"View" from Vogue (August 1996). 

My Hermès history starts a decade ago, with 
a graduation Kelly from my cousin.  A Birkin 
I received as a gift.  A Jige clutch I bought for 
myself, after serious rationalization.
    There have been other bags in my life.  A 
Calvin here, a Prada there. But after one season, 
my affection wanes. I can't explain it.
    "I can," says Hilary. "You're a snob."
    But an Hermès bag I'll use forever.
    "Keep rationalizing," says Hilary.
    An Hermès purchase 
promotes solid 
values. Like patience. 
("I'm sure we still 
have your request," 
the manager assured 
me on the telephone. 
"We'll call you if the 
bag comes in.")
    "Notice the use of 
'if,' not 'when,' " says 
    I mean, if paying
more for a handbag
than a small car is so outrageous, why is
there a waiting list to do so?
Hilary regards me quizzically. "Were 
you dropped on your head as a child?"

After lunch, we walk down Madison. Several 
blocks south we stop to return my bogus 
Bolide.  Hermès, Gucci, and Prada likenesses 
line the tiny shop's window display, 
vaguely resembling an airport duty-free.
    I place the return on the jewelry counter. 
The case houses copies of Kenneth Jay 
Lane, which seems a tad redundant.
    "Ooh," exclaims Hilary, excited. 
"May I see that tote?"
    The shopkeeper, smiling, pulls down 
a structured, bamboo-handled pigskin 
like the one Hilary saw at the Gucci boutique 
last month.
    "It's a very good copy," says Hilary, 
looking the bag over.
    "We prefer the term look-alike," the 
shopkeeper replies.
    Hilary picks up a smaller, bamboo-handled 
soft sack in napa leather.
    "Made in Italy," says the shopkeeper. 
"Like all our bags."
    "It's adorable," says Hilary. "And I 
haven't seen it all over."
    "You will," says the shopkeeper.  "It's 
not in the States yet.  We sell the new 
styles here first."
    How does that work?
    "I go to Europe twice a year," says 
the woman. "Visit our factories. See the 
collections "
    So you see the new designs and sketch 

She shakes her head no.
    You don't go?
    "I don't sketch."
    I realize that, legally, we're treading 
delicate ground.
    The bamboo-handled tote is $425, 
roughly what I paid for the Bolide copy.
    "The real Gucci's about $700," says 
Hilary. "Not as great as the Hermès differentials."
    "Would you like to
do an even exchange?"
asks the shopkeeper.
    No thanks. She
credits my Visa.

"Look-alikes."  When 
it comes right down to
it, I feel weird. It's the 
issue of authenticity. 
What does it say about 
me, as a person, if I 
carry a knockoff?
    The sensible person's 
argument: What is the thing, anyway? 
Leather, some hardware. What 
does it matter who makes it?
    It matters.  I can't tell you why, but it 
    Hilary's right.  I must have been dropped 
on my head as a child.

Ralph Lauren, third floor. Hilary's looking 
at fall. Loitering by the accessories case, 
I perform an act of gentle masochism.
    May I see that bag, please?
    The saleswoman hands it to me.
    The brown crocodile envelope with 
the sterling-silver tip. I first saw it twelve 
years ago. I should have bought it then. 
Then, the price was nearly reasonable. 
Since, it's outperformed the Dow.
    Why do I torture myself?  I glance at 
the price tag.
    $290.  Clearly mismarked. Generally, 
this bag costs more than 20 times that. I 
check the larger size. $350.
    "Genuine sterling tip," says the saleswoman.
    I examine the rest of the bag.  Good 
God.  It's mock.
    It's finally happened. Ralph's taken 
the initiative and they're knocking themselves 
    It occurs to me that I might be giving 
the issue a little too much thought.  I go 
home to lie down.
    The next day I call Hermès.  Any word 
on the brown Bolide?
    Patience is a virtue. But will it balance 
out the vices?