(updated with recent photos)
I studied bag making & interned at a designer bag factory in Florence, and have now been making bags for nearly two years. I realized that those experiences have made me so much more critical and detail-oriented when it comes to considering buying bags, as well as nitpicking bags that I myself make. My time at the factory, in particular, really brought about a sense of great disillusionment about that particular brand that I was working on (that I had loved and admired for years), and disillusionment about the designer bag industry as a whole, and the myth of the “Made in Italy” label (a wise woman told me that “Made in Italy” does not mean “Made by Italians” 😐 Think about that.)
I think it’s because of this new heightened sense of bag inspection (I worked a lot in quality control haha) that I decided to start writing bag reviews. If I see something that’s not made well or that’s overpriced or something, and people are buying into it, I genuinely feel bad that they don’t know better. I don’t know if anything I write will change people’s minds, but to those who do online research about a bag before deciding to buy, maybe this’ll help.
One such bag that I feel very strongly against is the Balenciaga Classic City Bag (and all its ugly variations)–and so naturally, it’s to be the first bag that I *figuratively* tear apart.
This bag is pre-Alexander Wang Balenciaga, so I don’t feel bad about getting into the nitty gritties of it. It is honestly one of the ugliest, most overpriced, poorly-made bags I’ve ever come across. The ubiquity of it is alarming to me, which tells me that a lot of people are likely buying it because of its perceived “hipness”, but no one’s really taking a look at its make and quality.
Now, people may say that the bag’s design is really up to a person’s individual taste, yada yada. And I get that argument. I get it, but I will respect you less for liking it :))
My qualms are about more than just its looks, but largely about the quality and the build. First, let’s talk about the leather. In the bag description, the leather is described as being “soft crafted vintage lambskin”–and to that I say, it is more likely lambskin-aspiring leather film. The bags I inspected at the factory I interned at used almost exactly this same type of leather, and if you knew how flimsy it is, and how little leather you’re actually getting (they shave off most of the leather and stick “stiffeners” in between the leather and the lining), then you’d definitely balk at the $1600+++ price tag. So not worth it.
The leather they use–in the name of lowering costs and increasing their profit margins–is no good. And seriously, I could never understand why people would like that shiny, cracked, trashy, garbage-bag looking leather 😐 Remember, the bag may be Made in Italy, but that doesn’t mean that it was made by Italians, or made with high quality Italian materials.
I’ve also heard from friends that the “hand sewn” decorative strip on the bag handles (it’s just the twisty thing that’s done by hand, the sewing is by machine) disintegrates after a while. It just isn’t acceptable for a bag that’s asking $1600+++ of you, and it is telling of the poor quality of the leather.
I’ve inspected this bag several times in department stores as well as in their own standalone shops, and although the size and practicality are not in question, the quality of the leather and the ordinariness of the workmanship really does not merit its overblown price tag (In the factory, we also got a few old bags that came in for repairs, and it had this same type of leather. It does not age well at all–just google photos of old City Bags)
So there you have the information, straight from a bag maker. Do with this knowledge what you will.
This review is particularly with regard to the Balenciaga City Bag with this type of leather. It is not a review of the brand itself. All photos from Balenciaga’s website.
Additional photos from a recent up-close inspection at Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche in Paris: