By Steve Weinstein
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So many people have stopped to admire our newest acquisitiona Louis Vuitton-patterned purse that has been goosed up with silver snakeskin, pink Murakami cherry blossoms, and a generous helping of glittery studsthat we have decided to spill it: No, we did not in fact buy this item for $3,000 at the new Vuitton shop on 57th Street. Our $38 handbag, like all the Vuitton we're sporting this season, is from Canal Street, a few blocks south of Vuitton's Soho branch, where the burgeoning fake market is currently so hot you can barely squeeze onto the weekend sidewalks.
"But where exactly on Canal Street," people wail, fingering the silvery loveliness of our purse, a satchel far wackier than anything the legitimate house of Vuitton has ever dreamed up. OK, then: We found our bag where the very best counterfeits reside, at 367 CANAL STREET, a vaguely sinister warehouse space that has been divided into flea market stalls featuring not just an overflow of fake LVs, from the striated Epi leathers to the shiny Vernis patents, but a full range of make-believe Guccis, Diors, Jacobses, et al.
Of course, this is hardly like shopping at Macy's. (In fact, a rather louche friend of ours who accompanied us in our research says the whole scene reminded him of buying heroin.) Assuming the police haven't just staged a raid, turning the entire block into a temporary morgue, here is what you may find at 367: a line-for-line copy of the bag J.Lo swung up in the air in all those magazine ads last winter for $25; a shiny lavender patent LV mini-suitcase for $30; a red Epi backpack for $30; and, our current fave, a white LV with a lavender leather bottomwell, it looks like leatherpriced at an ambitious $80. The mysterious stock changes quickly: Our much coveted bag is nowhere to be seen, but the guy we got it from has a similar modelcherries, silver snake, studs, and allfor $25. And though the place has an air of delectable menace, it also offers an ATM machine.
Aside from 367, there are other places we love on Canal. For $10 faux silver LV bracelets, $10 cherry-blossom umbrellas, and $25 supersized sweaters in a print that reprises Vuitton's Damier check pattern, visit 385A CANAL, another vast but somewhat sunnier spot. At 325, where most of the goods are displayed on outside tables (covered quickly with a blanket when the cops show up), we see an odd hybrid LV bag that combines tweed with studs (Vuitton actually does make one like this) for $50, quickly reduced to $45 at the merest show of interest; white satin baseball caps with multicolored LVs are $10. At 353, there is a wide selection of those pastel Hermès homages known as Jelly Kellys, the biggest ones being $25. (Hermès's lawsuit against Steve Stolman, who sold Jellies last summer from his Hamptons boutique, has apparently not had a dampening effectwe've been seeing them everywhere from street stalls to uptown shops.)
Perhaps if Martha Stewart had carried her court papers in a Jelly Kelly rather than that $15,000 Hermès bag, she might have been acquitted. After Canal, we strolled up to the Astor Place KMART to check on how Martha's goods are doing, and though her thin-lipped puss is nowhere to be seen, her admittedly fine products are still much in evidence. A rather lurid wine-colored velvet pillow trimmed with dangling faux garnets, not very Martha-esque (well, maybe the quilting recalls one of her Chanel purses), nevertheless bears a prominent Martha Stewart Everyday tag and is $12.99.
Ever notice how once you're in Kmart you tend to look at everything? On our way out, we consider a campy Kathy Ireland bathing suit with a massive skirt (that'll solve our swimsuit problem) and a splayed toy duck, sufficiently irreligious to give Mel Gibson nightmares, who croaks an Easter version of Bobby Darin's "Splish Splash" from his twitching bill. And, lest we regret not buying even more on Canal, there's even a little fake-leather purse with the distinctly puckered flower associated with Tom Ford's Yves St. Laurent line, here in perky pink and ready to dangle from a wrist for $17.99.