Really, Truly Fake: The RealReal ‘Opens’ Counterfeit Handbag Store on Canal Street

Hours listed on the window of The RealReal's fake store indicate it is closed Monday through Sunday. Image courtesy The RealReal.

The RealReal makes a concerted effort to keep counterfeit luxury items off the market, removing approximately 5,000 fakes each month (a total of 250,000 since 2011). So what are these faux handbags doing in a RealReal retail store located on NYC’s Canal Street, a notorious knockoff hub? The answer is simple: the fakes, identified by The RealReal’s stringent authentication process, are decidedly not for sale (“hours” listed on the store’s window indicate it is closed Monday through Sunday).

The fake store, created in collaboration with Mythology, is designed to spark conversations and raise awareness about counterfeit culture; it will remain in place at 301 Canal Street through early September 2024. A QR code outside the store brings passersby to a website where they can learn more about the installation, and on one day each month, consumers can bring in their own fake items (no questions asked) to be entered to win genuine items.

Rival resale platform Ebay spotlighted the difference between real and fake with its own Canal Street store in November 2023, stocking the location with authenticated sneakers and streetwear.

The Costs of Counterfeiting

“Authenticity is at the core of everything we do,” said Rati Sahi Levesque, President and COO of The RealReal in a statement. “Over the past 13 years, as counterfeits have evolved — they’re being made more quickly and accurately than ever — we’ve continually invested heavily in advancing our technology and the training of our expert authenticators, ensuring we’re keeping them off the market.”


For those who think counterfeiting is a victimless crime, The RealReal emphasizes that some fake items have been traced back to cartels and crime syndicates, funding illegal firearms, narcotics and terrorism. Many fakes are manufactured in unsafe working conditions using unethical practices like forced labor or child labor, and fakes undercut the hard work of the designers and artisans who make the real thing.

“Unlike fast fashion, the underbelly of counterfeit culture is less discussed; counterfeits harm the environment, are often produced unethically and undermine genuine brands,” said Levesque. “Our commitment to authenticity goes beyond our business; it’s about protecting the planet and ethical practices.”

The RealReal will be accepting counterfeit handbags at the installation on June 22, July 20 and August 17, and beginning today, a curation of Canal Street-inspired handbags and accessories is available on the brand’s website, displaying authentic versions of frequently counterfeited bags — including the Louis Vuitton Speedy, Hermès Birkin, Chanel Flap Bag, Dior and Goyard totes, as well as Gucci belts, Rolex watches, Cartier Love bracelets and logo sunglasses.

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