On last night's episode, Elle sent Olivia Palermo to purchase items for a piece on why designer knockoffs are bad. Much like a fake Louis, Olivia's Canal Street experience wasn't at all authentic.
But what's to be expected of a "reality" show that's completely staged. (Including Olivia's "accessories department" position at Elle. She's actually working in the PR department, but her name does not appear in the magazine's masthead.)
I've been down to Canal Street many, many times, and no one will sell you knockoffs (the kind that actually have designer logos on them) in the middle of the street. They won't even sell them to you in the shops. You have to specifically ask for them from one of the employees, who will first deny carrying such bags, but once it is established that you are not a cop, the employee will pull out a walkie talkie, mutter something into it, and then turn to you and start screaming and pushing you toward the back of the store, where a hidden door opens up, arms reach out, yank you in and slam the door behind you. It's basically a very tall closet with lots and lots of convincing knockoffs. Once your transaction is complete, you have to wait for walkie talkie clearance to exit the hidden room.
However, if you do manage to strike up negotiations with someone who does not have a storefront, they will never ever show you bags in the middle of the street. There's usually some kind of rendezvous point (like Sbarros or halfway down the stairs to the subway entrance) where they will reveal the merchandise, and then get super pissed off at you when you don't want to buy anything.
The fact that Olivia made her illegal purchase from a guy whose face was not blurred out on camera is probably the biggest indicator that the entire thing was staged. But what else is new with this show?