Last year, for my 64th birthday, I received the second-best birthday gift of my life. The number one greatest birthday gift I received was on my 13th birthday when my brother, Pete, was born. Unfortunately, he is no longer with us but I have his lifetime of great memories embedded in my heart and mind.
Which brings me to my second-greatest birthday gift ever. Bonaparte surprised me with a Louis Vuitton Neverfull bag. Believe me, it was a total surprise that had me going into complete shock.
Last year’s birthday gift. Just about a year later the leather is starting to get that nice honey shade!
I love that bag. And when I say “love”, I mean it. I. Love. That. Bag. And I have a tendency to treat it like a baby; which is unusual for me simply because I’m very tough on bags.
It’s one of the few bags I have that actually gets placed into the dust cover!
I’m that person who throws a bag into a car. I lug it around with just about as many items as Mary Poppins fits into her magic tote!
Oh yes. I throw those bags around!
And I love a “good” bag. I’m not big on rotating my bags either. I’ll take out a bag and use it for months. Among the brands I carry regularly are Longchamp, J. Crew and a beautiful, no-brand yellow bag I picked up in Paris two years ago.
This yellow leather bag was purchased at Sophie Sacs on Rue de Rennes. It’s one of the greatest bags I own. It holds a ton of stuff and is greeat for travel. And..soft as buttah!
My red Longchamp cuir satchel was a birthday gift from my husband a few years back, and until he gifted me with the Vuitton bag, that red bag was the most high-end bag I’ve ever carried.
Another favorite bag that surprisingly holds more than expected. I’m a huge fan of Longchamp. Four cuir bags are in my closet as well as the Pliage bags.
But there is just something about my Louis Vuitton bag. I love the iconic monogram canvas. I love the Vachetta leather and the way it evolves into a honey-toned patina. I also love that the brand has remained iconic over the years.
This poor bag is the object of snobbery due to the fact many LV lovers deem it “basic”. For me, it’s basically classic!
Yet, the brand remained out of my reach due to the expense. And so, you can imagine my utter joy when I was gifted with that bag. Due to the nature of the tote, I’ve learned to love the brand. It takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’. The heaviness of the stuff I load into the bag validates the strength of both the coated canvas and its sturdy construction.
Because of this, I want more. Yes. I want more Louis Vuitton in my life. But here’s the thing. I’m not wealthy. There is no way I can go about purchasing thousands of dollars on a bag. I can’t see myself spending $700 on a wallet or almost the same on an agenda. If the company I worked for back in 2007, didn’t close its doors to the location I worked, I most likely would be able to do so. Presently, no.
But I’m a determined old broad and I found, through research, that the brand’s bags are attainable for a lower price. It doesn’t mean they are inexpensive—because they aren’t, even for vintage and pre-loved ones. However, for a lower price, and some elbow grease, you can find a vintage one that needs TLC, bring it back to bag use life and have an item with a history.
Such is the story of my Louis Vuitton Bucket GM that is no longer produced by the brand.
My vintage LV Bucket GM. Note that I’m less cautious with the handling of this bag as there is a bottle of Sriracha sauce directly behind it!
I love a big bag because I have a ton of shit to carry around. And when I saw this bucket bag on Mercari, I fell in heavy lust. Mercari had it listed as authentic but ever the Doubting Thomasina, I still had sleuthing to do. The date stamp was valid as was the brand stamp. The bag was authentic and being sold for a lower price. I offered $236 and the offer was accepted.
As soon as I spotted this, I wanted it!
My main concern after the purchase was the look on Ricky Ricardo’s Bonaparte’s face when he got the bill. I would deal with that later. Trust me, I had a lot of ‘splain’ to do.
Just replace Lucy with “Cassssseeeeeeee”! S’il vous plait!
Anyway, the bag arrived in better shape than expected. The coated canvas was in fantastic and that’s the most important aspect. No cracks, no fading, it only needed to be wiped down.
The canvas, in great shape only needed wiping down
The Vachetta leather? It needed cleaning and conditioning. The straps were in great condition with slight staining. The leather trim at the bottom of the bag had water marks but I’m not really fussy about that. In fact, I don’t mind. It means the bag was well-used and well-loved.
The stains really don’t bother me at all. I’m fine with them. They tell a story. The story is that someone very much like me owned this bag!
The brass feet on the bottom were black from tarnish and needed to be cleaned. The leather trim at the top of the bag was definitely well worn and needed some serious attention.
The inside of the bag—that’s where the challenge laid.
The interior of the bag definitely needed a lot of TLC!
Back when this bag was produced, and with a number of Louis Vuitton bags, the bags were lined with a coating of vinyl which the brand named “Vuittonite”. The coating didn’t fare well. Especially in humid climates. The humidity caused the lining to peel, therefore creating quite a mess. The bag was lined with Vuittonite. It was peeling. And the inside of the bag smelled musty.
The musty scent doesn’t bother me too much. I’m that oddball who loves the smell of musty old books but I did place a couple of scented dryer sheets into the bag and the mustiness is dissipating.
Anyway, after researching how to rid the bag of the peeling and sticky lining covering, I went to work. The majority of tutorials stated to use gloves and acetone nail polish remover or Goo-Gone. Since I use Goo-Gone specifically for when Chippy gets into my makeup, eats it, and smashes it into carpeting, I’m not wasting the stuff.
The scent of acetone doesn’t thrill me. And gloves, unless worn in very cold weather, bother me.
I used my bare hands to peel the coating off. It took three nights. After work, I would run upstairs, start peeling then stop when I was frustrated or wanted to give up. But I persevered.
I turned the lining out of the bag, covered the canvas and went to work. Let me tell you, this stuff created a mess! It got all over and the vacuum came out!
I peeled and peeled…
And cleaned and cleaned!
Once the coating was peeled to the best of my ability, I was left with a bit of a rough, flannel-like fabric lining. I took water-based baby wipes and wiped the lining down until what remained was a smooth texture.
Here’s a look at the rough texture of the fabric once the coating was peeled.
After wiping the lining down with water-based baby wipes, the texture of the fabric was smoothed and ready for use!
These are the wipes I used. As you can see, I used quite a lot but I purchased to packs. FYI, Walmart and Target carry this brand of wipes.
And after wiping down the inside of the bag, I hung it over the shower bar in our guest bathroom to allow it to dry.
I hung the bag, with the dampened lining over the shower bar to dry. Luckily the shirt that was drying next to it didn’t get any of the lining residue!
The chain in the bottom left photo was also very sticky from rubbing against the coating. I cleaned it with steel wool and it did the job!
And then came the leather. Louis Vuitton uses Italian Vachetta leather for the handles and trim. This is untreated leather and as its ages, builds a nice patina and the straps turn a honey color. This is one of the things I love as the bags age because the newness of the leather looks too clean for me. And, as a natural slob—well, you get the picture.
Cleaning the leather was the most daunting part for me because I was afraid that I would screw up.
The leather ended up to be a pretty-easy clean and I conditioned it so I felt good!
Needless to, I was extremely cautious and careful as to keep the leather cleaner on the leather and not on the coated canvas.
I used two cleaners and conditioners. Apple brand and Lexol. In all honesty, neither of the cleaners “wowed” me. Both did a great job at conditioning though.
I used this Apple Brand cleaner and conditioner as well as…
I also used these products by Lexol. Both did the job as expected.
As this was my first attempt to “clean” up a vintage Louis Vuitton bag, I did make one error. I was way to rough on the leather trim on the top of the bag and tore the leather in one place. Am I upset about it? Not really. Perhaps down the line, I’ll take it to a professional to have it replaced. I can bring it to my local Louis Vuitton shop to have sent for repair but it’ll cost more money than expected. So essentially, I’ll leave it alone.
I was a bit rough in cleaning the top leather trim. And when I say rough I mean it. I scrubbed way to hard. Lesson learned and the bag is still fine. I might use a touch of Gorilla glue on this piece. I will most likely leave it alone though!
The “feet” on the bottom of the bag were very, very tarnished. Brasso and Q-tips did the job. I was very careful not to get Brasso on the canvas!
Brasso and a ton of Q-tips cleaned the brass feetsies!
In the long run, am I pleased with the result? You bet I am! It comes down to my personal budget. At this point in time, I cannot saunter into my local Louis Vuitton shop and purchase that coveted Speedy bag. Or a brand-new Alma. Or wallet or agenda. It just isn’t feasible.
My two Louies! One new and one old. Both are gorgeous!
However, with my pocket money saved, I can purchase a vintage bag of the brand. It takes research, savoir-faire, and knowledge of knowing how to spot a “real” bag vs. a fake. Lollipuff Easy Louis Vuitton Bag Authentication Guide
Cleaning or refurbishing a vintage bag is actually a decent project for this time of quarantine. You can check out sites such as Mercari and Poshmark. There are a great many sites to purchased pre-loved and vintage bags but in my novice sleuthing, I find that Mercari and Poshmark have the greatest number of budget-friendly bags. I would err on the side of caution with eBay though, I almost got scammed.
I saw a bag for a great price—almost too good to be true. I purchased it. It was never shipped and so I contacted the seller. What ensued was a ridiculous and pathetic exchange. On the seller’s behalf different excuses, abusive language and improper spelling and grammar.
Beware of this eBay seller. What a crock!
I contacted eBay and they did a great job of refunding my money. However, it left a very bad taste in my mouth and I won’t be perusing eBay for bags in the future.
I’m a happy little clam because I think I did a good job for my first time!
How about you? Are you into vintage luxury bags? Have you ever refurbished a bag before? Thoughts? It’ll be fun to hear from you! Here’s a video I did last week!