The young woman presiding over the K Street vending table had the appearance and manner of a college student trying to earn money for books. She also had a ready explanation for how she happened to be selling what she said were Pierre Cardin cotton knit sweaters from a sidewalk stand in Washington.

"My girlfriend's mother is in the wholesale business in New York, and I get them through her," the young woman said. She said she had opened her vending stand to sell to holiday shoppers. Her sweaters, which had a Pierre Cardin label stitched into the neckline and a label inside saying "Made in U.S.A.," were $18 each.

They were also counterfeit.

"Those aren't ours," said Nicholas DeMarco, the New York-based director of U.S. sales for Pierre Cardin. He said the Cardin women's cotton knit sweaters, which are similar to the ones sold by the D.C. vendor, are made in Italy and in Hong Kong -- not in the United States.

Moreover, he said, Cardin sweaters typically have tags providing additional information about the garment and its care. The vendor's sweaters did not have such tags.

A professional buyer who examined the sweater said that the craftmanship and the material were too poor to be a Cardin product. "Look at the uneven stitching inside the neck," he said. "And the sweater isn't finished very well. There are threads from one shoulder seam, and the knit is not what I would call quality knit. I'd hate to see what it looked like after one washing."

The buyer also had a low opinion of the way the Cardin label was hemmed: "I can't imagine a real Cardin having a label like that."

And there is one other difference: A real Cardin sweater of that kind would have sold for $40 to $50.