Paul Harnden apron, wool, linen
shirt, cotton
cardigan/jerkin, linen
Guidi 4006 boots, baby calf

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Authenticating designer items


It’s annoying and unfortunate that people sell fakes as the real deal, even if they’re unaware of the fact themselves. My fear of receiving a fake item in the mail has never been completely alleviated. This feeling is far worse when you first start buying a designer on the second hand market without previously having owned any items. I’m quite confident in my ability to avoid fake Rick Owens. I have purchased many items from both authorized stores and on the resale market which has allowed me to engage in useful comparison. However, I still remember the paranoia that ensued when I bought my first Rick jacket on eBay (my Crust robot shoulder leather jacket). It drove me crazy for a while and I had no idea where to start when investigating its authenticity.

This post is meant to alleviate your OCD paranoia and help you identify what to look for when you first start buying. These tips summarise my approach when evaluating authenticity and can apply to designer items in general, not just Rick Owens.

1. Know which items are frequently faked

My first step is to undertake risk analysis. How likely is it that this item is a fake? Are they sneakers or a rare one-off jacket with intricate stitching and details? If you’re unfamiliar with what items are ripped off you can do a quick search on places known to sell fakes, such as iOffer/indie-designs. You’ll face an endless display of fake items, mostly sneakers and t-shirts. If you find the item in question, compare it to the seller's photos.

2. Too good to be true? Investigate the seller.

Yes there are times when sellers undervalue an item so don’t be discouraged from buying a bargain. But if it’s too good to be true it often is. You should size up the seller to evaluate whether you think it’s likely they are selling a fake.
  • Does the seller provide their own photos ? If they only provide stock photos you should question why and if possible ask for photos of the actual item.
  • Are they selling multiple of the same item? Have they sold the same item multiple times before (check completed listings)?
  • If they are a consignment store, are there internet reviews stating their authentication standards are low and on what types of items?
  • What other items are they selling? Do they look like a legitimate collector or someone who buys what’s trendy?
  • Are they “too” adamant about not selling fakes? Does their return policy sound fishy?
  • It almost goes without saying, but check their feedback.

In isolation these factors may not cause concern. However, if your investigation raises a red flag do not ignore this feeling.

3. Do your research

The more research you do the better you’ll get at picking up small details. If you’re able to find photos of the item from a reputable source you should compare them to those of the seller. Even if the item is sold out, Google may still provide links to store photos. If it’s a runway piece you might be able to compare it to the runway photos. If you know a certain seller has authentic items look at their photos to educate yourself.

If you’re unfamiliar with the designer knowing where to start can be difficult. Details to compare include:
  • The designer logo/sizing tags – What font is used, how clear is the writing and is the tag consistent with the season it’s from?
  • Shape of the item – I’ve noticed on some fake Rick shoes that the sole is more flat and less “curved”.
  • Stitching details.
  • Finish of the item – Does it look cheap? A lot of designers that I wear on this blog have a distressed/unpolished finish. I’ve noticed that it’s hard to replicate this finish with cheap leather/materials.
  • Zipper – compare the zipper brand and finish.

Ask the more-informed
If you’re still in doubt there are places on the internet that might be able to help. Most style/fashion forums have an authentication thread. Depending on the designer you might be able to find a blog/thread stating what to look for on a particular item. Google is your friend.

Too late?

The more experience you have the better you'll be at authenticating. Despite your caution it’s still possible you may receive a fake item. My advice would be to try and return it. This isn't always possible, so if it happens just consider it as being part of the cost when you risk buying from an individual rather than a store. If you paid through PayPal you may be able to file a claim. This may prompt the seller to accept a return. If not, I am unsure of how PayPal resolves questions of authenticity. I've heard people complaining that they required evidence from an expert which you may have to pay for (unfortunately I don't think the internet counts).

I don’t think I could enjoy wearing something I suspected was fake. It's happened to me once before and luckily I was able to return it.

I hope this was of some assistance to you. What other checks do you perform when you’re concerned about the authenticity of an item?

I'll add some tips that I've found and that readers have contributed in the comments below, on Facebook,
and Tumblr (thank you so much!).
  • "zipper is a good one, usually good indication unless a high quality 'replica', rick uses RY zippers" (Greg on FB)
  • "1. fake drawstrings are always too wide, too short or both. 2. too many loose/sloppy stitches(much easier to notice if you turn the clothing inside out and check the stitch work) 3. i think all real tags are actually made up of thin fibers which means the tag would fray along the edges. fake tags seem to just be a thin piece of paper. 4. the rick owens or drkshdw logo on the tags should always be dotted, even if slightly."(lvnchables on Tumblr)

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Ann Demeulemeester shirt dress, shorts, cotton
Guidi bag, shoes, leather
Ann Demeulemeester feather necklace, silver

There are certain points in your life where it becomes necessary to take stock of where you’re at and where you’d like to go. I’ve finished my undergraduate studies and by the end of this year I’ll finally be done with assignments and exams. At least for the time being. Seems like an appropriate moment to reflect on things.

So, taking questions from a reader (thank you, J!), I thought I’d reflect on a few aspects of my wardrobe. Maybe you find it interesting and I’d love to hear your own experiences on any of the following subject matters.

continued below

Sources of inspiration

Maybe it’s because of the training we receive during our education, but I can see no better source of inspiration than from the primary source of designer’s themselves. However, the indirect sources that influence people are far more interesting. What are you exposed to in your everyday life that influence the style choices you make? What constraints are you operating under and what liberties do you allow yourself to take? Your answer to these questions will dictate how you interpret a designer’s presentation. I’ll leave out the tedious minutiae of my everyday life; watch Seinfeld- it’s more entertaining.


I feel more at liberty to expand the pool of designers I wear now compared to in the past. With my current life demands I am in either one of two mindsets. The first being a need to push forward with different shapes and textures (and dare I say colour). The second necessitating a uniform I can put on in autopilot, yet still feel like I’m wearing something interesting. I will never be the minimalist with a streamlined wardrobe and in the past trying to adhere to this just made me frustrated.

I’ve been uninspired by Rick Owens’ more recent presentations, as I’ve lamented about numerous times. However, I’ve realized because of this I more strongly appreciate and identify with his earlier collections. Just because I don’t like what he’s doing now doesn’t mean my connection with his older work is broken.

As to where I would like to move towards – adding more subtly interesting pieces into my wardrobe. It’s fun to wear more extreme outfits when you’re in the mood to experiment, but lately I feel like I want to blend in a bit more. Clothing that does not attract stares from the untrained eye, yet those who pay attention to detail might question what’s going on.

In the end though after looking at so much fashion I think most of us are desensitized to what “normal” people consider extreme, so maybe blending in is not a possibility!

Who doesn’t make it?

The designers I love but don’t make it in: Thom Browne, Iris van Herpen, Issey Miyake, Undercover, Gareth Pugh and Dries van Noten.

Future purchases

I am chronically cold and want a huge down coat. It seems absurd for someone living in Australia but when you’re cold you’re cold. Otherwise, I am still searching for more pieces from Forme D’Expression, Individual Sentiments, and pre-2012 Rick.

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Rick Owens blazer, silk
Rick Owens dress, crepe
Guidi shoes, leather
Ann Demeulemeester feather necklace, silver

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25 May 2015

Comme des Garçons jacket, wool
Paul Harnden skirt, wool
Guidi bag, shoes, leather

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