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10 Steps to Authenticating a Chanel Bag
With so many fakes and superfakes flooding the market, having the ability to spot small differences and determine whether or not a Chanel bag is genuine is an important skill. Although there is no one single way to authenticate a Chanel bag, there are various tell-tale signs that you can look out for. To help you feel more confident in being able to spot the obvious and not so obvious signs of an authentic Chanel bag, we’ve compiled these 10 steps which are used by our authentication team when verifying the authenticity of Chanel bags.
1. Examine the Leather
The leather of choice on many Chanel bags is lambskin which should feel soft to the touch and have a visibly smooth appearance. The superior quality of leather used by Chanel should be easy to distinguish from the feel and appearance of a counterfeit. If you are inspecting a lambskin leather bag, ensure it feels extremely soft to the touch.
Another popular leather used by Chanel is caviar skin which is made from pebbled calf leather. This type of leather has a bubbly appearance and is more textured to the touch. It is less likely to scratch and mark and is a more durable leather than lambskin. When you run your hands over genuine caviar leather you should feel raised dimples.
2. Check the Quilting
The quilting pattern is synonymous with Chanel and can be a good indicator of whether a bag is genuine or not. A good place to check the quilting is the back of the bag where the pocket lies. The stitching should maintain the consistent diamond pattern and line up perfectly. However, if you are purchasing a pre-loved Chanel bag it is possible that wear or the stretching of the leather has led to the lines becoming slightly out of place so this is only a valid indicator if purchasing a new Chanel bag.
3. Count the Stitching/Lining
This can be a very good indicator as Chanel use a high number or stitches to help maintain the bag’s original shape. A genuine Chanel bag will feature up to eleven stitches per panel (that is the distance of one side of the diamond shape). However, a replica bag will generally feature a lower number of stitches per panel.
Lining is another feature which varies between genuine bags and replicas. Lining on a genuine bag lies flat against the material without any visible lumps or bumps. However, counterfeit bags will usually skimp on his detail and use inferior leather which can crease easily and even be a little loose.
4. Check the CC Lock
One of the most famous and recognizable features on Chanel bags is the CC lock. The original 2.55 lock is rectangular without any logo or Chanel stamping. Chanel make bags with both styles of locks so if your back features the rectangular lock it may still be authentic. The CC lock can feature either raised or flat finishes with the right C overlapping the left C at the top and the left C overlapping the right C at the bottom. Replica locks generally feature minor mistakes such as the shape of the Cs, the placement of additional metal above the lock, and even the style of the interlocking Cs.
The lock stem itself is another feature worth checking. Authentic lock stems are made from 24K gold and even when used for a lengthy period of time will still maintain its condition. Replicas, however, are generally plated with gold which will peel off after use. Also inspect the press studs for quality and feel. Genuine press studs will also maintain their appearance after use, whereas replicas will peel and fade quickly.
5. Check the Back of the Lock
Stamping marks vary according to when the bag was made and the style of the bag. Some CC locks have a stamping mark whereas others have no mark at all, so even if your bag doesn’t feature a stamp don’t fret! If the lock has a stamp it means it was made in France whereas if it doesn’t feature a stamp it means it was made in Italy. The real giveaway is the stamping mark on the back plate. If you open the bag and look at the back of the turnstile lock you will see the back plate. Chanel attach this using flat had screws only alongside a clear font with even spacing. Replicas may use different type of screws and various other styles of lettering and font on the back plate.
6. Verify the Branding or Logos
The brand stamp is another way to confirm the authenticity of a Chanel bag. Check the font and quality of the stamp. Many replicas use a thinner font and rush the branding so that it sits on the leather rather than being embossed into it. The position of the embossed Chanel logo is another feature worth checking. It should sit one and a half centimeters below the quilted C with the width of the Cs and the gap between them remaining consistent at 0.9cm. The width of a genuine Chanel logo is 3.3cm.
7. Authenticity Cards
Not all authenticity cards are genuine! A quick way to see if the authenticity card is genuine is to see how many numbers make up the code. If the bag was made between 1984 and 1986 it will feature 6 digits, if it was made between 1986 and 2004 it will feature 7 digits, and if was made from 2005 onwards it will feature 8 digits. Currently Chanel do not issue authenticity cards with 9 digits or more.
8. Check the Chain Straps
The famous chain and leather straps are a signature feature of Chanel bags and also a great way to spot a fake. Vintage Chanel bags feature a link without the leather threaded through it whereas replica straps often don’t have a link without the leather threaded through it. However, contemporary Chanel bags feature leather straps folded back on themselves and stitched through each link, so it is important to inspect the detail up close!
9. Observe the Bag’s Shape
Replica Chanel bags are usually constructed poorly and feature a boxy shape in comparison to genuine Chanel bags. Look out for rounded corners on replicas compared to the more square shape of genuine bags. This is a sign of the bag not being turned out properly and of poor quality material used on the bag.
10. Check Those Zippers
There are a variety of zippers used on genuine Chanel bags. These include the lampo zipper which is always used on metal teeth, the EP zipper which generally features a pull tag made of leather, the three Cs in a circle zipper, the OPTI DMC zipper, the éclair zipper, the DMC zipper, the YKK zipper, and the no mark zipper which is usually found on vintage Chanel bags.
Chanel purses are considered some of the most luxurious in the handbag market. Due to the fact they’re sought after by fashionistas worldwide, there are many replica purses made that try to copy the authentic look of Chanel. However, it’s easy to tell whether a Chanel purse is real or fake if you know what to look out for.
Authentic Chanel purses are either made from lambskin or caviar leather (made from calfskin). Often, you can tell if a purse is fake based on the look of the leather.Related Articles
For instance, a lambskin Chanel purse will have a buttery soft texture, whereas the caviar leather will have a bubbly aesthetic. Essentially, if the leather doesn’t look like the highest possible quality, then you’re probably dealing with a counterfeit product.
If the product in question consists of Chanel’s signature diamond quilted design, an authentic purse will have consistent lines that align at every opportunity. If the lines misalign around the fastening, across the flap, or anywhere else, consider the purse unreal.
All authentic Chanel purses have a high stitch count (more than ten stitches per inch) for durability and added value. If the purse you’re checking out has fewer than ten stitches per inch and looks puffy, then it must be fake. After all, replica manufacturers lower the stitch count to reduce the cost of craftsmanship so they can sell their purses for a fraction of the price of an authentic Chanel.
Fake Chanel purses don’t stand up straight and usually have a boxy shape in comparison to genuine Chanel bags. They also have rounded corners due to the poor quality material used to construct the bag. As Chanel epitomizes luxury and uses the best materials that are made to last, they are much more sturdy, structured, and stand up straight.
Lock and Hardware
You can easily tell the difference between a real and fake Chanel purse if you analyze the lock fastening and/or hardware.
Chanel purses like the classic 2.55 quilted flap handbag from previous years feature the designer’s iconic interlocking double C logo. If the bag is authentic, this hardware will be very well-defined and centered, with the right C crossing over the left C at the top of the logo and the left C crossing over the right C at the bottom. The width of each C should also match the width of the gap between the two C’s demonstrating further precision. In terms of the finish, the logo on an authentic Chanel will have a smooth, flat edge and sometimes a marking on one C, which indicates the country where the purse was made.
We all know that buying a new Chanel bag is pricey but luckily there are more affordable ways to follow in the footsteps of Carrie Bradshaw without scrimping on style. Shops that sell secondhand designer bags are popping up everywhere, especially online. But how can you tell whether your bag is the real deal when you don’t buy it in an official store? To tackle the authenticity question, we asked our fashion expert, Stefani Markovic, to explain what we should pay attention to when buying a secondhand Chanel bag and how to spot a fake.
Are there a lot of fake Chanel handbags out there?
Stefani: Chanel is one of the most well-known brands in luxury, making it an obvious target for counterfeiters. According to Entrupy—an online authentication service for luxury goods—Chanel is the third most counterfeited brand in terms of volume.
One thing people in the industry have picked up on is the explosion of what we’re calling ‘super fakes’—higher-quality fakes—over the last few years. These ‘super fakes’ can be very expensive to produce and therefore hard to spot. They can be an assembly of authentic and counterfeit parts and although some parts seem perfect, further professional inspection will root them out.
What are the main things you look for when screening a Chanel handbag for auction?
Stefani: Designer authenticity is such an interesting topic, as every brand has its own specifications. All bags go through a rigorous seven to ten-point authentication process. When checking if a Chanel bag is suitable for auction, we pay close attention to the criteria that evaluates the stitching, material and logo.
First, the stitching has to be precise and even. Chanel uses a very high count of stitch per cm to keep the shape of the bag and ensure its durability. For example, an authentic quilted Chanel Timeless bag has 11 stitches per side of a diamond pattern. Another useful tip, is to always check if the quilting lines up on the back pocket; the quilting should also maintain a consistent diamond pattern when the front flap is closed.
The thread is also a good indicator as to whether you’re dealing with a fake, as many replicas feature a shiny and low quality thread and the stitching looks like it’s piercing through the material. We also check how the lining sits within the body of the bag. It should be tight around the edges with a smooth finish. A bag lined incorrectly is usually lumpy. Regarding the material, Chanel uses leather of the highest quality – such as lambskin, calfskin, goatskin and exotic skins.
A bag should be smooth and well-stitched – each diamond should have 11 stitches per side
What about the importance of the logo in spotting a fake—could you elaborate on this?
Stefani: We look at the CC logo very closely. The right C should overlap on top, and the left C should overlap on the bottom. The embossed lettering should be perfectly stamped, spaced and centered on the leather tab. Many replicas have a thinner or larger font and rush the branding so that it sits on the leather rather than being embossed into it.
One useful thing to remember is that the “CHANEL” stamping inside the bag should always match the color of its hardware. The back of the CC lock hardware should have two screws holding a metal plate down. The plate must have “CHANEL” embossed on the left and “PARIS” embossed on the right. And don’t forget to count the number of points of the screw – Chanel only uses screws with a 6 point star-shaped pattern.
You mentioned a seven to ten-point authentication process earlier. What are some of the other things you check when screening a Chanel handbag?
Stefani: Zippers are an important feature to consider too. We examine the name of the manufacturers—names such as Lampo, Riri, Opti and Ipi— and crosscheck that the zipper is consistent with the year the bag was created.
Concerning the chain strap, we check the colour and finish of the chain as well as the quality of leather interlacing through the chain. On fake Chanel bags, you will notice lines on the chain surface. Chanel bags come with an authenticity card, one that is as thick as a credit card and features perfectly aligned text and gold edges. Authenticity cards in bags from 2005 and onwards feature a grey circular symbol in the top-right corner. Fake authenticity cards give off a rainbow hue.
Last but not least, the serial numbers play an important role when checking a Chanel bag. However, these elements vary according to the year they were manufactured.
The chain and even interlacing of the leather is an important factor in authenticating the bag
On that note, could you tell us a bit more about the Chanel serial numbers?
Stefani: Chanel started using serial numbers in the mid-1980s, and they correspond to the time periods during which the bags were manufactured. Serial numbers appear in a sticker found within the bag’s interior lining. It should match the serial number on the authenticity card. We also examine the type of numerals and hologram design.
Looking at the serial numbers is one of the key elements of the authentication process, as it can tell you what year the bag was made and determine style consistency. Date code stickers, the style of numerals, hologram design and authenticity cards have all changed over the years and serial number stickers can detach after a period of time and use, which makes things trickier. Authentication cards can get lost as well. So even if a Chanel bag is missing these elements, it can still be authentic.
Finally, for those buyers who can’t see the bag in person, what are the things they should look out for when buying a Chanel handbag online?
Stefani: Look for quality and precision in everything. Good images of the bag are naturally important here and the buyer is dependent on these. He or she should observe the shape of the bag (which should be straight and clearly structured), check the materials listed—ensuring that they’re high quality ones as specified earlier—and see, where possible, if the bag is consistent with the authentication criteria. If you notice any discrepancies with this criteria, the bag is definitely a replica.
Coco Chanel was a designer who loved dressing women in quality garments. She knew her fabrics and she knew her techniques.
Generations later, the Chanel namesake passed her entire legacy and her design ethic down to Karl Lagerfeld, who eventually refreshed the Chanel brand with the iconic quilted bags we’ve all come to associate with the brand.
Left: Singer Katy Perry attends Fashion Week with a quilted clutch. Right: Model Chrissy Teigen braves the airport crowd with the Chanel shopping bag.
Lagerfeld is a perfectionist by nature, and it shows in the quality of the Chanel bags produced today. Even though many other brands have adopted the Chanel leather quilting technique, none have perfected it. Even triple-A knockoffs can’t quite keep up.
Unfortunately, it can be pretty easy for an unsuspecting buyer to fall prey to counterfeit Chanel vendors. Therefore, we put together a list of things to keep in mind when purchasing secondhand Chanel, to help you differentiate a real Chanel piece from a fake.
1. Do a sniff test
If you’re a leather goods enthusiast, we’re sure you’re already able to tell real leather from the synthetic version.
There are a number of ways to tell the two apart but the most telling is the smell. Synthetic leather tends to smell like chemicals, while genuine leather has a musty and natural smell.
Also, take a look at both the give and color of the product. Natural leather is malleable and will soften over time, whereas synthetic leather retains its original shape for a long time.
The color variety is more limited for natural leather, too, since the dyeing process isn’t as flexible as it is for man-made materials.
2. Know the specific typeface used for the hologram sticker
Sloppy counterfeiters use a condensed typeface for the serial number — likely because their mold for leather markings is more limited.
The serial numbers in counterfeit stickers bleed out and are poorly aligned, whereas authentic ones are very crisp and precise.
These days, provenance is as essential for a Chanel bag as it is for a Chagall painting. “When we hear people say, ‘it’s a gift,’” explains Alexa Ridolfi of A Second Chance Couture, it’s a cue to tread carefully. After all, like art, the cost of Chanel bags has recently experienced stratospheric growth. Between 2010 and 2015, the price of a Chanel Medium Classic Flap bag increased by 72 percent. More desire and more profit has led to more, and better, counterfeits.
So how can you tell a real Chanel bag from a fake? “No one’s going to give you a crash course in authenticating,” says Gerry Gallagher of the Leather Surgeons. (And Gallagher should know, his apprenticeship in leather began in the 1980s, when “Chanel was just starting to catch on.”) But it is possible to “give you some key things to look at, and if any of these things jump out at you, you take a pass,” says Gallagher. “It’s not worth the aggravation.”
Image courtesy of A Second Chance Couture
Chanel Serial Number
Chanel began including serial numbers at the bottom of its bags in the mid 1980s. The formatting of these numbers (which represent the bag style and year of manufacture) has changed regularly, which ultimately means that “a savvy consumer can lift quite a lot of information from this [number],” says Gallagher.
First, the number on the sticker should match that on the accompanying Chanel authenticity card. If it doesn’t, that’s a red flag.
Next, the number should correlate with the year that the particular style was released. A quick Web search will provide detailed information about Chanel serial numbers. Walk away if you find that, for example, your serial number indicates a 2005 manufacture date for a style you know wasn’t made until 2013.
“A lot of people think that if you have a hologram sticker and an authenticity card, then it’s fine,” Ridolfi says, referring to the clear sticker with a hologram that Chanel began placing over the serial number around 2000. “But that’s not the case. Some of the worst fakes I’ve seen have had hologram stickers and authenticity cards. That’s the first thing they’ll knock off.”
Serial numbers run between six and eight digits long, depending on date of release.
Photo courtesy of Vintage Malibu
CC Logo Clasp
A brand doesn’t reach Chanel’s heights without unwavering adherence to standards. One immutable design element is the CC logo clasp, hardware first designed by Karl Lagerfeld in the 1980s. Genuine Chanel Cs in clasp form will have flat edges, not rounded ones. At the top, the C on the right will always overlap the C on the left; at the bottom, the C on the left will overlap. Any other arrangement is a mistake. And you can be assured that Chanel does not make mistakes like this.
Photo courtesy of Vintage Malibu
Bags with the CC logo clasp also present another opportunity to check for fakes: looking for bad screws. The back plate that attaches the lock to the flap will screwed on with either flathead screws or star screws (the latter have been used in Chanel bags since approximately 2015). You will not see a Phillips screw on a real Chanel, although you may see one on a fake.
Photo courtesy of A Second Chance Couture
Grommets are the metal rings that Chanel chain straps run through. “There’s a kick press machine with a very specific die that sets those grommets, and when they’re set by Chanel, they’re set flawlessly,” Gallagher says. “The metal is turned back into the leather.” The backside of the grommet will roll back symmetrically and clean. “If you rub your hand across it, you shouldn’t feel any edge or ridge. The people who are making fakes, even some of the best fakes, haven’t figured out how to really get it right,” according to Gallagher.
Image via fabuloussachi.com
According to Gallagher, Chanel has used Lampo metal-tooth zippers for the past two decades. (He is horrified by the false reports online that restorers always replace these with cheaper YKK zippers. “Ridiculous,” he huffs, clearly offended by the slight to his profession — and the misleading information.) Lampo zippers are more expensive, but obviously the only acceptable solution for serious restorers. Who might not pay full price? A counterfeiter who thinks he can get away with it.
Look for the Lampo logo on the back side of the zipper slider.
Photo courtesy of fmasarovic
Leather Interlacing through the Chain Strap
In the 1980s, on his quest to reinvigorate the staid Chanel brand, Lagerfeld began interlacing leather through the chain strap. Today, “there are four different ways that Chanel makes stripping for handbags,” Gallagher says. Counterfeiters often get it wrong (or their efforts look lumpy and unprofessional.)
Triple-fold: Specific to Chanel, used in about 90 percent of their Medium Classic Flap bags. “Take a strip of leather and fold it once and then fold it back again. There’s no stitch. It has a rolled edged on one side and a rolled and a cut edge on the other side”
Four-fold with a stitch: Often used in exotic-skin Medium Classics, vintage camera bags and on Maxis and Jumbos. “Take a strip of leather, fold the two edges until they meet in the middle. Then you fold it one more time.”
Leather Strip Inlay Styles for Wallets on Chains
Turn (or fold) to center: “Take a strip of leather, fold the two edges until they meet and then hammer it down, so you see a line down one side of the leather and the two edges are folded.”
Cut edge: “Two pieces of leather cemented together and both edges are cut, so it’s raw edge on both sides.”
Photo courtesy of A Second Chance Couture
Consider the Whole
Always deal with reputable sellers, and beware of those with too much inventory of the same type. Be able to recognize the real logo (and poor copies). And familiarize yourself with the brand. Especially because Chanel releases so many designs, some of the “rules” may change. (Here, we’ve focused on details that generally don’t change.)
But Chanel will never be cheap or slapdash. “The quality and precision is basically in everything,” says Ridolfi. It’s in the stitching (clean and tight with generally at least 10 stitches per side of a diamond). It’s in the thread they use, the hardware and, of course, in the leather.
“Every year they change something, so you have to stay on top of that,” says Ridolfi. “You’re looking at everything together. There could always be an exception. You can’t apply one rule to everything and say, ‘Because it doesn’t fit in this category, it’s not real.’” In other words, be (very) suspicious and investigate.
A final hint: Take a sniff test. “Sometimes the fakes from China can have a smell,” Ridolfi says, “like cheap leather.” Of course.