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Portero Featured on About.com

How to tell a real from a fake handbag?  About.com asked our Senior Director of Handbags, Elizabeth Bernstein, her authentication process and what to look for when shopping for Hermes Birkins, Chanel Flap Bags, and Louis Vuitton handbags in the secondary marketplace.

 

What’s the hardest brand to authenticate?
For most people in general? Louis Vuitton. Because they’re made out of monogrammed canvas, they have small bits of leather and there are very simple details in terms of putting the bag together. The counterfeit market for Louis Vuitton is huge. (Get more tips in Louis Vuitton Handbags: How to Tell if it’s Real or Fake)

Are you ever stumped?
I can tell by touching these things, smelling them and looking at a few details. I do question very frequently. Sometimes I even bring stuff right to Hermès. If I ever have a doubt about something, at least five other experts are going to look at it with me. You have to be extremely careful in this industry. There is so much counterfeit out there.

How can you tell if an Hermès Birkin bag is authentic?
The details— it’s in the hand stitching, the quality of the hardware, the turn of the toggle. It’s the difference between a Rolls-Royce and an old beat up car. There’s absolutely no comparison. For me with the chevre leather, you can smell it. I may be one of the only people who say that. But it’s goat, it smells like a goat. I know that’s gross, but leather is leather. Hermès smells like an expensive new car. (Get more tips in Hermès Birkin Handbags: How to Tell if it’s Real or Fake)

So you’ve trained your nose over the years?
I can smell a fake bag. If I close my eyes and someone put a real one and a fake one, I would know which one was real. Unless someone came up with a good goat spray.

Are Chanel handbags easy to counterfeit?
It depends on what kind of Chanel it is. The more counterfeit Chanels that I see are tote bags with a big Chanel logo or Chanel written across it. Really not sophisticated Chanel. However, there is a sophisticated counterfeit Chanel market. This is really hard to do. Chanel makes quilted bags. It’s not cheap and it’s not easy to quilt a bag well. You don’t have many of these, but they’re easier to spot. (Get more tips in Chanel Handbags: How to Tell if it’s Real or Fake)

What if a shopper is browsing another handbag website and can only see photos of the handbag instead of seeing it in person?
A lot of the time I will say that I will not do authentication via pictures. I just don’t think it’s the best practice. I think it’s too dicey because of Photoshop. The other thing is, you can buy from a picture that’s a real picture taken of a real bag and then they send you a fake. I don’t recommend people buying bags on the fly from random places.

Any general tips when authenticating a bag?
We always say look at quality first. Every time you look at a luxury bag think, ‘would this have made it through quality control at this luxury brand?’ Generally, you’re going to be able to answer your question. If it’s a lower line like Marc by Marc Jacobs or Michael Kors, keep that in mind, too. If you’re looking at Hermès, Chanel and Louis Vuitton, there’s a reason why they charge the prices they charge. Because they are meticulous about quality control.

What about zippers?
Don’t be fooled by zippers and hardware because at this point you do have counterfeiters who are using zippers that a lot of the large brands use, like Lampo and RiRi. They’re using counterfeit ones or the actual ones, but generally they’re counterfeit. So if you look at a bag and say, ‘oh it has a Lampo zipper, it must be a Prada. I got so lucky it’s only $200’—it’s not enough to look at.

What bag are you carrying now?
I change mine so often. My tried and true is my Hermès 20 cm Rigid Kelly with gold hardware. I always have it refurbished and it keeps getting beat up. I wear it with jeans a lot. I go through Fendi Peekaboos and Prada Saffianos. I just got this amazing vintage blue crocodile tote bag. It’s Lambertson Truex, which is a brand that shut down and their designers went over to Tiffany & Co.

Why buy a pre-owned bag?
Hermès, Chanel and Louis Vuitton all hike their prices every single year. It’s not getting any cheaper. If you’re looking for value, it’s always good to buy vintage. You just have to take care of it. It’s like, you take care of your grandparents, take care of your vintage. (laughs)

(laughs) That’s awesome!
Older people are a little more delicate. [Vintage handbags have] older leather, it’s a little more delicate. You want to be nice to it and treat it well.

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Cuff love: Style is all in the wrist this summer

As you’ve probably noticed, we are seriously fixated on our wrists right now. We’ve been forgoing almost all other adornment as we focus on watches, bracelets and other stackable jewelry.

We love the idea of combining fine jewelry by Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels and Tiffany and Co. and estate pieces with statement pieces from Hermès, Louis Vuitton and Bottega Veneta. Stack them all up with your other bangles and baubles and even a watch – we dare you to reach your elbow.

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How to tie a turban headband with a Hermès scarf

Today, Elizabeth Bernstein, our all-knowing handbag authenticator, shows us how to tie a turban headband with a Hermès scarf. ”Great for spring – riding bikes, at the beach – and a quick bad hair day fix! ” she said. She suggests pairing it with a braid, fishtail or just with your hair down naturally. Read on for step-by-step details. 

Read more…

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Elizabeth’s Picks: Handbag advice from Portero’s expert

As a Portero shopper, you might wonder how we guarantee the pre-owned and vintage handbags listed are authentic. The key – we have experts on staff. When it comes to handbags, Elizabeth Bernstein knows everything. And for a good reason, she loves and treasures them. Case in point: She’s pictured here with a vintage bright pink ostrich Hermès envelope clutch.

We’ve been featuring Elizabeth’s favorite picks, so here’s the scoop about her personal approach to handbags and collecting.

Q What is your handbag right now?

A For everyday right now, I am in love with a large Fendi peekaboo that is the perfect size for my MacBook, and has the perfect strap for carrying on my shoulder. Often when you think about having to put a computer into a bag, they can look sloppy. This seems to be my current answer to a heavy yet chic load. Same goes for my brown suede Celine phantom tote. For evening I prefer a 28cm or 32cm Kelly or something crocodile in a good color. Oh, and cross-body bags on weekend days, no matter what.

Q How did you become an authenticator?

A Over the years I have always been an extremely passionate handbag collector and a lover of vintage pieces. If you like vintage as much as I do, you better learn a thing or two about authentication because department stores do not sell these kinds of treasures. I am an investigative person by nature, and I became fascinated with the construction of bags, furs, clothing and accessories at a very young age. I have been gathering tidbits of knowledge through many years of working, traveling, studying, meeting artisans, visiting factories and finding great mentors. It is truly a labor of love to continue acquiring more knowledge about luxury craftsmanship . The “learning” process of authenticating is never over, as long as our beloved luxury brands continue to provide innovation and creations that we all adore – there is always more to be learned!

Q Why handbags?

A A handbag says so much about a person. I can often tell where they might be from, age, interests, if they have children, if they are a romantic or conservative, type of clothing they might buy, where they vacation, etc. Yes, it sounds crazy, but very true. It is a type of language in fashion that is one of my favorites to speak.

I have always been in love with luxury craftsmanship, leathers, exotic skins, details, handwork, etc. A great bag and accessories can make make outfit sublime, rather than just a little bit better. Especially over the last 20 years, women have taken so much pride in their bag collections – they really say a lot about who they are. I often meet people who have little interest in the traditional adornment of jewelry, yet have bag collections could that bring a tear to your eye.

I myself have always been a busy person on the go with a lot to carry. It has always been important to me to look very chic whilst toting my essentials all over the city and the world!

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The best fashion “commandment” ever

Thank you, Fashionista.com for offering this keen style advice. Pretty much no matter what kind of bag you’re carrying – whether it’s clutch or cross-body – if you want to look like a fashion editor, just carry it like it’s a football.

Shop for your next bag here.

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Our expert picks her favorite vintage gifts

What was classic then, is classic now, and will be classic forever? A vintage gift!

We asked our expert handbag authenticator Elizabeth Bernstein for her tips and favorite picks for this year.

Yes, Elizabeth loves to give her friends vintage — here’s the scoop:

Q Why give vintage?
A You can guarantee it will be one of the most original gifts that person will receive. Vintage and antiques are very personal items that are considered rare, special, have had some type of sentimental value to someone, artistic, unusual, items no longer made with such great quality.

Can you give a few examples of vintage gifts you’ve given or received?
Antique gold and emerald ornate broach, vintage Rolex, vintage gold jade and pearl necklace — to die for, vintage exotic skin bags, vintage costume jewelry, vintage hermes scarves, vintage LV bags and luggage, anything and everything vintage Chanel, vintage briefcases and luggage for every day use or for home decor, antique diamond and ruby cocktail ring, vintage chaise lounge, vintage fur stole, antique paintings and drawings, vintage couture dresses, suits, leather pants and skirts etc. let’s be serious — my life is at least 60 percent vintage. I love a good rare find and at this stage almost everyone I am close with knows it is always a safe bet to buy me vintage.

Who would like to be given vintage?
Wives (I have to list my category first, of course), girlfriends, best friends, people who do not have time to decorate or shop for clothing and accessories because pieces of flare and conversation are always great for these people i.e.. bankers, doctors, lawyers (people with less time), quirky people, husbands, neighbors, boyfriends, I don’t know if there is really a limit to who you can give vintage. They are such special pieces that I think they make anyone feel like you really took them into consideration when you found that special rare treasure.

Any favorite vintage items to give this year?
Vintage Rolexes are always a must have, looking to spend a bit less and get some insane fine or costume jewelry is always a good way to go, vintage Hermes, Chanel & LV bags are an amazing deal and always receive handfuls of compliments when worn, something nice for the home.

Any vintage on your gift list?
Dare I tell? Hopefully the right people are reading this… I do have an affinity vintage/antique engagement and cocktail rings and well-made costume statement jewelry. They are so romantic and unusual with incredible detail. I always have my eye on a vintage Hermes crocodile Kelly bag, and I collect vintage Rolexes and share them with my husband, so it is basically a gift for both of us. Two-for-one is always the best!

Elizabeth’s Vintage Gift Picks

“A cool piece of statement vintage costume, or an everyday sparkler!”
(Chanel Vintage Swarovski Crystal Sautoir Necklace and Vintage Platinum 1.30ctw Diamond Art Deco Ring)

See more of Elizabeth’s favorite picks after the jump

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You’re so charming!

 

When you think charm bracelets you might think junior high school, but the new versions are conspicuously grown-up and lend any outfit a decidedly of-the-moment twist.

We love this fresh way to wear charms courtesy of Erica Courtney. Her dainty charms such as this horseshoe hang solo on narrow bangles and can be layered with similar styles with any other bracelets or watches.
If you’ve been collecting charms your whole life, you’re in luck with the recent resurgence of the jingling styles. It’s easy to hang a new trinket on your bracelet such as this vintage carnelian urn or tree of life. Or try on this amazing Hermes shooting star — it looks great on the Kelly bracelet or on your own chain.

If you’re new to the trend and want a jump start, go for it with this sterling silver Chanel bracelet or a vintage hearts and stars jingler.

Best of all, you’ll have an instant conversation-starter on your wrist.

Shop more charms here.

Springtime in Paris!

Paris fashion week is under way! For those of us who adore ultimate style je ne sais quoi, there is one easy way to capture it – an Hermès silk scarf.

Such elegance and grace – it seems like they teach Parisian women how to mastered the art of tying them in school.

They make it look effortless, but there are plenty of ways for those us of not born into the culture to learn. In fact, Hermès, has an entire website devoted to inspiring ways to wear their scarves. There’s a chance we have these cheat sheets on how to tie them  on our bulletin board. Once you master the basics, you can tie them (almost effortlessly) on your neck or even into a bag. (Note: Not onto a bag, but INTO a bag).

Our favorite of the day — the Grand Noeud Papillon. It turns a simple tee or tank into a dramatic statement. Bonjour Paris!

A few of our favorite Hermès scarves after the jump.

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