Quick Q&A with a expert luxury authenticator
Sabina Jacobs is no typical luxury shopper. With years of art and design experience, a penchant for beautiful details, and a passion for fashion, she fell into the wild world of luxury authentication because she saw an opportunity: help others who love designer fashion while studying the signatures and trademarks that make one item say, an authentic Gucci belt, and another a knockoff. The skill is not unlike art authentication, which has just been around longer and is more widely understood.
So what makes an expert luxury fashion authenticator? Read on…
Q: Tell us a bit about your background. What brought you to work in the luxury designer fashion space? How did you start authenticating and what is your personal philosophy?
A: I graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelors of Fine Arts in art studies and I worked as an illustrator/graphic designer for years before becoming an authenticator. My art background really helps with authentication because I have a great eye for fonts and details. Then I became pretty much obsessed with luxury handbags. I wanted to own them and I wanted to study them.
I spent years studying multiple brands and what made them authentic vs. not. Then I started my career as a professional authenticator. I work for some of the top authentication companies in the business right now and I absolutely love it. My philosophy is that authentication is crucial so luxury fashion remains reliably high quality and tasteful.
Q: How has authenticating changed over the last few years?
A: The main way that authenticating has changed in the last few years is that the fakes have unfortunately gotten a lot better.
It has become a lot harder to authenticate certain brands because counterfeiters’ attention to detail has improved but they still can’t fool skilled authenticators. The struggle becomes finding an authenticator who is skilled enough to be able to tell. I pride myself on my accuracy and my impeccable track record. I keep my skills sharp by constantly learning about all of the new items coming into the boutiques, and with hands-on research.
Q: What’s your favorite aspect of doing authentication work? What is your least favorite?
A: My favorite aspect of doing authentication would be that I love helping people and I love being able to prevent buyers from being scammed. Unfortunately, there are many dishonest people out there. I’m here to protect luxury buyers.
My least favorite aspect would have to be when I have to give someone a bad result. Sometimes a client is extremely excited over a handbag and then when I let them know that it’s not authentic, they get really upset or really sad.
Fortunately, I also help them to get their money back. If the buyer pays by methods such as PayPal and credit cards, it is very easy to get their money back. I will provide them with a certificate which will say whether or not the bag is authentic. They can then contact PayPal or their credit card company and open disputes. I always advise a buyer never ever to pay by bank transfer or cash because then they have absolutely no recourse. Always make sure to protect yourself.
Q: What’s your process for authenticating a particular item? How do you judge if it’s legit? What are the top 3 things you check first?
A: Since I have been authenticating for so long, most of it is pretty automatic to me. Usually I can look at something and know in the first 10 seconds if it is authentic or not.
The most important things in authenticating would be, number one, fonts. The fonts are the most important aspect of authenticating. The counterfeiters will never get the fonts and embossing of a serial number or stamp completely correct.
The second would be materials. The leather or material of a counterfeit bag will never look the same as an authentic one.
The third would be stitching and craftsmanship. Most designer authentic bags are stitched impeccably and made extremely well. The counterfeiters can never quite replicate this.
Q: What specific tip(s) would you give someone on how to, for example, spot a fake Gucci bag?
A: When authenticating a Gucci bag, The most important thing would be the stamp and serial fonts, stitching, and materials. For someone who is not an authenticator but who wants to learn how to authenticate a Gucci bag, I would send them to some well-known reputable resale sites so they can research the stamp fonts and the serial number fonts for that particular bag and compare to their bag. Also, you will never find very poorly stitched bags. Pay close attention to the craftsmanship that goes into an authentic Gucci which is usually stellar. Also, the materials used on an authentic bag are the highest quality. You will never find cheap materials on an authentic Gucci. The counterfeiters will never get the materials exactly correct nor the fonts.
When in doubt, always contact an expert luxury authenticator to make sure your bag is definitely the real deal.
Q: Are there certain items that are easier to authenticate than others? Which present the toughest challenges?
A: There are certain brands that have become harder to authenticate, as the fakes have gotten a lot better. The toughest challenges are the most recent fakes, which take a little more time and patience to complete an authentication. This will require a bit more research but I always make sure to complete an authentication within 24 hours.
Q: Do you look at different things when authenticating a vintage/resale piece vs. a brand new item?
A: Absolutely. Vintage bags are extremely different from newer bags. Vintage bags were not replicated well, so the fakes will be pretty obvious. The new fonts and markings are very different from the older ones and the older bags were crafted more meticulously than the newer ones.
Q: Are there places you go to reference authenticity details? (e.g. forums, designer websites, etc.) What are your top resources?
A: Whenever I am faced with a very vintage, rare or recently released piece, I usually try and go to some reputable resale sites to try and find similar bags. I also like searching on the Purse Forum authentication threads for any tough authentications I get. I also love to go into the boutiques and get a close look at the bags in person. I am constantly learning and educating myself on the latest pieces.
Q: What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen in your authentication work?
A: Some of the craziest authentications I get are when sellers take authentic serial numbers or holograms stickers (Chanel specifically) and stick them inside the counterfeit bags. If you have an authenticator who is not a skilled or someone who is not paying close attention to every detail of the bag, some of these scammers will get away with it.
Q: What brought you to italist (in 2017)? What do you like about the site? What would you like to see improved?
A: I was searching the web for designer shoes and I found italist. I absolutely love designer items but I don’t love paying full retail prices. italist has an excellent reputation for having all beautiful authentic merchandise for less. I have referred many people to italist as well. I think the site is fabulous, easy to navigate, and trustworthy. I wouldn’t change a thing.
Q: What are your favorite finds (from past or currently) on italist?
A: Some of my favorite purchases from italist has been designer shoes from Gucci, Fendi, and Golden Goose as well as my favorite Balenciaga baseball cap.
Q: What do you say to people who are skeptical about italist and ask you for advice?
A: I tell them that I have ordered from italist many times in the past and my items have always been authentic, beautifully packaged and new. Because I am an expert luxury authenticator, a lot of people do trust the sites that I recommend.
Q: When investigating a new online store (like you did with italist in 2017), what do you look for before you buy? Once you receive your order, what do you look for in order to be sure that what you’ve received is genuine?
A: While investigating a new online store, I always look for real life consumer reviews. I will also go to the Purse Forum and research the companies to make sure they are legit. Once the item comes in, I look for correct fonts, stitching, materials, and I make sure all of the markings are correct.
Q: (fun question) Which luxury fashion trends do you see fading and which do you see ramping up?
A: I think that logomania came on extremely strong and was here for a couple years. I still see logomania as very relevant but I do see it fading a bit and I feel like a lot of bloggers and influencers are switching to simpler more classic neutral pieces. Last year, a lot of logos were mixed together…outfit, bag, shoes and socks…all logos.
I personally think a simple outfit which has one “pop of a logo” piece (bag or shoes) is very chic and relevant right now.
Find Sabina online at Sabina’s Closet or on Instagram to follow her adventures as an expert luxury authenticator and all-around stylish personality!
Thanks Sabina! 👜
Find more expert Q&As: Stacie from the Luxe Hunt blog (expert deal-hunter).
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