By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
By Roy Edroso
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
By Zachary D. Roberts
Not for sale? Isn't this a store? I skulk away and eavesdrop on another White Suiter who is explaining to a well-heeled customer that the three canvases on the wall, all printed with LVs, are in fact up for grabs, at around $6,000 for three, though the price varies according to whether the canvases are signed, or bear a particular number, or some such. "It's the same denim that Vuitton uses for their clothes," the salesman says reverently, and I want to yell: "So?" But instead I wander over to the cashier's counter, where there are some purses you can actually buy, including one hideously glommed-up gold number called the Marilyn. (I like to think that that poor girl, with her deep inferiority complex, her famous vulnerability, her longing to be taken seriously as an actress, would never have spent $1,500 on a bag, even one that bears her name.)
The spirit of Marilyn, and of all the working girls trying to make a buck and look nice and have everything the rich girls have, is with me a few days later, when I decide to return to Canal Street to see what kind of fake Vuittons are on tap. The company has become famous for cracking down on fakes, and it certainly got results: I walk from the Bowery to West Broadway, and though I see lots of derivative Dolce & Gabbana, false Fendis, bad Balenciagas, and even a convincing replica of that impossible-to-find chopped-off Hermès Birkin bag, there is a nary a Vuitton in sight. The guys who used to hang around the subway stops holding cards with pix of Vuittons (you'd point to the one you wanted and they'd dispense a runner to get it for you) are nowhere to be seen. I try eBay, just for research purposes (I already have my fake bag), and that's pretty dire, too—there are only three or four suspiciously low-priced items.
You'd think this would be enough to satisfy Vuitton, but no. Just by chance, the same week that I go to Brooklyn, the students at NYU's Stern School of Business are staging a Vuitton-funded event with the lame name "Knowledge Is Change" that is part of something called the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition's College Initiative.
"Is this where the free shit is?" a student asks, lining up for the sandwiches and Doritos provided to entice callow youth to boycott the bogus bags. On a wall behind the food, there's a blue cardboard sign on which an earnest business student has written in pink Magic Marker, "Facts on Fake," which includes: "Counterfeiters do not pay their employees fair wages or benefits." (Like every other business does?) A coed who is the spitting image of Paris Geller on Gilmore Girls is bossing everyone around, unloading a raft of the saddest, least convincing knockoffs I have ever seen—a cheesy NBA cap, a pair of flimsy Chanel earrings, a pitiful pink metallic Gucci card case. At the end of the sandwich line, next to a heap of Hershey's Kisses, students are asked to sign a wishy-washy form that says: "By signing this petition I pledge to think twice before buying a counterfeit good."
OK, I thought twice. I'm going back to Canal for that Hermès bag.