I am definitely not one who is into designer labels. In fact, most of the time, I dislike things with obvious logos on them because I don't want to be a walking advertisment for some designer's brand.
But I had always liked the classic Chanel quilted leather handbag with the chain strap. I don't ever think about buying things like that because, even if I could afford it, I'm not sure I could ever bring myself to blow that much money on a handbag. The basic style was copied by many other handbag manufacturers and I had bought one or two of those because I just liked the style of the bag, and I was reasonably happy with them. These weren't illegal knockoffs, just copies of a style Chanel originated.
One day, about 16 or 17 years ago, I was shopping at a weekend indoor flea market, a place with clothing and handbags being sold by different vendors. Most of it was moderate in price, and very ordinary, but there were a lot of interesting or unusual items which were a little more expensive. While prowling around I suddenly spot what appeared to be my favorite bag--a black quilted bag with a chain strap, but this one sported a gold metal double "C" Chanel logo on the front. I dash over, ask the vendor if I can look at the bag, and, as soon as she hands it to me, I am in love. The leather felt truly sumptuous and the bag appeared to be very well made. I unzipped it and found a Chanel tag inside the bag and an embossed logo on the inside leather.
Now, I had never actually seen or fondled a Chanel bag before, so I had no basis of comparison, but the bag I was holding did appear to be a quality item--even if it was a knockoff, it was still a good bag, much better than any of the copies I had previously bought. I questioned the vendor about the authenticity and she insisted it was Chanel, and said her friend had a way of obtaining, once in a while, a very few Chanel bags at some wholesale price, and passed them on to her to sell, and she did appear to have only two of these bags. The rest of her handbags were very nice, but none had designer labels and weren't even brands I had heard of. So, it wasn't like she had a load of these Chanels to sell, nor did she appear to be selling any other knockoffs.
I really hesitated about buying that bag. She wanted $125 for it which, at that time, was a little more than I wanted to spend on an everyday bag just to knock around with. I also seriously doubted it was an authentic Chanel, but I did like the fact that it sure did look like one--that really tickled me. The thought of impressing other people never crossed my mind, I just liked the fact that it looked like the bag I had always loved, and it seemed to be a very good bag. The vendor wouldn't budge on the price and I turned around and walked away.
My mother, who was with me, had remained silent until now. She asked why I didn't buy the bag, and I told her I didn't want to spend that much, and it had to be a fake at that price. My mother asked if I really liked the bag, and if I thought it was worth $120, and I said, "Yes". With that, my mother turned and walked back to the vendor and told her she was buying the bag. When we got back in the car we joked about getting a Chanel bag at a ridiculous price. My mother said it might or might not be authentic, but what difference did it make--I liked the bag. And, since I'd never know for sure, I chose to believe that, maybe, it was authentic. And, when I returned to the flea market two weeks later, that vendor had no other "Chanel" bags, she had sold the only other one I saw on my first visit. So, it wasn't like she had a continuous supply, and she said she didn't expect to be getting any more of them. At the very least, I was relieved that she didn't seem to be selling a lot of knockoffs, and I could continue to enjoy the fantasy that maybe my bag was the real McCoy.
I absolutely loved that bag and carried it for the longest time, and it really proved to be well made. No one ever commented on the fact that it appeared to be a Chanel, but I must say, carrying that bag really made me feel well dressed. Had anyone asked me about the bag, I would have told them the truth--I really didn't know whether it was authentic. Would I have wanted the bag quite as much if it didn't have the Chanel logo on it? Well, I'll never be sure about that. Carrying my bag did make me feel a little more skeptical about every other designer purse I saw a woman carrying, and I don't know that I had felt that way before, I had never given much thought to knockoffs. So, I think there is some validity to the findings of that study. Did it compromise my ethics in other ways? I don't think so, I hope not. I didn't feel like a phony carrying my handbag, because I wasn't ever completely sure it wasn't a real Chanel, and perhaps that made a difference. And the bargain hunter in me secretly wanted to believe that I had, indeed, found a Chanel bag at a ridiculously low price.
But I also wondered whether, if the bag was possibly authentic, could it have been stolen merchandise? That thought did make me feel uncomfortable and guilty. So, I guess that counterfeit items, or even the thought that an item can be counterfeit, can subtly influence how we perceive things, because, ironically, even thinking my handbag was possibly authentic, led to my feeling somewhat guilty, although I hadn't knowingly done anything wrong. Strange how these things influence us.