Designer Bags on Canal Street / by Charlene Wang

Worked on a pilot last year at this time about the high fashion world and just remembered this hilarious experience shopping for designer bags. I felt conflicted about posting this or not when it happened, because of the legality of buying imitation designer bags, but since the pilot hasn’t aired yet, feels like it is fine.

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Had the funnest and funniest peak Chinatown Canal St experience.

I needed to find eight or so different purses in the manner of the hottest luxury designer bags for a set I’m working on. Buying them was out of the question, even renting the real thing was out of the question budget wise (it is like $500 each to rent a real designer bag!), and no brands wanted to product place with this pilot.

So I walked to the intersection of Canal and Centre St and approached two middle aged ladies loitering at the corner. I asked them if I could buy purses and they gave me a nod of “yeah we got that.”

They asked me what kind and I showed them some reference photos—looking at the photos they were like oh those are the latest styles we don’t have those yet.

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So then we switched to Chinese and they asked me if I wanted “A” level purses the kinds that are super good almost indistinguishable knock offs that are $300-$500 each. I said nah I just need regular quality that will look convincing in the background.

So one lady Ms. Ye took me a block or two away to another young woman who I showed the photos I brought. She said they didn’t have that and then quickly darted away to surreptitiously finish another transaction 20 feet away.

Ms. Ye was getting annoyed with me and asked me how many I needed. And I tried to explain in more detail what I needed and she brought me across the street to another guy Mr. Hai standing in Canal St who started showing me photos on his phone.

Mr. Hai. He knew what was up he got what I was looking for and we browsed the catalog of bags he had on his phone and chose 8. The whole time Ms. Ye is standing a few feet away as the look out.

I’ve been on the street the whole time.

We are getting close to closing the deal but I want to send photos of the photos to my boss for approval, so all three of us walk two blocks up away from canal behind some phone booths so I can use my phone to take photos of his photos.

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Boss likes them we are good to go, I go get my car and pull up to near the warehouse door and then I realize oh no I need more cash.

These are Chinese entrepreneurs—they don’t mess around so Mr. Hai offers to sit in my car for me since I’m illegally parked while Ms. Ye offers to escort me to the closest Bank of America. We all trust each other somewhat now after spending the last 20+ min working out this deal together so ok sure. We get that done. Ms. Ye walks me to the bank and waits outside.

She’s from Wenzhou and she’s going back in 20 days to visit her 80+ year old parents for Chinese New Yesr. Mr. Hai is from Hangzhou. She told me there is a new police person on counterfeit bags duty and not everyone knows what he looks like but word on the street is he already made his rounds for the day.

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We head back, I get inside the car Mr. Hai gets the bags, brings them to the car sits in the passenger seat and we look over the merchandise together. Looks great! Like really impressive for the price. I give him the cash, we work on the receipt I need to turn in, and we become Wechat friends then he gets out the car and leaves.

You guys I loved every minute of it.