Keeping fake purses out of Atlanta residents’ closets is not just important to Bella Bag CEO Cassandra Connors’ business, but a matter of supporting American jobs and the civil liberties of workers throughout the world.
While knockoff handbags may be a cheaper way to get a hold of a top designer’s styles, Connors argues purchasing fake purses not only robs luxury brands of intellectual property rights, the counterfeit bag industry supports global drug trade, child labor and prostitution.
While most people may not associate fake handbags with major crime, authorities take a hard line on the sale of these illegal goods. In March, the Atlanta Police Department reportedly confiscated $5 million worth of counterfeit goods including handbags from a flea market on Ralph David Abernathy Boulevard.
Connors, a New York transplant, has made an effort to educate all her clients on the importance of purchasing authentic goods ever since her small business opened its Buckhead showroom in 2010.
“As women, I feel that if we were educated on it, we would never buy it,” Connors said. “We would rather go to Target and buy a really pretty handbag for $40 or save our money and buy pre-owned, vintage or new.”
Connors and her friendly team welcome clients into the store for a handbag authenticity check. During the verification process, customers can peruse the hundreds of authenticated bags in the showroom, including such coveted designers as Louis Vuitton, Prada and Chanel.
With sales skyrocketing and increased inventory causing her Miami Circle retail and office space to burst at the seams, Connors plans to move her executive offices Oct. 1 to the Peachtree-Lenox building, located at 3379 Peachtree Road in Buckhead.
“We’re going to be keeping the showroom and the store here,” she said. “We’ll have about triple the space and a photography studio there, so it’s a lot of growth in that way.”
Connors said the new space will also be home to a new, custom vault, where Bella Bag’s most expensive purses — some cost more than $40,000 — will be safely housed.
On top of the physical expansion, Bella Bag will soon launch its newly re-designed website featuring a virtual handbag try-on for online orders or women who might not be able to shell out thousands of dollars for designer duds but want to be a part of Bella Bag culture.
“You’ll be able to chose the model that best represents your body type, your skin color, the color of your hair,” she said. “You choose her [the model], then go into the dressing room and select the bag and see what it would look like on your body type.”
Another new addition to the site will be an online magazine called Caveau, which means “vault” in Italian. Connors said the space will allow Bella Bag fans to read handbag-related blogs and photo galleries featuring the latest runway shows and fashion trends.
“I wanted to create this sort of playground for women on the website,” she said. “It’s not just about sales. It’s about being a part of Bella Bag. I think that sets us apart.”
Bella Bag CEO Cassandra Connors’ advice for spotting counterfeit designer handbags:
1. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Connors said handbag prices are similar to the real estate market: the cost is determined by the availability of similar purses. If there is a luxury bag for sale online that is steeply discounted compared to its usual price, Connors advises consumers to think twice before handing over a credit card.
2. It’s all in the details. Bella Bag has a 13-point authenticity check for all of the bags it sells. From the number of stitches to the precise dimensions of the handbag, no corner goes unchecked. Knockoff bags typically have tell-tale signs of shoddy workmanship, Connors said.
3. Know your seller. Connors said while there are several good online sellers, she suggests only purchasing from U.S.-based retailers.
4. Ask questions. “Even if you don’t know all the right questions to ask, ask anyway,” Connors said. “Any reputable seller will know the answers. If they don’t know the answers, they will be gracious enough to go find you the answers.”