I've always wanted...ok fine, dying of curiousity about the secret markets on Canal Street. I do see fakes all around but what I am talking about is the one that involves talking to a random man and then following him to a strange destination all in the name of a fake bag. While the desire is strong, I am also not stupid and so I bid my time. I mean seriously, if you won't get into the car of a stranger why would you follow one into a dark alley way...to buy a purse?!
Finally, the day CAME!
My friend James the Detective is currently working on a task force to deal with piracy issues in NYC and after some begging, three pitchers of beers and lots of wings, I landed a spot in one of his undercover expedition. We would be tourists from Wisconsin visiting NYC for the firs time and we'll be married. There's a problem with that later. Explaination to follow.
"Dress the part," he told me after stumbling out the door.
So I did. I went to Sears and after two hours in the Clearance Section, got an outfit that would make you weep in awe at my genius. I got jeans, a "I Loves Pooh" sweatshirt, and the biggest canvas bag with also the biggest cat on it I have ever seen. Total for all of this love, $16 with a coupon I found while reading the paper on the ride to Sears!
James didn't let me take pictures of our outfits but let's just say his matched mine, down to the 'Bud' t-shirt.
So we get off the train and wandered around for a a while. I see some terrible little Gucci wallets and a few set of Tiffany earrings but nothing major. I want more. I want Dior, I want Chanel, I want Coach in awful mismatched colours!
A guy sees me picking up a little LV clutch and comes over. He's about 25 but has the teeth of a 50 year old chain smoker.
"Youu guys wanna Guucii, Loueee Voootoon," he asked.
"Yeah, yeah!" I said, a little to happy.
"Yeah? Youu flouwww meee," he said and then whips out his cell.
He screams a string of Chinese and pulls me and James with him into an apartment building. He locks the door behind us.
I can see James watching him. I tense up.
"Nooo, you finish," the guy said. "I offpen the door for wuu."
So we follow him up a flight of stairs and go through another door. He locks it behind us. We are in an apartment. He walks us into the living room and HOLY KATE MOSS! Wall to wall to wall of the fake stuff. Little boutiques almost. The Guccis are on one large table. Behind it, on the walls are lined rows and rows of heels and sneakers. Little interlocking G's abound. Chanel was next, with makeup, perfume and even bathrobes.
"You buy treee, I give you one," a woman yells at me and hands me a Coach bag.
It's all here. The ugly LV mink thing that looks like a bath mat that Andre wore around a few years ago. I see my own Fendi but this time, available in a rubbery leather and covered in glittered. I see Fendi Spy everywhere, from the print all the way to the white mink. YSL's are stacked high. I see the Shopper Tote I've drooled over. The same woman that gave me the Coach bag came over and took me into another room. It's wall to wall clothing. MJ tops. Is it real? I couldn't tell. The detailing is beautiful. He makes his entire collection in China so who knew if they were fakes orjust unaccounted productions. LV boots and heels. She tells me to try on a Dior suit.
I see James. He is negotiating for a Dior Homme laptop.
I felt sick standing there. I thanked the woman, took off the suit and went to see James.
"Buy something," he told me. I see him paying for the Dior bag.
So I wandered around towards the Prada selections and picked up a clutch. It looks just like mine, even down to the lining inside. The leather felt real. The threads looked tight and the stitches were minute. If I was holding my own Prada next to the one they were selling for $15; I wouldn't have know the difference. So I bought it.
We leave. The guy that took us in, took us out. He relocks the door behind us. We walk out on the streets with out purchases in black plastic bags. I look around. Everybody has a little black bag. A woman ahead of is is holding a huge LV carryall. We get on the train and I see bags all around me. We get off near 14th and walk home.
James takes his Dior bag and my Prada clutch. He tags them as evidence. Wrote down the address of the "shop" and a description of the guy who took us in.
"Good job," he said.
I just felt a little dirty, like I did something bad. It didn't go as I had imagined, at all.