Some time ago I did quite a lot of work on plaster casts (mainly of ancient Greek and Roman sculpture). This proved interesting for all kinds of obvious reasons -- who made them, who collected them, etc. But also for the whole question of "originality", "authenicity" and "imitation". Casts turned out to be paradoxical things: copies not fakes (no plaster cast is pretending actually to be what it imitates), but oddly more fragile than the original and sometimes in the case of casts made a couple of hundred years ago (given the deterioration of much ancient sculpture left outside in a polluted environment) in a state closer to the original than the "original" -- if you see what I mean.
In fact, the whole subject is fraught with issues that teeter on the dividing line between authenticity and inauthenticity. One of my favourite phrases -- much used in the nineteenth century -- was "original cast" (which I eventually worked out meant a cast taken directly from the original sculpture, not a cast taken from another cast).
Given all this, you would have thought that I would have had a reasonably sophisticated take on "fake" fashion items. But honestly I have always thought that fake Prada really was pretending to be Prada. And so on.
That is until I visited a queen of fake shops on my holiday (on which more in due course -- but I am not giving away the shop location just in case I caused the nice owner to be raided by the fake police). One of my travelling companions had visited the shop a few days earlier and bpught a "Cartier" watch. Though marked "water resistant", it had resolutely refused to work after she had splashed it with water in the shower.
So she returned to the shop with some mates in tow and politely complained to the shop-man. "What on earth did you expect?" he replied. "Of course it isnt water resistant, it's a fake". He then smiled and gave her a new one, telling her firmly not to get it near the shower.
It turned out that the shop was full of the paradoxes of fakery.
There was no pretence that we were buying the real thing, though the products were amazingly good lookalikes. "I even make the authenticity cards, myself", the man claimed. "And I give each back my own serial number, just like the real ones" (Anyone who has ever bought a posh bag will know that they come with certificates of authenticity and an identity number.)
And he had a wonderful line in Hermès carrier bags, into which the fake Hermès products were carefully inserted, tissue wrapped.
I decided to be relatively modest. But when you see me walking round with my new red "Tods" handbag, you'll know that it's my "original fake".