I spend a lot of my free time on YouTube. I am so impressed with the amount of information I have learned with very little effort. I am relatively young,  but I  still finished college before there was the Internet. I had to do research the old fashioned way using the Dewey Decimal System and microfiche film. I am used to working hard to find information so I am just in awe with the ease of YouTube.

I started off watching hair videos of all things and slowly started delving into other practical topics thanks to my pre-teen daughter. Just when I thought the vloggers I followed were successful with 200,000 followers, her vloggers have millions of followers! While her choice channels are mainly for entertainment value, I still choose channels that are more focused on teaching me at least a little something.

I’ve been a Louis Vuitton fan far before I could afford one of the handbags, but I never knew that there were vloggers who dedicated entire channels to their love of this fashion house. I stumbled upon many of these LV fanatics and I am now totally obsessed. I even felt inspired to dust off a few of my carefully stored LV handbags and carry them again. During my search to learn how to clean the vachetta (untreated leather) on the LV Monogram Canvas bags, I stumbled upon a clever lady who restores old LVs. Now my creative juices started to flow because I love many of the classic styles which are no longer made AND I am always down for a project.
YouTuber Michelle from Little Mammas House, buys pre-loved LVs and transforms them into the gems that they were made to be.

Since the bags are very well-made, usually they only need a good cleaning to make them acceptable to be carried without fear of embarrassment. Little Mamma does not stop there! She even paints/dyes the vachetta mainly to cover blemishes but also for personal preferences. Customers send their bags to her and she works her magic for a fee of course. I love when women find a way to make money doing something they truly enjoy. I didn’t want to start a business of this, but I did want to try to transform a busted bag back into a beauty.

I did my research and found out roughly how to authenticate a Louis Vuitton handbag. I learned about date codes and how to interpret them. Click here for an easy guide: http:/https://www.yoogiscloset.com/authenticate/louis-vuitton 

I got on Ebay and started looking at the Japanese sellers. Apparently, there are some good deals from Japan because they reportedly have high standards for rating bags. They may think a bag is trashed when it’s redeemable and sell it for a really good price. You must be very careful because the risk is great. When buying from someone in another country, it will be more difficult to track them down if they sell you a fake. I found an Alma PM that I determined was an easy first project.

The seller’s Ebay pictures showed many signs of authenticity. For example, the date code matched the country that was stamped on the bag. None of the LV letters were “cut off” on the Monogram Canvas and they all lined up perfectly. (It’s far more complicated than this, but I won’t get into it in this post). The Monogram Canvas was in perfect condition too (no rips or abrasions). The vachetta was a mess though. Worse case scenario, I could pay Louis Vuitton to replace the vachetta or send it to Little Mamma to paint it a nice chocolate brown. Note: some true LV lovers frown upon defacing the bag by painting the vachetta. Also, Louis Vuitton will not repair a bag that has been altered. The seller was asking $195 with free shipping from Japan. He was a 28K+ seller, 99.6% positive feedback AND he had his own Ebay store with all high-end luxury bags. I took a leap of faith and bought the bag.

I suppose you are wondering, “Why so cheap?”. The older Almas in the Monogram Canvas print do not keep their value as much as other models mainly because the vachetta on the older bags got stained on the handles and at the base of the bags. The older models did not have metal “feet” at the base. Not having metal feet facilitated the direct contact of the sensitive vachetta leather on the bottom of the older bags with surfaces causing stains and damage. Also, the zippers on the older Almas were known to have problems getting stuck. Many people choose to purchase this bag in the Damier Ebene print (checker board) because the dark brown shiny vachetta leather is treated and more resistant to stains and physical damage. The Alma is a very beautiful bag in my opinion and I did not own one. The price of a new Alma PM in Monogram Canvas print is currently $1500. The frugal, creative side of me had to try this and $200 was definitely not a bad risk for me. I paid the Japanese Ebay seller by PayPal and he shipped the handbag that same day. I was shocked when the bag arrived at my doorstep two days later. I shop online regularly and I rarely get merchandise within the continental U.S. that fast!

I ripped open the package expecting to see a hot ass fake mess, but it was just as shown in his high definition photos. I chose this bag because only the outside was worn and dirty; the inside of the bag was spotless! I started with a cursory wipe-down of the bag with fragrance-free, alcohol-free baby wipes. Then I used cotton swabs to clean the metal with Barkeepers Friend just as I saw on the Little Mammas House YouTube channel. I then conditioned the leather which was so dehydrated near the straps. It looked as if someone had used sandpaper on the leather near the buckles! I quickly started to have buyer’s remorse. I should have used that $200 to buy a small leather good or put it towards something brand-new. I kept cleaning. After I felt the leather was softer, I used saddle soap to clean it and let it dry overnight. The next morning the leather was so dry to the touch and the cracks were more visible on the handles. I then conditioned it three more times over a two day period. Finally, it was acceptable, at least in my eyes. My husband even agreed and he thought I was crazy when he first saw the bag. Here are some before and after shots:

 

 

Not bad for an amateur. It doesn’t even look like the same bag to me. The bag is not perfect, but note this bag was made in 1993 and over 24 years old. The craftsmanship speaks for itself. Think of the things this old bag has seen in its lifetime. It was carried presumably by a lady in Japan for many years. I imagine that the Japanese lady loved it nearly to death and now it gets to live with me in the United States. She is one of my favorite bags to carry now. I don’t have to baby her and I feel comfortable knowing that I’m not going to mess her up more than she was when she first came into my life, LOL. Besides, she has so much character!

The lesson is you can own a piece of history for a couple of hundred bucks and some elbow grease. Keep the pre-loved community in mind when you want to purchase a luxury item without breaking the bank. Also, beware that there are a lot of fake bags out there. The only way to know for sure is to pay for the bag to be authenticated or purchase from a reputable preloved website such as The Real Real, Fashionphile, Tradesy or Yoogi’s Closet to name a few. Happy Hunting!

2 Comments on “My Ancient Japanese Handbag

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