A good leather handbag can be your trusted ally for a long time. So much so that it can be passed down for generations. You might have to spend a little more initially, but that is an investment, for you won’t have to replace the bag for a long time. In the process, you’ll do your bit for the planet, and the wallet.
Fortunately, it is not just big names or expensive designer brands that make superior handbags. Some mid-range manufacturers also provide you with quality products, but before making the investment, get to know your leather.
We often believe all leathers are more or less the same, but this is far from the truth. Leather marked simply as genuine leather is often third-grain leather, taken from the innermost part of the skin, while bonded leather is scraps of leather stitched together, and is an inferior product, period. If you’re looking for the best quality leather, look at full grain leather, which is leather from the outermost part of the skin. Full grain cowhide is the most durable leather you can invest in, without going into fancier skins such as alligator – where the animal is reared and killed mainly for the skin – as opposed to cowhide, where leather is a by-product.
Once you know the leather your handbag is made of, you can have realistic expectations of how durable it will be. Lower quality leather can last slightly longer if well looked after, while full-grain cowhide will last generations.
Here’s how to increase the lifespan of your handbags so they look good, for longer:
Clean your bag before storing it. “Turn it inside out if it is soft, and empty it of its contents and dust. Don’t throw away the tissue stuffing that comes with your bag. When you store it, stuff it with the tissue so it retains its shape,” advises Rachael, handbag specialist at Christie’s auction house. If you don’t have tissue, use bubble wrap. Avoid newspaper, as the ink can stain the interiors of your bag.
Don’t ever store your leather bag in plastic. Leather needs to breathe. Store it in the dust bag it came in, or in an old pillowcase.
If the strap is removable, remove it, roll it up and store it inside the bag so the strap doesn’t get misshapen.
Condition your bag three to four times a year using a leather conditioner, to keep it supple and prevent it from drying out. Rub the conditioner in with a damp cloth, using circular motions. After conditioning, apply leather protector to prevent your bag from getting damaged in the event of rain or any water spills. Typically a good quality leather handbag will be able to handle rain just fine, but a protectant ensures further protection.
Keep your bags clean. Empty them out regularly to get rid of junk inside. Receipts harbour germs and nasty chemicals, so throw them away often.
“Take care not to over-fill your bag as this will cause it to lose shape and will weaken the handles over time,” advises Smriti Sain, founder, Chiaroscuro. Carry only what you need. Your bag, and your back, will thank you.
Make sure pen caps are on tight. Ink stains have ruined many a bag. Remove stains by wiping them with an alcohol-free wet wipe, or use leather cleaner. You could also remove a stubborn stain with the help of a regular pencil eraser!
“Never place your bag in direct heat or sunlight for prolonged periods of time as this may cause the leather to crack or the colour to fade unevenly,” says Smriti. Cover your bag with a scarf when you are in the car on a sunny day.
And finally, if you’re feeling generous, send your bag to a bag spa. Yes, there is such a thing! Your bag will return fresh, rejuvenated, and younger by a decade! What more could you ask for?
(This article was published on 2nd October 2018, in the Deccan Herald.)