured and exploited little child that made it tugging at the other end.

Do you really want your bag or watch to make that kind of style statement?

Photos: Taken by LLG on Canal Street, Saturday 11 December, 2010

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Thank you a thousand times over for this…



Living in Hong Kong fakes are easily accessible, one interesting fact (I think) is that not all brands are being copied. Right now Tory Burch is widely available. This has made me realize that the fakes that are being produced is made for a global market and not just to be sold in China. The brands chosen are often highly priced, distinctive design (like RL Polo-player) and therefore has a status attached to them. Most people who buy these fakes could probably not afford the real deal, but are after some of it´s status.
Also here in HK there are queues outside of Chanel and Gucci on the weekends when tourists from the mainland want to be guaranteed the real goods.


Yes. Yes. Yes. It’s a horrible thing at every level … the shops that are actually paying for their inventory, the designer who has his/her intellectual property stolen and then the little fingers making these things. I cannot believe that Google with its very serious acts of protection of its brand would allow page after page of replica/mirror/fake goods. And now Facebook accepts advertising from many sites that sell fake goods. Just today Balenciaga emailed me to confirm that the Facebook site advertising a flash sale of Balenciaga bags – in depth and in color – was not a customer and the goods were most likely fake. I have similar emails from Chanel, Fendi, Burberry … all fake. A visit to Christian Louboutin’s I Hate Fakes page is amazing – page after page into the hundreds of known fake sites.


Thank you! I make a living lobbying here in DC for intellectual property rights and I am so tired of people who do NOT grasp the ramifications of buying knock off movies, pirated music and fake luxury handbags. The idiocy levels of these consumers is so high that I wonder if we’ll ever win this battle.


Years ago (in penurious times) I was visiting NYC from Sydney and went shopping on Canal with a friend. She asked for two “Prada” bags — one for each of her sisters — from a vendor. The guy pulled out two bags, along with a jar of “Prada” stickers. He then proceeded to stick them onto the bags. Our stomachs churned simultaneously. I like to think of it as fake-aversion therapy, effective for a lifetime!


Thank you for bring this to your readers’ attention. I have lived in NYC ( oh how far away that seems from this sofa in Uganda!) and was always sickened by the fake bag industry. Not only is it a cruel and inhumane industry but tasteless and tacky. I like to think of My Grandmother’s style advice: if you can’t afford the real thing, don’t get it.


Hear hear! Thank you for stressing this. I keep teling people how immoral it is. If you can’t afford real, buy high street. It won’t kill you. Fake however, does, in a way, kill.


I always think it is rather duplicitous of the fashion industry to point the finger soley at fakes over child and sweat shop labour. I am not in favour of either child labour or sweat shops but premium brands use them too and put a bigger mark up on what they produce.


Andrea, I do hope this doesn’t mean you are using this as a justification for buying fakes? There’s a much bigger picture around fakes, including terrroism, intellectual property and more. And I think you can guarantee, as I say in the post, that conditions for luxury goods are better. Read Dana’s piece. Better still, her book. LLG


Not at all, as I think I made clear in my comment, anyone who chooses to use child and sweat shop labour is off my shopping list. However it remains the case that premium brands also need to put their houses in order on this point and not to expect me to weep over their intellectual property infringements which they have many expensive lawyers (including me) to police for them, until they do.


A useful campaign to support is War on Want’s labour behind the label. Brands using extremely dubious manufacturing techniques including TopShop, M&S, Debenhams in the UK and jcpenny in the US. Much of the problem being sub-contracting through the supply chain but that’s no excuse. It is ubdoubtedly misleading to suggest that a premium lable is any guarantee of ethical production. Only an ethical label is any sort of guarantee of ethical production…People Tree for example.

Happy Christmas!


So so true. And sales of fake handbags actually fund a lot of terrorist groups. But I think all people that buy fake bags know it’s not right, they just do it anyway, which makes it even more frustrating.

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