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Manolo for the Big Girl | Archive | February, 2011
Archive - February, 2011

Ask Auntie Plumcake: How to spot a fake site

Happy Monday, campers! Sorry for the radio silence last week but things were a-brewin’ at the newspaper and you know mama needs her jay-oh-bee.

Anyhoodle, as promised last week, I’m going to talk about how to spot a site selling fake shoes.

If you have to wonder: It’s fake.

Other than department stores, major shoe sites (Endless etc), designers’ flagship sites and these online-only retailers:

Bluefly
Forzieri
Luisa Via Roma
Net a Porter
Raffaello Network
YOOX
Zappos Couture

You’re taking a big chance.

Any site that has a url like www.louboutinstore.com or www.discountmanolos.com are always always always 100% fake.

Here are some other ways to spot a fake site:

  • They use photos from other sites. Each vendor takes their own photos to coincide with their house style, so if you see the exact same photo at the questionable site and Neiman’s, you know something is up.
  • The site looks wonky. If an online retailer has the cachet to get a luxury designer to agree to sell through them, they’re going to be able to afford top of the line photographers and web designers.
  • The sales are too good to be true. I mean duh.
  • They have Hermès Bags. If you can buy a Birkin on the site, you can just go ahead and forget about it. Fakesville.

What about eBay?

EBay is another kettle of fish, because you’ve got genuine sellers and the fakesters out there. Generally speaking I wouldn’t buy a pair of Loubies unless they had the actual store receipt and/or the tags were still on the sole of the shoe.

If a vendor has the same design of a high end shoe in several sizes, that’s a red flag. It’s more of a concern with ultra premium designers. Sometimes eBay sellers can buy out deadstock from Amazon or Overstock and resell them, but that’s not going to happen with Manolos and Loubies. You’re just NOT going to get a warehouse of Manolo Blahnik Sedarabys.

They only sell iconic shoes. The Sedarabys are a good example. They’re the shoes Carrie Bradshaw got stolen in Sex in the City. See also the Something Blue from the (stupid) movie. They’re the most iconic, so obviously they’re going to be the most imitated. Neiman’s sells the Something Blue pumps for $945. So the pair for $138? Faker than SJP’s marriage.

They don’t have the names. People who know about shoes talk about them by name. They’re not just Diors: they’re Blue Angels. They’re not Louboutin mary janes, they’re Iowas. Details count.

Signs of a legitimate eBay seller:

I tend to err on the side of caution. I won’t buy a premier designer shoe without the pricetag from a store I recognize and/or the receipt. On occasion I’ll make an exception, when an eBay seller is selling her shoe collection. For example, if someone wanted to sell me a size 36 Manolo a size 41 Loubie and a size 37 Dior, plus some Beanie Babies and some aluminum siding, I wouldn’t touch it. But if a woman has a dozen pair of shoes, all roughly the same size and from the same level of designer, I’d feel pretty safe in going for it, IF everything else looked legit.

So err on the side of caution and of course you can always ask your Auntie Plumcake to check out a site before you buy.

Gin and Tonics,

Auntie Plumcake

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Ask Auntie Plumcake: How to avoid online knock-offs

Reader Marjean writes:

Hello Miss Plumcake,
When purchasing the ‘good’ shoes online, any tips for determining if I’m purchasing the real designer shoe or an unfortunate knockoff that fell off the back of a truck in some sleazy alley in Hong Kong?

Dearest Marjean,

Excellent question!

We’ve all seen those ads online for discount Louboutins and Manolos at prices that are just expensive enough to keep you guessing. Well you can stop guessing now, those ads are 99.9999% fake. Sometimes they appear on reputable sites via third-party advertisers (and then I have to wax wroth to Manolo who will wax even wrother at the advertising people for being dummies.)

I’ll answer you question in two parts, one today and one tomorrow.

First let’s talk about the nuts and bolts of why and how premium designers choose to sell their product and how much they control the sale price.

Brand Image Control:
Luxury houses have very specific agreements as to where their merchandise can be sold. They take the exclusivity of their product very seriously, because they know you’re buying not just the product, but the prestige. If Manolo Blahnik won’t let his merchandise be sold at Net-a-Porter, arguably the poshest online-only luxury store, because it’s not prestigious enough, you can bet your suitably luscious bippy he’s not going to give a sweeter deal to TotallyNotFakeShoesReallyWePromise.com

Government Protectionism:

Italy and France in particular are maniacal about maintaining the prestige of their luxury goods, often literally destroying the product rather than cheapen its value by selling it at a discount store. So even if Christian Louboutin wanted to sell his merchandise at 90% off, it’s entirely possible the government simply would not let him. Barrels of wine poured down the drain, tubes upon tubes of the only red lipstick I’ll ever really love melted down (Chanel’s Pulsion before they reformulated it)? Done and done. Is it protectionism? Yes. But there we have it.


Collection vs Diffusion & Licensing Agreements:

Luxury houses often have diffusion lines or licensing agreements in addition to what is generally called collection.

Collection is what we mean when we talk about the premium signature pieces designed for the house by the creative director. This is the most exclusive and expensive line. Luxury shoes are generally treated as “Collection” for houses that do Ready to Wear.

A diffusion line is a generally a less expensive, more youth-oriented line from a design house but still receives a good deal of attention from the creative director/designer (e.g, Marc by Marc Jacobs) These products tend to be less exclusive but may still be shown at fashion week. A site or store not authorized to sell Marc Jacobs Collection may be licensed to sell Marc by Marc.

Licensing agreements come in all shapes and forms. Lower-end products such as perfume, sunglasses and entry-level bags are licensed as part of the house’s empire, but may not be designed in-house. This is the stuff you’re most likely to find at clearance stores or online for ridiculous prices. A site or store not authorized to sell diffusion clothes or collection might still be allowed to sell this stuff. No, Calvin Klein did not design your six pack of socks or hand towels.

Shoes generally count as premium merchandise, so while it’s possible you might find a perfectly authentic bottle of Lanvin Arpège perfume at Krazy Klaus’ Internet Wonderhaus, these pair of black satin geometric bowtie sandals with ankle strap and exaggerated banana heel over which your pal Plummy is willing to cut not just one but all of you?


Not so much.

The same thing goes for bricks and mortar shops. While it is not unheard of to find mid-range designers at places like Marshalls, or the low-end diffusion line goods of premium designers (think a pair of Dior sunglasses) you’re just not going to find an authentic pair of Manolos there. Marshalls might THINK they’re authentic, but 999 times out of a thousand they got tricked somewhere along the way (there are plenty of exposes on this sort of thing happening.)

How Luxury Houses Sell Online:

Let’s say Il Maestro comes out with a collection of shoes. Some of the shoes will remain exclusive to the boutiques and some he will agree to have sold at appropriately prestigious department stores. In the states you’re pretty much looking at Neiman Marcus, Saks, Barneys and Bergdorf Goodman.

(Nordstrom also sells an extremely limited range in the more traditional styles, usually shoes that get anniversaire-ed every year)

Several, though probably not all, of those shoes will be available for purchase online through the department stores’ websites. They will go on sale up to a certain percent, but the agreement the store makes with the designer will almost certainly include a clause limiting the discount, usually somewhere around 50%.

Premium designers may also make the occasional deal with an extremely limited number high-profile online-only stores. I can think of only a handful:
Bluefly
Forzieri
Luisa Via Roma
Net a Porter
Raffaello Network
YOOX
Zappos Couture

What about megastores like Amazon or Overstock?

You can feel pretty safe with both of those IF the item is fulfilled by Amazon/Overstock itself. If it’s fulfilled by a third party, I wouldn’t touch it. I know for a fact there are plenty of fakes on Amazon (I once ordered a MAC 217 brush for pretty much what I would’ve paid at the MAC pro shop and got a fake) and I don’t know about Overstock, but I wouldn’t take the risk.

When does a premium designer shoe go on sale for more than 50% off?

Generally, this happens when a shoe has been in stock for more than one calendar year and there is extremely limited availability. With bricks and mortar stores they go to their outlets, e.g., Neiman Marcus Last Call (Bergdorf’s stuff goes here too), Saks Off Fifth and Nordstrom Rack. If the shoes do not sell at the outlet prices, they do NOT get sold to Marshalls, etc. but returned to the manufacturer.

Phew! That’s a lot of info! Time to put this pony show to bed.

Tomorrow:

How to spot a fake website

How Do I Recognize That Someone Has an Eating Disorder?

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Letters from Miss Plumcake: I am not your funny fat friend

Listen up kiddios because Miss Plumcake is gonna lay down a little church on behalf of her many big sisters.

Skinny Girls:

I am not your funny fat friend.

I am not your wingman, I am not your ride to the club and I am not the girl you stand next to when you want to look thin. I am the queen of this rodeo and in fact, every rodeo where I deign to appear, so while I appreciate that popular culture and hour after hour of sitcoms, romcoms and whatever other sort of com you want to watch tells you otherwise: I am not the Skipper doll of your Malibu Dream Life. And P.S., Ken? Isn’t holding out because “he respects you.”

And I’m speaking on behalf of your One Black Friend, your Sassy Best Gay, and any other friend who conveniently fills a space on your United Colors of Benetton Bingo Card. Yes, I’m fat and I’m funny and you don’t have to ignore that, but for the love of Susan Hayward, that’s not my JOB (okay well it is MY job) I got other stuff goin’ on.

I am not Robin to your Batman, but if you’re lucky I might let you be the Thelma to my Louise.

Straight Boys:

You don’t get to string me along into some sort of screwed-up friends with benefits situation where I have to sleep with you AND listen to you complain about your mother.

You get one or the other, bucko. If you want both you need to put a ring on it, and since no good ever comes from talking to the people you want to see naked, that had better be a pretty damn big ring.  I want terrified sailors to warn their captains to change course when they see me coming, and not just because of those slightly blurry weekends I spent in Annapolis.

Also, when you tell me I’m hot, don’t say it’s because you find beauty on the inside. Why do you do that? Is it because you think it makes you sound evolved? You don’t. My insides are filled with eels and you know it. My legs however, are worshiped as deities in several small Pacific island nations (or at least will be as soon as I cash in my frequent flier miles and blow this popsicle stand). Tighten up.

Big Girls:

Value your own stock.

You’ll note I said I’m writing this on your behalf. That’s because I don’t have anyone in my life who treats me like that.  Why? Because I don’t let them. I know it’s easier said than done, and it’s a process, but if you see yourself in any of those situations, you’ve either got to cut these yahoos loose or gently –but clearly– correct them, which will save you the trouble of murdering them later (and honestly, how many of us can carry off prisonrape orange?)

The world will not end if you walk away. In fact, knowing you’re capable of walking away can actually help you be more tolerant because you’re making a choice, not hanging on out of desperation.

Your real friends will deal and be better people for it. The folks who freak out? Show them your bye-bye wave.

Gin and Tonics,

Miss Plumcake

Word.

Being a professional Episcopalian I don’t tend to get many Sundays off.*

On the rare Sundays when I don’t find myself kicking ass for the Lord I usually spend the day ultralounging in various states of undress and doing what I damn well please. Which is different than what I do every day because I’m not wearing pants.

Yesterday I found myself tucking into two of my favorite indulgences, Seneca and campy late 60’s melodrama. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you about the wisdom found within Valley of the Dolls, so let’s go straight to the Stoics.

I’m all about the Late Stoa, but for those of you who aren’t currently up on your Ancient Roman philosophers, let me drop a little toga on you all.

Seneca was a stoic playwright and philosopher around the time of Nero.

Like most of the post-Socratics, he was concerned about how to live The Good Life, but unlike Aristotle who was the sort of virtuous dude who could still appreciate a boozy brunch with twelve of his favorite well-oiled houseboys (and how many of us can’t) Seneca was a Stoic, one of those Virtue is its Own Reward guys. So, you know, probably a good idea to listen to him, but probably not the guy you want as your wingman for a drunken weekend in Ibiza.

Anyhoodle, back in the day, our boy wrote a series of letters to a guy named Lucilius, the Roman governor of Sicily, who was generally considered to be a pretty good egg. This is from Epistle XIII, and while I’m sure Big S didn’t mean it specifically as life advice for fat chicks whose mellows are being continually bombarded by harshing agents, it is shockingly applicable.

Do me the favour, when men surround you and try to talk you into believing that you are unhappy, to consider not what you hear but what you yourself feel, and to take counsel with your feelings and question yourself independently, because you know your own affairs better than anyone else does.

Ask: “Is there any reason why these persons should condole with me? Why should they be worried or even fear some infection from me, as if troubles could be transmitted? Is there any evil involved, or is it a matter merely of ill report, rather than an evil?” Put the question voluntarily to yourself: “Am I tormented without sufficient reason, am I morose, and do I convert what is not an evil into what is an evil?” You may retort with the question: “How am I to know whether my sufferings are real or imaginary?”

Here is the rule for such matters: We are tormented either by things present, or by things to come, or by both. As to things present, the decision is easy. Suppose that your person enjoys freedom and health, and that you do not suffer from any external injury. As to what may happen to it in the future, we shall see later on. To-day there is nothing wrong with it. “But,” you say, “something will happen to it.” First of all, consider whether your proofs to future trouble are sure. For it is more often the case that we are mocked by that mocker, rumour, which is wont to settle wars, but much more often settles individuals.

Yes, my dear Lucilius; we agree too quickly with what people say.

We do not put to the test those things which cause our fear; we do not examine into them; we blench and retreat just like soldiers who are forced to abandon their camp because of a dust-cloud raised by stampeding cattle, or are thrown into a panic by the spreading of some unauthenticated rumour. And somehow or other it is the idle report that disturbs us most. For truth has its own definite boundaries, but that which arises from uncertainty is delivered over to guesswork and the irresponsible license of a frightened mind.

That is why no fear is so ruinous and so uncontrollable as panic fear. For other fears are groundless, but this fear is witless.

Word.

*Yes I know it’s poor form to end a sentence with a preposition but I’m not about to say “I don’t get off many Sundays” because a) I’m twelve so that’s funny b) I would receive accusatory texts from concerned parties.

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