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Why vintage designer handbags are making a serious comeback

Sustainable and stylish, the only way is pre-loved

vintage fendi bag
Laura Sutcliffe
Fashion and Beauty News Editor
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Fashion is a funny old business. So many trends come and go, and so do our spending habits. When it comes to handbags, as consumers, we have been pretty generous with our money over the years, willingly investing in the latest 'It' bag of the moment at the drop of a hat.

READ: Baguette bags are back thanks to Carrie Bradshaw - And just like that, we want one

The feeling of buying a brand new designer bag is one that if it was bottled, would be elusive. The adrenalin rush of purchasing a designer tote is nothing short of epic. The store assistant going to the back room to take a fresh new design for you, wrapping it up in beautiful packaging and boxing it with a ribbon, then placing it in a paper bag that you happily swing behind you as you leave, is one big thrill. And just knowing your new bag will be your special piece forever and you will take care of it... it almost feels like it's your firstborn. Dramatic, but true!

vintage louis vuitton bag denim© Photo: Getty Images

Denim Louis Vuitton from 2005

As idyllic as this sounds, as customers, times have changed a little. Post-pandemic, spending a huge wad of cash on a designer bag, quite frankly, just isn't that cool anymore. Firstly, Covid-19 has taught us that life is precious and you never know what's around the corner. Hence why frivolous spending just doesn't feel the same as it did pre 2020.

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And secondly, we are all much more savvy when it comes to the environment and what we can do to reduce our carbon footprint. The sustainable fashion movement has become forefront in our minds, and buying vintage is a great way to play our part. 

MORE: 7 simple steps to make your wardrobe more sustainable

Pre-loved and vintage handbags are now really, really, big business and more often than not, some vintage bags are actually more sought after than a fresh newbie that you can pick straight off the shelf.

pre loved louis vuitton© Photo: Getty Images

Vintage bags tell a story

A great example is the arrival of 2021's And Just Like That, the much-discussed Sex and the City reboot. Sarah Jessica Parker's character of Carrie Bradshaw resurrected her vintage sequin Fendi bag from the 90s and fans went crazy trying to get the discontinued style; so much so, it's since been redesigned by the Italian fashion house for the modern era. But wouldn't you rather have the original? I know I would.

purple fendi sequin bag© Photo: Getty Images

Carrie Bradshaw's 'Baguette' by Fendi goes on view during the "Bags: Inside Out" exhibit at the V&A

I, for one, have always been a 'new' bag lover. Once a year I would save up my pennies and purchase a fresh new bag as a treat to myself, and it was an annual event I thoroughly enjoyed. But on reflection, absolutely anyone can do this. Where's the authenticity? Yes, buying a new bag is great and all, but as someone who is interested in fashion and its history, there is something just so thrilling about trawling Ebay and vintage sites, trying to find an original bag from years ago that you just know no-one else will have. It's so exciting and makes you feel triumphant, plus, it gives your look a special kind of edge.

kate middleton vintage bag© Photo: Getty Images

The Duchess of Cambridge's Dayne Taylor vintage 1960’s bag

Also, the past life of the bag is nothing short of enthralling. Why was it purchased? Was it passed down? Where has it been? Bags tell a story, and the fact is, bag collectors often look after their bags like treasure, so you'll often find vintage styles are in truly great condition. 

READ: 22 sustainable fashion brands that need a place in your wardrobe

Preloved arm candy is often much more friendly on your bank balance, too. Last year, a friend and colleague of mine shared a snap of her Dior 'Gaucho' bag that she had purchased second-hand. I was entranced. I loved the fact it looked very like the iconic 'Saddle', but had a slightly different shape, making it much more unique. Also, it cost a huge amount less; you won't get much change from £4,000 for that particular model brand new, so it's great to know there are similar styles out there that won't break the bank. I hunted high and low for the same style, and I felt so triumphant when I found one. It's over 20 years old, and the seller explained it was purchased in Paris by her mother, who had passed it down over the years. With its buttery soft leather, I get so many comments whenever I carry it, and it's my pride and joy.

vintage dior bag© Photo: Getty Images

Vintage versions of the Dior saddle bag are hugely popular 

Another great option is to purchase a designer style that has been worn down, and take it to be restored so it looks as good as new. The Handbag Clinic is an amazing place to head to for this exclusive service, and the attention to detail is finite. The brand, frequented by many celebrities and influencers, also sells a huge array of pre-loved styles and even has an authentication service where bags are checked by professionals to ensure there are no counterfeits.  

vintage white chanel bag© Photo: Getty Images

Pre-lovedChanel bags are hugely sought after

Charlotte Staerck, CEO and Co-Founder of The Handbag Clinic told HELLO!: "There has never been a better time to invest in luxury handbags. Whilst high streets are struggling and sales of non-essential items plummeted during the pandemic, resale and auction sites selling luxury and vintage handbags, particularly Hermes, Chanel and Louis Vuitton, are thriving because they are considered a safer investment than stocks and shares. Because of their often-appreciating value, luxury handbags are one of the most sought-after items to buy and sell on the preowned market."

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"Since we opened the doors to our King’s Road store in 2015, we’ve seen a dramatic shift in the marketplace with cult and vintage preloved handbags fetching higher prices than ever. They are seen as collector’s items and, in the face of economic uncertainty, a sound investment that can be passed down through generations. You’ll never see brands such as Louis Vuitton and Chanel mark down their products and Hermes limit their sales to a very exclusive clientele so buying preowned, especially for vintage and cult bags, is the canny and sustainable loophole."

Convinced yet? Charlotte has some incredible tips for buying pre-loved, so listen up.

"If the photos aren’t clear enough for you to get an accurate idea of the bag’s authenticity, feel free to ask the seller some questions. Ask the year they bought their handbag and check the digits in the serial number correspond to the production year. If it’s outside of that, it’s definitely a fake.

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"The hardware colour should match the logo colour on the inside of the handbag. Quilted Chanel handbags for instance, have ten stitches per inch. It can sometimes be ever so slightly outside of that, but never by much. So, if you count seven stitches, you know it’s not authentic. If In doubt - ask where they bought their handbag. If they say, ‘Harrods’,–  check to see if ‘Harrods’ ever stocked that brand or style."

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I'm not saying I will never buy a new bag again. But my head has been turned, almost completely. Many people still consider vintage to be less than luxury, but this couldn't be further from the truth. Purchasing a bag that you cannot buy in store is nothing short of magic. A little piece of history in your wardrobe, whilst helping to preserve the environment? I'll bag that.

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