Purse maker cracks down on cheap imitations in Houston

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  1. I didn't know where else to put this, but since it is Coach related I would put it here.

    http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/business/6866414.html

    Cheap knockoffs now are anything but

    Coach purse maker cracks down on sellers of counterfeit goods on Harwin

    By JENALIA MORENO
    HOUSTON CHRONICLE


    Feb. 13, 2010, 7:46PM
    If you want name-brand purses, designer sunglasses or other accessories at dirt cheap prices, Houstonians know to hit shops lining Harwin Drive.

    Consumers buy the goods thinking they're getting a sweet deal — or just give a wink and a nod knowing the products could be fake.
    But this underground trade has finally awoken a sleeping giant. Coach — that world famous maker of handbags and purses, the company that rakes in $3 billion annually — has recently launched a full assault against the mostly mom-and-pop Harwin businesses.

    The New York City fashion icon has filed six lawsuits against retailers on Harwin and one in Spring Branch to force the businesses to stop selling fake versions of its products. It's part of Coach's nationwide effort to crack down on counterfeiters, especially the ones making poorly crafted, obvious versions of their accessories.

    “It's very detrimental to our brand,” said Todd Kahn, Coach's senior vice president and general counsel.
    “It really undermines things that legitimate businesses try to do. We never want somebody to see somebody walking the street and say, ‘That's a Coach bag?'”

    Dubbed Operation Turnlock, in the past year the company has filed 165 lawsuits against vendors of counterfeit Coach bags, wallets, scarves and sunglasses across the nation and demanded a whopping $1 million for each faux Coach item they carry.

    Key chains that cost as little as $5 on Harwin Drive and would retail for $35 if they were real Coach products are named in the suits. A Coach handbag that would sell for $150 could cost $35 on Harwin.
    The more than 60-year-old company has already settled and won several of the lawsuits and collected in the “seven figures,” Kahn said.
    <H3 id=id2451354 class="Text-TextSubhed BoldCond PoynterAgateZero">&#8216;Turning a blind eye'</H3>In Houston, Coach filed its first lawsuits against landlords in addition to retailers, and it will probably make the same move in other markets with future litigation.

    &#8220;Most of the owners know what's going on there. They're just turning a blind eye,&#8221; said Victor Johnson, an attorney in Dallas with Fish & Richardson, the firm that filed the Texas lawsuits.
    The two lawsuits filed in November and three more in the last few weeks are against businesses along Harwin, where a string of shops advertise the latest fashions, from hair to handbags.

    A Spring Branch operation was also sued in November for carrying fake Coach sunglasses that were labeled &#8220;shatterproof,&#8221; but the word was misspelled.

    In all, the lawsuits name seven stores, six landlords and 12 people.
    &#8220;Harwin Drive certainly has a reputation for being a central point for distribution. I would not isolate it to Harwin Drive alone,&#8221; said Andre Watson, assistant special agent for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which collected more than 33,000 counterfeit products valued at more than $4.3 million in Houston in December as part of a nationwide crackdown called Operation Holiday Hoax.

    In March, customs officials in Houston found a container filled with fake Puma, Coach and Ray-Ban sunglasses.

    In October, they seized a container filled with counterfeit Coach, Etienne Aigner and Lacoste sunglasses that the importer said was worth $50,000.
    <H3 id=id2450881 class="Text-TextSubhed BoldCond PoynterAgateZero">Accusations</H3>In one of Coach's lawsuits, David Tang, owner of C&H Sunglasses on Harwin Drive, is accused of not only selling fake sunglasses but also importing more than 47,000 counterfeit Coach sunglasses.
    That eyewear made in China was seized by customs in June. An investigator hired by Coach allegedly bought two dozen sunglasses at the store for $34, and Coach officials determined they were fake because the signature Cs on them were slightly distorted.

    &#8220;We don't sell copies,&#8221; said Tang, adding he didn't know what was in the 20-foot container shipped to him from China.
    An investigator paid cash to purchase fake Coach items at dozens of other stores along Harwin.

    Those purses and wallets had different zippers, clasps and lining than what Coach uses, the lawsuits said.

    Sun Yoo of NY Handbags had not been served with the lawsuit a week after it was filed and was surprised by the accusations.
    &#8220;I'm going to get rid of it,&#8221; said a visibly nervous Yoo. &#8220;I don't know what to do.&#8221;
    She said she thought it was OK to sell the purses because they were obviously fake.
    &#8220;It looks totally different,&#8221; she said pointing to the shiny black, brown and red purses with Coach labels on them.
    Clerks at several of the other stores said they either didn't speak English or didn't want to comment.
    <H3 id=id2438031 class="Text-TextSubhed BoldCond PoynterAgateZero">The recession effect</H3>Wearing real Chanel brand sunglasses, Galveston resident Letisha Reeves said she can no longer afford a Chanel purse or shades.
    So she and her relatives shopped on Harwin, where she knows some goods are counterfeits.
    She still wants to wear labels and said designers should sell affordable products if they don't want consumers to buy the copies.
    &#8220;They make it so unreasonable that people can't afford to buy it,&#8221; said Reeves, as she shopped for a &#8220;good&#8221; copy of a Chanel handbag.
    &#8220;Because of the economy, I can't afford it anymore.&#8221;
    jenalia.moreno@chron.com
     
  2. That is good. I hope they get all of them...
     
  3. This woman's comments have got me thinking. It seems to be a trend nowadays for some designers to make affordable clothes and accessories which are sold through Target. So maybe Coach should make an affordable line and market it through Target. That way someone would get the label at an affordable price. I understand how some women want to own designer items but have no money to afford bags for several hundreds of dollars. Just a thought.
     
  4. I really hope they try to stop this i hate seeing cheap knock offs everywhere. And the sad thing is that they arent really cheap either considering the bad quality.
     
  5. Good for Coach! Honestly, a lot of fakes aren't "cheap". They are just made cheap. I'm so glad to hear this!
     
  6. i live about 10 minutes away from harwin and let me tell you it's fakes galore. the only good thing there is charming charlies and wonderful pakistani/indian shops. you see a lot of fake chanels claming they're real and you're getting a great deal
     
  7. So why does the woman quoted in the article feel that she is entitled to have things she can't afford? I guess I don't get the attitude that every thing should be available to every one. I would love to buy jewelry from Tiffany, but I can't afford it. That doesn't mean that they have to make less expensive stuff for me or I'll buy fakes. It means that I either save up to buy it, or do without.

    I'm glad that the companies are going after the counterfeiters.
     
  8. ITA!! I drool over the Tiffany catalogs and circle things for a wishlist, lol. When I want my Coach, I save up. That's all there is to it.
     
  9. Seems like a good idea - but would they still be Coach quality? I see a lot of (real, but the affordable line they sell everywhere) Guess in luggage/department/shoe stores and it looks cheap and tacky compared to the more expensive leather ones you get at a Guess boutique (my friend has one of those and I didn't even recognize it as Guess until I'd seen it a few times because I was used to the blingy/fabric ones).

    Another friend told me for what I paid for my Hailey I could get two or three or maybe even four nice bags at the Coach outlet - so if someone can't afford FP wouldn't it be better to go to the outlet and just get one for 1/3 of the cost? Might be $100 but it would outlast half a dozen $50 fakes.

    I also don't mind pre-loved if I can see them in person first (consignment store) and I got a very clean Demi Pouch for $40 ($150 new and it was guaranteed authentic) that looked like it had only been used once or twice. They also had a gorgeous Coach tote (not sure of the style name) for $150 ($500 new) but it was too big/heavy for me.
     
  10. love this. i remember being 15 years old and seeing an obvious imitation of my very first coach bag...a simple black flap. my mind was BLOWN that a store was carrying a cheap, obvious imitation of my purse, and was allowed to do so.
     
  11. Target's "designer" lines tend to be very cheaply made. I feel that Coach makes things that are inexpensive enough already. They also have the outlet stores.