Earlier this summer I launched into this whole closet “downsizing” project. Basically this entailed cleaning out my closet, purging, organizing – you get the drift…. VERY Twenty First Century.
Part of the purge was parting with all the handbags that I didn’t use anymore. I was planning to be lean and mean, y’all. And I succeeded – to a certain extent. It’s hard to be lean and mean with handbags when you are suffering from an addiction…. *looks around shiftily*
So the upshot is that after I purged, I had room for all new bags. Well, new to me. For whatever reason, I just got into this idea that I was going to purchase and rehabilitate vintage and “pre-loved” bags. Because, really, I just get a thrill from bringing old things back to life.
So one of my first purchases was this little sweetheart – a vintage Louis Vuitton Pont Neuf in Mandarin Epi Leather. I bought this bag from an eBay seller in Japan. And I didn’t take pictures of it when it arrived – too excited! However, I pulled the seller’s pics from eBay just so y’all could see some “before” shots. Suffice it to say that this bag was as described, very pre-loved and, for lack of a better word, just dirty.
Here are the before pictures:
The seller’s description of this bag was that it had an “overall feeling of use”. That about summed it up. I think these pictures show that the bag was in pretty good shape when it arrived but it had clearly been well loved and was just dingy.
But let’s back up for a minute and talk about some “rules”.
When buying vintage I think you need to do a few things:
First, you have to know what you’re buying. If you have no idea what a new Louis Vuitton is *supposed* to look like and feel like, then you have no business buying a pre-loved one. Go to the store. Check out the new bags. See how they’re constructed. Learn how they feel. Do some online research. Educate yourself.
Second, you need to define your “deal breakers”. All vintage buying is a trade off between the condition of the piece and your budget – so figure out what you’re willing to give up in terms of condition, in exchange for the lower price – before you start shopping. Personally, my deal breakers are torn leather, torn canvas, interior smells, interior “stickiness” and broken hardware. I don’t mind a bag that looks like someone has used it well. That’s part of the fun for me. But used well and taken into combat are two different things. No amount of cleaning is going to “fix” torn leather on a corner – so I don’t even go there unless you’re factoring the cost of professional repairs into your purchase.
On this bag, the handles show wear (as you’ll see from the pics). Since I don’t mind evidence of use, the handle wear isn’t really a problem for me, but it may be for you – make sure you know what you’re dealing and what you’re willing to either live with or pay to have fixed with when you buy.
Finally, buying vintage online from people you don’t know is a risk and there is no other way to put it. Research your seller. Pay attention to feedback. Purchase through trusted websites. I personally require a seller return policy and pay with a credit card that provides me protection if it gets down to it. But don’t spend more than you’re willing to lose….
So anyway – I chose to start with a Pont Neuf in Mandarin because I always wanted one, they don’t make them anymore and since its not one of the more “iconic” LV bags, the prices were better. I looked around for a while and found that a lot of Epi leather – just doesn’t hold up. So if you’re looking for Epi, be prepared to be patient and vigilant. Finally, I found this one and I think I paid about $400 for it. It arrived quickly and as described. She was in good shape but man – she was dirty, dirty, dirty.
When cleaning, I always start with “least invasive” means first and that usually means a good wiping down with alcohol-free, fragrance-free baby wipes. This generally gets the surface dirt off. Next I condition the bag really well. The color of this bag was pretty blah but a good conditioning brought the bright mandarin color right back. Ultimately, I ended up taking a little bowl of warm water, some Woolite and a nail brush and scrubbed the bag down about three times, allowing the bag to “rest” in between. In addition to really cleaning the leather, I figured out that one of the things that makes an otherwise clean leather bag look dingy is dirty thread. Since the color of the thread is fairly light on this bag, a good scrubbing with the nail brush really brought it back. I also used this method to scrub up the zipper area, especially the cloth part. Not only did it clean up wonderfully, but getting the cloth wet and allowing it to dry restored the structure to the stretched out zipper fabric. Next, I cleaned up all the brass with some Brasso. This takes a few cleanings, in my experience. Finally, the bag had some “dents” in the leather where the handles had pressed into the sides, most likely during storage. Over the course of two or three sessions, I used my blowdryer to bring these dents out of the leather. I conditioned the bag between heat applications to keep the leather from drying out. I’m happy to say that the “dents” popped out really well – although I suspect I’ll heat it up a few more times before its over with.
So after all that blah blah blah – here it is!
As y’all can see, it is nowhere near perfect, but it is a gorgeous, well made Louis Vuitton with a lot of life left in her. The hardware on this bag was in beautiful shape and other than the leather handles, the leather is in great shape with very little scratching or scuffs. When I received the bag, I was surprised that that “dents” in the bag bugged me so much – and they were not obvious in the seller’s pictures. However, the blow dryer trick worked really well in bringing the dents out and I feel like it was good experience for future rehabs.
I have to say that the one of the most exciting parts for me was to finally purchase an LV Epi in mandarin – because I’ve always, always loved it and it was discontinued long ago, as was the Pont Neuf. So I’m pretty happy with this, not only because its something I wanted for a while but also because I feel like some good love really brought it back.
Stay tuned for more. I have been on an LV tear lately and have added both new and vintage pieces. But I’ve also added some vintage Gucci, vintage Fendi, a fairly old Prada, to my collection. And, yes ladies, I bit the bullet and bought a Chanel circa 1986.
So stay tuned as my handbag obsession deepens and takes new turns!