How to Authenticate Louis Vuitton: Our Top Tips
As one of the most iconic designer brands in the world, it comes as no surprise that Louis Vuitton is also one of the most counterfeited brands in the World.
Their high price points, limited collections and exclusivity ensure that Louis Vuitton remains covetable, and firmly in place at the top of many peoples dream wardrobe items.
Many individuals attempt to profit from this desirability by recreating counterfeit Louis Vuitton pieces, with bags being the most frequent targets. Knowing how to authenticate Louis Vuitton and spot a fake is critical if you’re browsing the pre-loved market.
Why Counterfeit Bags Are Such a Problem
Aside from the obvious copyrighting issues — Louis Vuitton have to employ their own team of company lawyers — and moral issues, there are a number of other issues that counterfeit items cause. And some that you may not have expected….
Effects on People & Planet
Factories and workshops creating counterfeit bags are unlikely to have undergone much if any, regulatory examinations. The conditions of workers may be dire, and the pollution that these factories produce is completely uncontrolled. Chemicals from leather tanning can spill into waterways that local people rely on, and animal welfare standards may be non-existent. The Environmental Magazine explores this issue further.
Another important issue for us as buyers — and one of the reasons that Louis Vuitton bags are so desirable — is the quality, and ultimately longevity, of a bag.
The craftsmanship and time that goes into every single Louis Vuitton piece is extraordinary. As buyers, we are left without a doubt that a bag, garment or necklace could become an investment piece that lasts for decades.
The Neverfull bag, for example, can take up to 45 hours to create. Each component of the bag is passed between a series of expert tanners, seamstresses and quality control experts.
Counterfeit bags are likely to have been quickly assembled to increase profits, and the quality will lack greatly because of this. These flaws can be noticeable when you know what to look for…
So, how do you spot a fake?
You don’t need to be an expert to spot some of the more obvious signs of a counterfeited bag. You just need to take the time to look.
Counterfeit factories are sloppy, and errors can be glaringly obvious if you know where to look… So we’ve broken down each component of a bag to allow you to discover for yourself if the identity of a bag is real or faux.
Structure & General Craftsmanship
Firstly, we need to examine the overall shape and quality of the bag. Louis Vuitton is famed for its dedication to quality. So any flaws within the stitching or imperfections in the shape would have never passed the LV quality control examinations.
Minute details like the distance between bag handles, angled corners, and any asymmetrical shapes — unless of course they are intended — could be an easy way to identify a counterfeit.
Louis Vuitton seamsters take immense care, and pride, over the quality of their work. Stitching is never rushed. Instead, it is carried out with sufficient time for precision and a high-quality finish. Because of this, examining the bag stitching is a great way to detect a fake.
You’re looking for consistency. With even spacing between individual stitches, and also an even distance between the stitches and edging. Make sure to look inside the bag too, as interior stitches should be as immaculate as the exterior.
The stitch colouring should be a warm, golden colour, like honey. Black, cream, or brown stitching is an immediate giveaway that the bag is fake.
Another indicator of the bags true provenance is the quality of the metal detailing. Look at the bag’s zipper first. The zip pull should be clearly printed with the Louis Vuitton name or monogram. Each hardware component should be marked, even the snaps. If any of these stamps are missing, asymmetrical, or flawed, then the bag is likely a counterfeit.
Zips should move effortlessly, and D-rings should be smooth and untarnished. Double-check the shape of these rings too, as some counterfeits may use circular rings in place of a D-ring.
It should be fairly obvious if the hardware is plastic or made from a low-grade metal. A minor check is to test the weight of the bag. With true brass hardware with gold plating and high-quality materials, the bag should feel weighted, hinting at its overall quality.
Material, Fabric & Patterns
Look closely at any patterning. Within the Louis Vuitton workshops, care will be taken to intricately match up patterns, including the iconic LV monogram. The LV monogram itself should usually never fall into a bag stitch or crease, only the accompanying symbols.
Louis Vuitton bags, depending on the size and style, are often created with a singular piece of leather. On an LV monogrammed purse, for example, the front will show the LV the right way up, and as the fabric is folded around the purse, the reverse will show the LV upside down.
Louis Vuitton is able to use extremely high-quality materials that counterfeiters will unlikely have access to.
Vachetta leather is often used by Louis Vuitton, it’s extremely high-quality leather that has been tanned in a way that retains the natural beige colouring of the hide.
The popular canvas material that is used for the iconic Damier and Monogram prints is also treated with a special coating that helps to protect the bag from scratches and also repels water.
Vintage Louis Vuitton bags will develop something known as a patina on the Vachetta leather. The handles, flap or bag sides will deepen in colour as the leather oxidises with the air and absorbs the natural oils from the owner’s hands. It’s a desirable quality and a mark that the bag is authentic.
The interior of a bag is often more at risk of damage. Pen leaks, tears, and perhaps grease marks from buttery croissants are all possible blemishes in a well-used bag. Because of this, some individuals or sellers may attempt to have the bag relined. Depending on where the repair occurred, this could affect the price of the bag.
Counterfeit factories will also attempt to use cheap polyester linings or other fabrics to mimic LV linings, so cross-compare images of the bag with photos of the same style or model online to check that the lining is correct.
Fabrics & Year
Louis Vuitton has created a number of iconic fabrics and prints over the last century. Each was introduced at a certain time, so comparing the fabric type with the bag model is another way to determine if the bag is from a real collection.
‘Made In’ Stamps and Leather Patches
Each bag will be stamped with the Louis Vuitton name and also the country in which the bag was created. This marking may be embossed or printed directly onto the material, a small tag, or padlock. Or, the bag may feature a leather patch with the ‘Made In’ information. The country can then be cross-referenced with the date code which we mention further in the article.
Louis Vuitton uses a unique font style that can be difficult for counterfeiters to replicate. Some of the details to check include:
- All ‘O’s’ must be completely circular and not oval.
- The ‘L’ must have a short ‘tail’.
- The ’T’s’ in ‘Vuitton’ must almost touch.
- The placement of the stamp must be perfectly horizontal.
Receipts & Tags
It’s important to note that Louis Vuitton does not attach tags to any of its products. Any accompanying tags will be placed within a pocket or simply tucked inside the bag.
Some pre-loved bags may be sold with a matching receipt, but you shouldn’t rely solely on this as a means to authenticate Louis Vuitton bags.
As Louis Vuitton bags do not use authenticity cards like Chanel, an official marker to look for are the date codes…
Louis Vuitton bags are now officially produced in numerous countries. Including France, workshops now exist in Italy, Spain, Switzerland, and even Germany and the US.
Because of the growing number of production sites, Louis Vuitton introduced a stamp code system in the 1980s, to allow each bag to be traced back to the exact workshop, country and date that it was created.
The date code will usually be located in the interior of the bag, stamped onto the leather. It may also be discreetly located on the exterior of the bag.
How It Works
Generally, the code will consist of up to 6 characters, depending on the bag’s age. It should usually begin with two letters determining the location of the Louis Vuitton workshop…
France: A0, A1, A2, AA, AAS, AH, AN, AR, AS, BA, BJ, BU, CO, CT, CX, DR, DT, DU, ET, FL, LA, LM, LW, MB, MI, ML, MM, NO, RA, RI, SA, SD, SF, SK, SL, SN, SP, SR, TA, TH, TJ, TN, TR, TS, TY, VI, VX
Italy: BC, BO, CE, FH, FO, FP, MA, NZ, OB, PL, RC, RE, SA, TB, TD
Spain: BC, CA, GI, LO, LB, LM, LW, GI, UB
Switzerland: DI, FA
Germany: LP, OL
United States: FC, FH, FL, LA, OS, SD, TX
Note that some countries have identical codes.
The letters will then be followed by up to 4 numbers which depict the month and year that the bag was created. Depending on the year, the process for reading these numbers will change.
From 1980 to 1985: Three to four numbers will represent the year then the month of the bag. For example, for ‘November 1982’, the code would read 8211.
1985 to 1989: The 3-4 numbers were then followed by two letters which represent the workshop that the bag was created in. For example, November 1988 in France could be, 8811VI
1990 to 2006: The letters now sit at the beginning of the date code. The first and third numbers determine the month, and then, the second and fourth numbers determine the year.
2007 to the Present: The two letters still sit at the beginning, but now the first and third numbers determine the week of the year (01-52) and the second and fourth numbers determine the year.
If you cannot locate a date code, aside from being a fake, there may be two other possible explanations for its absence…
- Vintage Louis Vuitton bags created before 1980 will not have a date code. In this instance, you’ll need to examine the bag further to determine its authenticity.
- If the bag is well used, it’s possible that the stamp has been worn away.
It’s also important to note that counterfeiters can occasionally replicate these stamps, so they should be used as an additional form of authentication and not the only factor.
Other Notes and Issues to Be Aware Of
The French Luggage Company
During the 1970s the growing demand for Louis Vuitton bags prompted the company to seek production assistance. Louis Vuitton was incredibly popular within the US so The French Luggage Company obtained a special license to create a number of LV bags. These bags have a few minor differences but are still official Louis Vuitton bags.
If you’re looking to purchase an authentic Louis Vuitton bag, be aware of these claims that counterfeiters may try to lure you with…
- Any bags that are rejected during quality control are never sold at a reduced rate or even gifted to staff. Any Louis Vuitton bags that leave their workshops must be perfect. So never accept a claim of “Discounted Reject Louis Vuitton Bags”.
- Be wary of situations that seem ‘too good to be true’. If a seller is claiming the bag is real, but the price is considerably discounted, assume that the bag is a fake.
- Louis Vuitton bags are never discounted. End of season sales are nonexistent, and voucher codes and sales simply do not exist. So be wary of sellers claiming products are from an official Louis Vuitton sale.
Before buying a Louis Vuitton bag, compare prices online between official resellers and individual sellers. If you have your heart set on purchasing a pre-loved Louis Vuitton bag, stay safe and only buy from sellers which…
- Guarantee 100% authenticity.
- Maintain your consumer rights with a fair refund and returns policy.
- Have positive reviews available for you to determine their reputation. Be wary of sellers with zero feedback.
- Are happy to discuss your purchase with you, answer questions and also send more photos if you require.
While counterfeits are common, with a little information, knowing how to correctly authenticate Louis Vuitton can be easy. So, don’t let this put you off owning your own piece of covetable fashion history.