The Tale of My (Almost) Vintage Louis Vuitton Bag: Part 1

Years ago, I bought my first Louis Vuitton bag on eBay for a song.

I welcomed home my pre-loved (but in very good condition) Speedy 30 in Monogram canvas, and for a little while, she was the apple of my eye. But somewhere along the way, I became disenchanted with her. She was too small. She sagged (oof!). She could only be toted in-hand, and with only one little interior pocket, I grew tired of digging for my belongings. So back on eBay she went, and back to my gargantuan hobos and totes I went. I broke up with Louis and we were estranged for a long time.

The French Do It Best: Quality Over Quantity

Fast-forward 13 or so years, and here I am with another pre-loved Louis Vuitton in my possession. There are several reasons I’ve come back to the brand; in the last two years, I’ve moved toward carrying more structured, top-handled handbags, mostly satchel-style bags. There is something very ladylike and refined about top-handle bags, which may explain why some of the most coveted luxury bags are top-handles: the Hermès Birkin and Kelly, the LV Speedy and Alma, the Céline Luggage and Trapeze…and the list goes on. 

I’ve found that in my 40s, I prefer a high-quality bag that is appropriate in the office or out. I switch bags every month or two, but not daily, so for that reason, the big hobos and more casual shoulder bags that don’t suit my professional wardrobe ended up getting no love. In fact, I’ve sold many of the bags that have appeared here on the blog.

Like the archetypal stylish French woman, I’ve come to truly realize that quality trumps quantity, always. I’ve actually purchased very few new things in the last year, which is why my outfit posts have been sparing. There is nothing new to share, because I haven’t found many pieces within my means that are actually worthy of acquisition.

I’ve written about this before on G&G, but with several decades now under my belt, I just feel like I need the accessories and wardrobe of a woman, not a girl. Even on my skinniest, fittest days, the tight, super short things I used to wear don’t feel appropriate, and a big, sloppy bag thrown over my shoulder doesn’t feel right either. It’s not that I don’t wear youthful clothes or even short hemlines, but there has to be quality, a cut—a certain precision—that is congruent with where I am in life, and who I am now. I want my wardrobe to reflect that.

And then there’s the other, utterly superficial reason for selecting a Louis Vuitton bag that serves the vain little witch inside of me: My initials are now VL. See how that LV Monogram canvas also looks like VL? I suppose that’s the result of a childhood in which “Vahni” was never available on a mini license plate for my bike, or anything, for that matter.

So, enter (again) the Louis Vuitton Speedy, an iconic design from a timeless, classic brand. But this time, I chose the 35, one of the larger of the handbag-sized Speedies.

The Case for Buying Pre-Loved LV

I had such good fortune buying my last Speedy pre-loved, that I decided to snap up a particular Speedy 35 in Monogram canvas from Malleries, which like Portero and 1stdibs, aggregates luxury brand items for sale online, and guarantees authenticity through rigorous seller or item evaluation.

Most of you know I’m not a thrifter or second-hand buyer, but when it comes to bags, I don’t mind choosing pre-owned instead of new, because:

  1. New luxury bags are like new cars. They depreciate immediately, but tend to hold their value. So why not let someone else take the depreciation and tax hit? You can pick up luxury handbags all the way from vintage to current issue, for slightly less than retail at the youngest, and significantly less than retail at the oldest.
  2. With regard to a new LV Monogram canvas bag, I cannot bear the thought of baby-ing that vachetta (untreated) leather, or worse, blemishing it. Every rainstorm, every grip of the handles would make me feel like I’m damaging a perfect specimen. I know vachetta is meant to patina, but it would kill me to see it patina unevenly or stain (even worse). Google “Louis Vuitton vachetta” and you’ll see millions of pages, videos, and posts about how to get an even patina, how to clean it, how to protect it, etc., so I am clearly not in the minority. As such, I’d rather buy older Monogram canvas. But if someone wanted to gift it to me, you know I’m going to take it!

My LV Speedy and Her History

I was chuffed when my bag made it all the way from Japan in just six days. I was less chuffed about the fact that it was folded into bubble wrap and shoved into a mailing envelope. Yes, an envelope and not a box. Who does that to a Louis Vuitton?! Not me!

My bag as pictured on Malleries.com.
My bag as pictured on Malleries.com.

After opening the bag and unfurling the poor thing, upon closer inspection, I noticed some things I didn’t see in the listing online (as appears above). She was flawless inside and almost flawless outside, with a medium patina on the vachetta. But there were marks on the vachetta near the handles on the back side; a worn, fragile zipper pull; slight cracking in the handles; and OH MY GOD, that old musty smell like a dank basement (that is the reason I’m a mostly new, and not vintage/second-hand buyer). The marks I can take. The handles can actually be replaced by Louis Vuitton, and the zipper pull too. But THAT SMELL.

You know what they say. Caveat emptor. Hmph.

I carried the bag a couple days, and for those days, I was hyper aware of the odor emanating from it. I could smell it as the bag sat on the passenger seat of my car, in the office on my desk…crikey! THAT SMELL was not going away on its own.

I thought of selling it, but I loved the bag, and loved it even more after a friend (and former LV employee…thanks J!) told me the date code, SP1905, meant that bag was made in France, in the 10th week of 1995, and added, “That is a good one. Quality was high in the ’90s!” My Speedy was close to vintage at 19 years old, and had traveled from France to Japan to the U.S., passing through who knows how many hands. Like me, she had some age on her, some scars that showed her life experiences. So I couldn’t give up on her.

Plus, I loved that this bag came to me from across the oceans, that she had a history. Who was the lady in Japan who carried her? Was the she a gift from a lover, or a reward for a milestone reached? How often was she actually carried in the last 19 years? How many other countries had she been to? How many years had she languished in storage to acquire that most unbecoming smell? And more important, would I ever be able to rid her (and me) of it?

You’ll have to come back soon to find out!

Next post: The Tale of My (Almost) Vintage Louis Vuitton Bag: Part 2

13 comments

  1. Hi Vahni, great post! I have had my eye on a Speedy 25 in the Damier Azur for awhile, just for summer use, but after seeing how much LV has put the prices up there is no way I am buying that bag. I have bought two high-end bags secondhand and they were both in fabulous condition, for great prices, and thankfully no smell, other than the tell-tale sign of authentic leather. I am looking forward to the second half of this post. Happy 2014 to you!

    1. Hi Jill, happy new year to you too! Glad you liked this post. The next one is more informative, I think. I’ll share with you how I refurbished my new baby!

      Buying luxury second-hand is a great money-saver, but as you know, sometimes navigating the fakes is no easy task. I’ve become very leery of eBay transactions, but have found the sites I mentioned in this post, plus Fashionphile, Yoogi’s Closet, and The RealReal superb resources. If you haven’t checked them out for your Damier Azur, you should.

      1. Hi, I purchased a lV at a second hand store. It’s the totally pm. It is in mint condition. I don’t think it was ever used. It has the code and every detail I learned on Google to tell if it is real. It is and I’m floored!!!! New it’s over a g4and. I want to sell it, I think. How and how much?

  2. Love your story about pre-owned Louis Vuitton! I buy a lot of used things. It does make sense financially because one can find affordable quality. And the story behind your story, the one you won’t know, it’s part of the history and mystery of the bag.

    1. Hi Heather, happy new year! I agree wholeheartedly with this: “…one can find affordable quality.” So true. That’s my M.O.!

  3. My mum wanted this bag as she had the smaller version and like you wanted something a bit bigger. But I read on business of fashion blog that LV put their prices up at the beginning of 2013 to try and distance themselves from the ‘less than luxury’ market. So the bag was like a third more expensive or something. It was quite a big hike.

    I’ve never really consider or even thought about these sites. I know that they’re occasionally pre-loved shopping events in my city but I guess with anything online and designer it’s that chore of ensuring what you’re buying is genuine, which I think puts people off. So it was cool to find the sites you’ve suggested and I look forward to part 2. Now I just wonder if any of them ship to the UK lol.

    1. I think many of those sites ship worldwide…you should definitely check them out. Your mom will definitely be able to find what she wants for less than full retail.

  4. I submit my vote for continued outfit posts where you mix and remix things you already have! I never look at outfit posts for a blogger’s new acquisitions anyway; I just like to see how they’ve put shapes, colors, and textures together for various events.

    If I ever buy a luxury handbag, it will surely be from a secondhand source that’s responsible about authenticity. I would find a lot of satisfaction in finding a pre-owned bag without tags in excellent condition for that “it’s been driven off the lot” discount. My pleasure is in the quality, appearance, and functionality of things, not in the buying new experience. In fact, I kind of hate shopping retail…the prices, the intensity, the watchful elegant personnel…I’d probably have a panic attack actually shopping a Chanel boutique.

    I hope you conquered the LV’s smell, and that there might be a method the rest of us can keep in mind!

    1. Hi Sarah, thanks for your comment. A few of my readers have requested the outfit posts…I hadn’t realized how slack I was with them last year…I only posted six the entire year! I will have to remix and share this year, and get over the fact that my shots are going to have to be indoors.

      As for the “watchful elegant personnel,” I’m going to tell you how I changed my husband’s thinking about the whole intimidation factor of shopping, or even just browsing, high-end boutiques. We both know a lot of the “elegant personnel” (such a diplomatic way to put it) are completely snooty and judgmental. I told him he needs to not let them bother him one iota, because, after all, THEY are the ones working retail to serve US, and WE’RE the ones shopping and having fun on the weekend!

      PS: I have lots of tips for refurbishing a vintage bag in part 2, coming in a few days!

      1. > THEY are the ones working retail to serve US, and WE’RE the ones shopping and having fun on the weekend!

        True, that! And it’s good to know I’m not alone in my perceptions, especially coming from stylish striking you, Vahni. 🙂

        I suppose when I end up having to do retail shopping, I do have the last and satisfying word when I turn over a healthy credit card and gather up the things I was hunting for. Maybe I look like a tired mom, my makeup is cracked, my shoes are scuffed, my nails undone, but you just never *know* who’ll net you a commission, do you, child?

        (It does help when I groom up before a shopping adventure, but sometimes I just have to grab my chances.)

  5. V.
    I just purchased my first LV bag and until I read this I didn’t even think about how to care for the vachetta! Is there a go-to resource you found helpful? Google is overwhelming! Also, I just stumbled upon your blog for the first time today and I’m hooked! Love it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *