Real Authentication’s expert founders discuss the challenges of modern luxury authentication
Interest in the practice of designer luxury authentication has grown exponentially over the last few years just as the second-hand luxury goods market has also expanded. What started with peer-to-peer eBay transactions now spans across many e-commerce sites, platforms, and marketplaces where fashion is resold after its first life.
With the second-hand market soaring, the rise of counterfeits becomes a growing concern as well. At italist, we occasionally field authenticity questions from shoppers because our prices are lower than what they’re used to seeing for brand-new, authentic designer luxury (see our italist 101 and pricing articles for more details).
Luxury authentication is a fascinating aspect and much needed component of the second-hand market. So to continue our learning, we reached out to Anastacia Bouzeneris and Jenna Padilla of Real Authentication, a virtual service that offers authentication on luxury goods using cutting edge technology.
Q: Tell us a bit about your backgrounds. What prompted you to launch Real Authentication?
A: Real Authentication was founded in 2016 in the USA by Anastacia Bouzeneris and Jenna Padilla, who met while working together as lead authenticators at a reputable designer resale company. Realizing there was a need in the industry for a quick, easy, and reliable way to authenticate luxury goods, Bouzeneris and Padilla came together to offer global verification services for anyone that questions the authenticity of their luxury merchandise.
We are completely enamoured with luxury and designer fashion. We have a deep appreciation of the craftsmanship and heritage behind the brands we service which motivates us to uphold the mantra Real is Better.
Our team is determined to find justice for our clients and offer a reliable, non-biased source of regulation to the secondary market.
Q: What services does Real Authentication offer?
A: Real Authentication offers virtual expert designer authentication services. We service all designer categories including: handbags, watches, eyewear, clothing, jewelry, shoes, scarves, hats, and homegoods (pillows, glassware, and blankets).
We also offer documentation including Certificates of Authenticity and official Written Statements that serve as the expert opinion needed to regain funds from selling platforms, PayPal, and credit card companies if a counterfeit item is accidentally purchased.
Real Authentication also offers identifications and fair market valuations to give clients an idea of what their item is worth.
Q: The luxury resale market has exploded in the last few years—players like The RealReal have even IPO-ed! How has that impacted your work and the day-to-day as authenticators?
A: Yes, as the market has expanded very rapidly over the last few years, we have been scaling right along with it. From day one, we have prioritized technology and streamlining our processes. Our custom platform allows us to quickly and accurately offer the highest level of expertise to anyone and everyone in the secondary market on a global scale.
We have collected some of the top experts in the industry and cultivated a collaborative environment for continued learning which we are very proud of. We document and track everything to help provide a consistent level of service to all of our clients both large and small.
Q: Out of all the authentications you do in a week (or a month), how many do you find to be inauthentic? (What’s the proportion of real items vs. fakes you see on a regular basis?)
A: The majority of the orders we receive are indeed authentic, but the split is not too wide. It also fluctuates over time but roughly 10-20% of orders are counterfeit.
Q: What are the 3 easiest tell-tale signs of an inauthentic designer handbag? Are certain types of items harder than others to analyze?
A: There are certainly different grades of counterfeit items. We typically see trending items counterfeited at higher levels since they will be vastly searched for in the marketplace.
The easiest way to identify counterfeit products is the overall material quality, serial number inconsistencies, and hardware.
Q: Which are the hardest brands to authenticate? What makes them challenging?
A: Hermès and Chanel are the most complex brands to authenticate. You really have to know exactly what you are looking for since the counterfeiters are pumping out such high quality.
Q: I feel like fakes have gotten much much better over the last few years. How much “continuing education” do you have to do in order to stay sharp in your authentication work?
A: They absolutely have. We are continuing our education, tracking data, documenting trends and improving our internal processes daily. It really requires all of the above to stay on top of things.
Q: Do you look at different things when authenticating a vintage/resale piece vs. a brand new or very contemporary item?
A: Brands are always changing up their manufacturing so yes, vintage components will be vastly different from more contemporary ones. With this, it’s crucial to document and even have timelines for manufacturing changes memorized.
Our database is quite extensive so timelines and comparison references are something that we have a deep understanding of.
Q: Tell us about your process and SmartDatabase Scan technology.
A: We analyze every aspect of an item that is submitted, from general product information all the way down to the denier of a stitch. Each order is reviewed by two or more of our highly-trained authentication experts and run through our proprietary Smart Database Scan™ technology. Smart Database Scan™ cross checks numerous data points within our system and identifies any red flags that may be identified.
Q: Which sites (or types of sites) do people generally have to be wary of, and which sites (or types of sites) are “safe?”
A: Sites that are actively monitoring or regulating their listings for counterfeit items are always going to be safer and more reliable for shoppers. The bipartisan SHOP SAFE Act was introduced in early 2020 and if passed, will hold internet platforms liable under trademark law for third-party sites selling counterfeit goods sold on the platform.
They will be required to put forth reasonable efforts to combat counterfeit activity on their sites. It’s important to know that not all platforms are operating this way yet, but those who do typically provide information around their efforts within their FAQ or elsewhere on their site.
Q: Have you ever had a case of an inauthentic item that you evaluated actually come from the first-hand market (a reputable e-commerce site)?
A: It’s not too common but yes, return fraud is real. It’s a tricky situation to help our clients navigate, but it does happen. Return fraud is when a scammer will purchase an authentic item from a department store and then return a high quality counterfeit in its place. The counterfeit item is not likely to be detected by sales associates because they are not trained at a high enough level to detect high quality counterfeits.
We have experienced firsthand instances where sales associates take just a quick glance at the item before accepting the return. You can really never be too careful these days, and if something just feels off about the item, there’s a good chance you’ve been duped.
Q: What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen in your authentication work?
A: What surprises us every time is seeing designer items with a different brand’s components on them. Many people would never guess this, but brands share manufacturing facilities and sometimes things get a little mixed up.
Quality control issues are prevalent in any manufacturing process, but it always gives us a kick to see the flaw make it to the secondary market.
Thanks again to Anastacia and Jenna for giving us a glimpse into the exciting world of luxury authentication, and discussing how the process has changed with greater volumes of buyers, sellers, and potentially dubious products.
Check them out on Instagram for more side-by-side real vs. fake comparisons!
Shop italist for up to 40% off on over 200,000 up-to-the-minute luxury fashions for women, men, and kids from leading brands like Golden Goose, Fendi, Gucci, Miu Miu, and many more—direct from Italy’s finest boutiques to your door.