A month of sparkling water and only eating gelato was a very small price to pay for the reward I would soon reap. I had already mentally arranged the cinq rotating outfits I would wear with this belle.
A week earlier my flat mate and I got dressed for our weekly cheap vino and Vespa escapade around the beloved city of Milano. As I tossed my Anne Klein luggage frantically aside in search of an aux cord to connect my first-generation iPod to the speaker, thus ensuring Lil’ John and the East Side Boyz “Crunk Juice” would continuously loop. Suddenly my breath was taken away.
“When did you get this?” I yelled to my flat mate as she straightened her hair in the bathroom.
Peeking out she replied “Oh, when I skipped illustration class, I went shopping.”
The grilling smell of the Paul Mitchell straighten serum she used in conjunction to the 3€ Chianti we were drinking left me intoxicated. I needed to sit down.
I plopped on my imported MainStay (whattttttt, they were Walmart sheets in Milano, that is imported) bedding and held her Balenciaga Motorcycle Purse in my hand, gentler than a newborn baby.
I looked over my sale section Lenscrafters frames to ensure that she couldn’t see me, and I did it.
I sniffed her purse.
It smelled like tuition and lambskin. The butter leather was like nothing I’d ever felt before. I was enchanted.
Only in uni could my flat mate and I had met. She was from a wealthy family that owned chains of liquor stores in the States and rental properties all over Europe. We met in an Art History lecture when she complimented my “ethnic ensemble.” We soon became inseparable.
After a few months in Milano, I had reached my financial aid ceiling and was unable to afford tuition, housing or food. I was going to have to return to the States. During a drunken dinner, I sobbed when telling her I would be leaving soon. She laughed and replied “Bi-oo-ch move in with me!” And there it was. I didn’t want to get excited, I was afraid she wouldn’t remember this offer come morning.
True to her word, a couple of weeks later while her brother and sister stopped-over in Milano en route to one of their family summer homes in Athens, her siblings helped me move all my worldly possessions. Which all fit inside my infamous Anne Klein luggage. I couldn’t believe the generosity. I promised to pay her with the small checks I received from my internship at a leather factory in Florence. She would not have it. She told me I could pay her by guaranteeing that she always woke up with a hangover on Sat.
Que 3€ Chianti.
She was finally ready to hit the town and I was still paralyzed by the sight of her purse.
“You wanna wear that bag tonight? I’m wearing my baguette.” She said willingly.
That purse cost more than my rent and wardrobe, combined at the time.
Needless to say, I ROCKED that purse!
I felt like an Olsen twin that night. Posing to expose the purse in every pic we took on my $89 Nikon point and shoot. I raised the bag above head level as we shimmied through packed discos to ensure that I was sighted with this belle.
I want this bag, I thought.
“Are you okay?” is what my flat mate continued to ask me throughout the night.
Studying design with an art history minor in Milano was the closes to heaven I had ever been at that age. I was beyond “Okay.”
I assume it was the distant look she saw in my eyes all night that prompted her to ask.
I was enjoying every moment of our Italiano escapades. I was merely deciding which organ I could sale to buy this purse. I knew it certainly wouldn’t be my liver.
Computed as ever, I determined that if I saved every check from my internship, only drank sparkling water and ate gelato per otto anni I would finally be able to get the purse.
I felt defeated.
Unscrewing the cap of a 2€ bottle of Lambrusco, I had high (or low) hopes of washing my financial woes away.
At around 4 a.m. we decided to visit one more disco before going home. While walking there we met a group of immaculately dressed guys, who complimented us endlessly on our purses and style. After mins of probing “my” bag, one of the guys said “I can get you one for much cheaper than that.”
I sobered up instantly.
We exchanged email addresses (I didn’t have an international cell then) and he instructed me to call him when I had 35€. My eyes nearly popped out of my discounted frames.
A few days later my flat mate accompanied me for moral support as I made my “huge” purchase. I smiled the entire train ride there.
I rang the bell and we were buzzed in.
The ornate Romanesque architecture of the building’s facade made me feel more comfortable about buying a counterfeit designer purse.
Using my shoulder to force our way into the seemingly jammed door, I was bewildered when it finally opened.
The overwhelming smell of mildew, grayish fuzz slowing slithering down the walls and warped wooden crates arranged where sitting chairs should reside made me apprehensive.
And then I saw my guy, the purse guy.
He had Balenciaga Motorcycle purses in every color imaginable. He also had a tarp spread across a damp floor filled with other “designer” goods.
“Un-f-ing-believable, this looks just like my bag. Do you have a red one.” My flat mate asked.
I thought I would feel better knowing that my wealthy friend was buying a counterfeit bag as well, but looking around made me depressed.
“Do you live here?” I asked my purse guy.
“For now, I’m here with seven other guys” he said.
My heart broke. Me, the essentially homeless American in Milano felt bad for these guys.
The living conditions were deplorable. I had to leave immediately.
We both walked to the metro station in silence.
I never got the bag.
From that day on, I never thought twice about buying anything counterfeit.
Years later, I read an article in Vogue that made me want to vomit.
The article detailed the truly dark world of counterfeit goods, ranging from child sex trafficking, child labor, and drugs cartels. Counterfeiting doesn’t end with purses. Cosmetics and fragrances are often culprits. Filled with ingredients such as urine and antifreeze they aren’t only disgusting, they could be deadly.
Since I was a kid, I have ALWAYS been obsessed with the luxuries of life.
But at what or who’s expense?
I didn’t write this article to shame anyone who has knowingly or chooses to purchase counterfeit products. I, first hand understand the ungodly desire of wanting to have the “IT” bag or shoes but not wanting or having the means to do so.
Taking the unethical route, isn’t worth it.
I would advise anyone who finds themselves in this predicament to be still. Take the time, whether that be months or years to save for that dream item. The sense of pride and satisfaction you’ll have knowing that you worked hard to purchase an authentic item surpasses instant gratification; in addition to never having your purse outed by a bitchy queen in a Brookland wine bar.
If paying full price isn’t in your budget, consider buying preloved. In addition to possibly (not all preloved items are less) saving money, the craftsmanship of vintage items exceeds anything made today.
The article I read many moons ago, was in a Vogue magazine. Linked is an article in Bazaar, highlighting the unsavory world of counterfeit goods.
It’s becoming increasingly harder to differentiate the real from the fakes but there are ALWAYS telltale signs.
Would you like me to write a post about spotting counterfeit purses?
What are your thoughts on this matter?
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