UPDATE: Recently, a Mansur Gavriel mini bucket bag was brought to me by my sister’s friend–she was unhappy with it and wanted me to see if I could repair it where it had started to come apart and fade. Scroll down to see the new photos and my examination!
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 not proportionate to the quality of the product, 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 fine line of stitches horizontally because it ends up acting like a perforation which, given enough force and over time, 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. The correct way to do it would be to use fewer, but larger stitches done by hand, or to use rivets (but this wouldn’t be in line with their aesthetic, unless they do leather-covered rivets).
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 & craftsmanship I was expecting from a brand which, on paper and online, seems to be all about embracing rawness but has delivered plasticky and flimsy 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 leather 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.
U P D A T E
Okay so a few weeks ago, my sister’s friend brought me her red mini MG bucket, asking if I could take a look and repair some things. I took the opportunity to document the parts of the bag that had started to fail/come apart after only about a year of use. Hers is the calf leather mini bucket in flamma with patent red interior. Note that the calf leather is not the same as their original vegetable-tanned leather, BUT the details I’ve focused on have more to do with the overall make and craftsmanship, so I think it also applies to the original veg-tan ones.
This is how it looks on their website:
This sort of strap adjustment uses “gemini buttons”. Usually we don’t use gemini buttons for such soft, thin leather, because over time, the holes tend to loosen/widen a bit, so later on, this won’t be very tight/secure.
OK so this was the main thing that she wanted me to try to fix:
I was genuinely shocked to see that this could happen to MG bags. All along I thought they used a single piece of leather or veg-tan leather, and the color inside was due to some sort of color finish that they had custom-made at whichever tannery they work with. BUT. It turns out that they use 2 thin pieces, glued together.
Yes, you read that right. They glued it together but didn’t sew it together. And that’s not the worst part of this revelation. LOOK AT THIS:
I really went WTF WTF WTF
So it seems that the patent interior lining material is some sort of faux leather. This bag is more than freakin’ 600USD, GUYS 😐
And take a look at the reverse side of the calf leather, too. See that sort of weird texture on the red part?
It looks kind of dubious to me, because I’ve worked with good calf leather and the reverse side does not look like that. I’m guessing that they had to shave it down and flatten it somehow, apply the glue, and then mega-pressed it to the patent material, and that may be why it looks like that. But given how easily the exterior is damaged, I doubt very much that this is good calf leather. It may indeed be calf leather, but not one of good quality.
When we say that the edges are “unfinished”, it means that there was no coat of edge paint (it’s a sort finishing liquid that we apply to the edges of leather to help seal and protect it, especially when there are 2 or more layers joined together). Usually when brands make leather bags or products with “raw edges”, it is not a problem if the edge is not a seam. In this case, though, the top should have been sewn together to hold the two layers in place, and also, because the material they used for the interior has a cloth portion whose edges need to be finished to keep it from fraying.
Here are some examples of what a finished edge should look like–either via edge paint or via folded leather
And finally, I took my gauge out to see how thick the bag is
So, after my detailed examination of the Mansur Gavriel bucket bag, I’m even less convinced that it’s worth the hefty price tag. Especially with their new leather variants (like this calf leather one), which comes out more expensive than the original veg-tan ones. I would describe it as being made for Instagram–looks good, but the quality and feel do not hold up IRL.