“The trunks made at the end of the 19th century were created for explorers traveling the world, and they had to be very light. Aluminum had just been invented and it was a very expensive material, known as Napoleon’s white gold, ”she explained. “Making sure it was aluminum was key to making sure it was the historic piece we felt it was going to be. The trunk was auctioned for £ 162,500 in December 2018.
Details such as the location of the make and brand label, as well as the construction of the garment itself and, in the case of a Chanel bag, the number of stitches between two quilted sections, can help authenticate an article. “It’s like learning a language,” said Chester, who keeps detailed calendars for each brand, recording details such as changes in finishing techniques or manufacturing labels. “After you’ve dealt with certain designers for so long, if something isn’t right, it comes out like a sore thumb. “
Counterfeiters make a profit by selling low-cost manufactured items at inflated prices, so finishing techniques are often unrealistic. For Chester as for Wetzbarger, returning a garment is essential. “Counterfeiters will spend 99% of their time on the outside of an item to fool the eye, so it’s when you get to the guts of the parts that you start to see errors,” Wetzbarger said.
Hardware items such as buttons, studs, and fasteners are also key indicators. When it comes to zippers, for example, luxury brands rarely use Japanese brand YKK, the world’s largest zipper manufacturer in terms of sales, and instead opt for Riri or Lampo zippers, that Wetzbarger calls BMWs and Mercedes zippers. Anything designed to improve inventory management and control, including serialization numbers, time stamps, or manufacturing labels, can be used by authenticators to track a garment’s style and date. “All of those itchy things against your sides that a lot of people end up removing – it makes our job harder,” Wetzbarger said.