Last Saturday afternoon, I took to the streets of Chinatown in mad pursuit of a Louis Vuitton with Colleen & Colleen. I thought that just meant a quick stroll down Canal Street, but I soon learned of the whole underground purse market in NYC.
NY Colleen informed us that there are rooms underground and in abandoned stores that have better quality brand purses. She led the way since NC Colleen and I had no idea what we were doing. We met with several different Asian women who led us to these private rooms to check out the goods.
While we were in the 3rd room, NC Colleen looked around and said, in what was definitely louder than a whisper, "Is this illegal?" Um...why do you think we've been following around Asian women to these secret locations and have to ask for permission to leave the room? Yes, Colleen. This is illegal.
On one of the longer journeys to the secret rooms, we were actually handed off to a second guide. I was confused for a minute, ready to keep following the first lady - but I quickly turned to my right to see NY Colleen half way down the sidewalk with another Asian woman.
Finally, we were led to a van on a side street in Soho. We stood on the sidewalk, stared at the van for a few seconds, then the lady unlocked the sliding door, jumped in and waved us all in, "Get in, get in!" So there we were - the 3 of us and our dealer. The inside of the van was pitch black. The dealer turned on the light and you could see the wooden shelves that had been built to hold up all the bags. The windows were blacked out with star-studded black wrapping paper.
She had the bag NC Colleen wanted and NY Colleen also found a Chanel she liked. I was just there to document the whole incident. They negotiated 2 for $95. Before they agreed on this number though, NC Colleen tried to talk the dealer down to $45, which is when she snagged the bag out of her hands and threw it on the floor saying, "NO, I told you, $50, its good deal". Originally, she was asking for $65 so it wasn't too bad after all was said and done. The two Colleens settled on $95 for both, paid the dealer in cash, and then we waited for permission to get out of the van. The dealer made a call and kept saying, "Wait...wait...wait". Finally, we were allowed out.
I had no idea these private rooms and vans existed. If you're in NYC and you want to see more than what's on the street, then just go up to any one of the dealers you see on Canal Street and in the most subtle way possible say you want to see the bags first. Otherwise, they will send someone down to get them and bring them up to you in a black garbage bag. It's way more adventurous to go with them. Just don't do it alone.