I must be blunt: one of my biggest pet peeves is knockoff designer bags. The things are loathsome. The fake leather, the cheaply manufactured buckles, the bad stitching...oh, it burns, it burns!
But far be it from me to scorn people who can't afford the real thing. I completely sympathize if you aren't able to buy high-end designer accessories. I may own a Chanel, but the money I used to purchase that bag did not come out of a trust fund. (Truth be told, it came out of the parental food check during my study abroad trip to London; I was living on porridge for weeks.) I may aspire to have the It items - but as a member of the upper-middle class, I am only able to afford a scant few true couture accessories per season. No one should feel ashamed if she can't afford a shiny new authentic Chanel. Many feel that the only alternative is to buy the knockoff.
I occasionally wish that I, too, could have the guts to buy a knockoff, even though it can't possibly match the intricate craftsmanship of a real designer bag. The siren song emanates from the street stands, and the voice in your head whispers, "But I want so very badly for my friends/my co-workers/the dogwalker across the street and her seventeen Pomeranians to be jealous of me, and all it takes is fifty bucks instead of fifteen hundred. They'll never be able to tell the difference between a real and a fake. There's absolutely nothing wrong with it. I'm entitled to an It bag, too, aren't I?"
Perhaps, but purchasing a fake may not produce the desired effect (envy, worship).
Okay, so. Overall, consumer relations function largely according to the principles of supply and demand. Example: You see a celebrity carrying a particular designer bag. Because it is available to the elite but difficult for the lay person to get ahold of, it becomes desirable. Low supply, high demand. Then consider the consequences of those sweatshops in Asia churning out replica after replica: Supply goes up. Ergo, demand goes down. The coveted item has, through the process of knockoff production, dwindled to a cheap trick. No one's going to be jealous of you when they can easily get the very same thing. So what was the point of all that? You want the replica just so you can say you surfed the Marc Jacobs Stam bag wave?
I think some people will say that they want the knockoff because it is their only way of paying tribute to a bag they find beautiful. That's a good point. However, it does not take into consideration the long hours that the original designer spent designing the bag and prepping it for utilitarian wear (FYI: it takes nearly a year for a leather designer handbag to hit the market after its conception, because it must pass a rigorous set of tests and procedures to ensure that it will hold up under daily stressors). Keep in mind that you are paying your respects to the owner of a sweatshop (who has, might I add, ripped off someone else's intellectual property) rather than the designer him- or herself. If you want to honor the artisan(s) who have brainstormed a product, cut out pictures from a magazine, create a shrine, and burn candles. Or set the image as your desktop wallpaper. I don't care. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it's not right for the imitation to make profits from the original.
So go ahead and buy your fakes and replicas. It is your choice to make. Myself, I like the feeling that I've worked my frickin' ass off to pay the insane amount of money it costs to buy Miu Mius and Marnis these days. I like to feel that I've earned it, even if other people don't recognize that it's even authentic, and people who walk around carrying a decent-looking replica piss me off because they've accomplished the same look for much less.
In conclusion: authentic handbags are ultimately more fulfilling, but I suppose I can be understanding if you want to save your money for, say, the noble purpose of paying your monthly mortgage. (N.B.: you can always patronize such sites as www.bagborroworsteal.com when desperate times call for desperate measures.) And there are plenty of small-scale designers who produce fantastic bags for decent prices. Don't cheapen yourself by buying an It Bag simply because it's an It Bag. You can do better than that.