TBN: The Bag Edition- How I Restore My Vintage Finds
Updated: Jul 11, 2020
I've written about this before, but I've been collecting luxury bags for twenty years and I have finally had just about enough of the luxury market's nonsense. I recently researched the sector more in-depth; it's worth reading all the, frankly shocking, things I learned here
Old habits die hard, as you know. I remain a bag enthusiast, although a reformed one. As I turned 40 this year, I felt the pressing need to downsize and curate a wardrobe of few things, all of which I absolutely adore. No more room for half-measures and mediocrity. So I sold A LOT of stuff. Anything I wasn't using, gone. Anything I wasn't utterly in love with, gone. I have zero attachment to things, including bags, which is really bizarre, considering how much time I spend researching before I invest. I sold seven handbags within a month. I had already sold another five in the past year. I decided eight, really killer, bags are enough for anyone (well, maybe ten?). I re-invested in three bags I consider classics for my own style. I only want forever-items at this stage in my life.
In the quarantine, I got really bored, so I decided to learn how to restore vintage bags. I had already done a suprisingly professional job at changing a pair of Prada sneakers from patent leather to matte leather, so I was already familiar with the basics. But I did a lot of further reading and watched endless hours of specialised cobblers' projects on YouTube to feel confident enough to do it myself. I refreshed the colour in one Proenza Schouler bag first. It was so successful, I decided to get more creative. I found this Louis Vuitton Chantilly, photo below, for a bargain at Vestiaire Collective and I decided to re-vamp it. The canvas part was in impeccable condition but the leather straps were awful. I had loved the new Chantilly, which comes in monogram vanvas and black leather (last photo) but at 2.500 euros I was **NEVER** going to buy it. Would I succeed to replicate the look with this older one?
I decided from the start that I would be getting rid of the original strap. Vachetta leather (the typical Vuitton beige leather that turns brown with age) is, for lack of a more eloquent word, utter rubbish. It ages very badly and because it is bare leather, not treated at all, it crumbles and breaks right off your shoulder at some point (it's happened to me). I found brilliant alternatives at Etsy and snapped one up. I cut off the old strap and covered the canvas and metal components very carefully with builder's tape, to protect from the paint. I then soaked cotton in regular acetone and thoroughly went over the leather in order to prepare it for paint. Then, I used my favourite Angelus leather paint to carefully go over the leather in two or three thin coats, allowing a few minutes in-between to dry completely. You only need very small amounts, so don't go wild when ordering big bottles. I prefer to use small brushes to paint. After that, I applied a leather finisher by Angelus, removed the builder's tape and carefully cleaned any tiny spots where paint had bled through onto the canvas. I also cleaned the metal parts with alcohol and a q-tip and allowed to dry for 24 hours. I then attached the new strap. Ready! Final result in the photo below, with a complimentary guest appearance by Frida the Schnauzer who is entirely unimpressed by her mum's bag skills.
The process took about two hours, the most important step being the meticulous covering with builder's tape which takes longer than the painting itself but ensures you get a professional result. Who would want a sloppy LV? I order all my supplies from EU websites to avoid customs for American products. If the edges of the bag's strap are worn or cracked, I would recommend fixing them with Fiebing's Edge Kote.
This is the one I was inspired by:
I understand it could sound like an idiotic preoccupation to most. 2.500 euros bags, their look-a-likes etc. What an absurd notion. But I cannot relay the amount of pride I feel when I finish a bag project. It's very creative, skilfull and you enjoy the results for years to come. Plus, if you are a bag lover, I could think of about 2.500 reasons why you should take this hobby up!
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third photo via fashionphile.com