As a bag maker, I do a lot of research when it comes to trends, techniques, and different handbag brands. It helps me a lot to inspect their bags and see the decisions they made with regard to the finishing, materials, and construction of the bag. One such brand that I’ve always admired from afar is Mansur Gavriel. I had been following them online for quite some time, but it was a while before their much coveted bags became available in stores here in Manila. When I heard that stocks were available again, I was finally able to drop by to inspect them in person.
The selection only consisted of a few core styles, namely–the bucket bag, the tote bag, the lady bag, and the backpack. This store in particular stocked only the variations featuring coloured interiors, so I wasn’t able to compare them with the ones that had raw interiors.
MG’s bags, in particular the bucket bag that made them a cult favourite the world over, are beautifully designed, truly. Online, I’ve always loved and appreciated the structure, minimalism, and focus on the leather (qualities which I now value highly when making my own bags).
But alas, it’s #UnpopularOpinion time–I was so disappointed to find so many things wrong with the bags. I know, I know–MG is not Hermès and is more likely classified under “accessible luxury” or mid-range luxury, so the quality can’t be expected to be the same. But still. The quality of the bags I had in my hands was nowhere near the apparent quality they were espousing.
I picked the bag up off the shelf and my immediate impression was that the bag felt very flimsy and plasticky. This was a great shock to me because I use raw vegetable tanned leather in all my bags for Quiddity and I had never encountered such a strange plasticky texture on any of them. I looked closer to see if maybe it was some sort of wax or protective coating, but it seemed like it was a coating similar to what you would find on patent leather but thinner and matte. The leather was around 1-1.5mm thick (vegetable tanned leather for bag-making is usually 1-3mm thick, but usually thick), and the colouring of the interior of the bag was likewise very plasticky. It was like there was no trace of the leather at all. One of the great things about vegtan leather is the smell, as well as a great texture and feel when in hand, but the MG bags I inspected had none of that. It felt like synthetic leather, which really shattered my previously high esteem held for the brand.
I don’t know if the quality is better with the raw ones (the bags have a version where the interior is raw, and not painted/coloured), but the bags have special tags on them to highlight the use of vegetable tanned leather, and in their marketing it seemed to be one of the main selling points. I was so disappointed with what the actual bags felt like in person.
Before, I thought their prices were really reasonable given the leather and everything, but now, after having inspected the bags myself, I find their pricing to be totally unfair, although I’m sure they’re also just capitalising on the cult demand and whatnot. I mean, most people wouldn’t care about these details that I’m picking apart. Most people, I’ve learned, really just care about brand and aesthetics. It’s a sad reality, but hey, the culture can’t be changed in a day!
After I got over the shock of the poor leather quality, I moved on to inspecting the stitches and finishing.
The bags are machine-sewn. Overall good consistency of stitches (the sizes are consistent, generally straight), with a few minor deviations here and there. Again, most people don’t care about this stuff, but hey, I DO! Also, I don’t know who is in charge of making the decisions on patterns and whatnot, but there is a fatal flaw in the Lady Bag in particular. It’s something that I myself only learned while doing research.
When sewing handles in particular, or parts of the bag wherein vertical force will be applied (such as pulling, as with handles), you shouldn’t sew a line of stitches horizontally because it ends up acting like a perforation which, given enough force, could weaken and rip the handle apart. I think this is applicable more so to this type of handle which is machine-sewn, because the stitches punch so many tiny holes into the handle that it really would act like a perforation line.
So basically–Mansur Gavriel gets top marks for the design which, sadly, is usually the only thing that matters to most people (I mean they don’t give out CFDA awards for sturdiness/quality, do they?), but fails in delivering the quality of leather I was expecting from a brand which, on paper and online, seems to be all about embracing rawness but has delivered plasticky-feeling bags.
Given this price point though, it’s still loads better than the Balenciaga that I absolutely loathe, so there’s that. And unlike Balenciaga, MG at least doesn’t seem to use fillers and stuff, so even if the quality of their vegtan isn’t the best, it’s also not as bad as the wrinkly crap that Balenciaga city bags use.
Hopefully I’ll come across a raw finish version of the MG bags that can help bring the brand back into high esteem for me, but for now, I am crestfallen.