Science Is About to Make Fake Designer Handbags a Thing of the Past


Science and fashion don’t always go hand in hand, but sometimes it takes a little bit of lab work to solve a longstanding style problem. Like at Cornell University, where researchers are devoting their energies to solving the age-old knockoff problem—as in trying to find a way to detect counterfeit designer handbags.

Which brands are the scientists working for? Well, think of all the fake bags you see everywhere—perhaps Louis Vuitton, Prada, Kate Spade, or Coach? “You know which brands you see on Canal Street,” Carlos Rinaldi, Ph.D., explained to a reporter from Popular Science.

The team at Cornell, which is headed up by textile scientist Juan Hinestroza—is working on a “sub-visual” technique where the individual fibers in handbags are coated with a brand’s signature something-or-other—something invisible to the human eye and completely intangible to the average consumer, but a signifier that can be detected or scanned to prove authenticity.

“You can make signatures by coating individual cotton fibers, like a bar code,” says Ken Kuno, Ph.D., from Notre Dame, who’s part of the team. Once developed, this technology can also be used for other purposes—even by government, say, in money.


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