Handbags have become more of a necessity than shoes for some women. And as the need for bags with various functionalities arises, combined with the growth of online shopping and Instagram stores, it becomes vital to be able to identify a luxury handbag from a substandard one. Understanding the technicalities of the various dimensions of a bag, increases appreciation of a well-crafted bag and ensures that we get value for what we are paying for.
For the purposes of this post and to cover 90% of what luxury handbags are made of, this post will focus exclusively on leather. Leather is one of the most diverse and misunderstood materials in the world. That ‘genuine leather’ makeup bag available at Kmart may look exactly like the Celine one (minus the label) but you can be assured that Celine isn’t charging twenty times the Kmart one just for the label.
Leather is available in various degrees of quality. The ‘top grain’ or ‘full grain’ leather is the top of the leather pecking order. It is the type of leather that scars over time and is said to gain character with age. This comes from the back of the animal and is most durable.
The second down the order is ‘corrected or embossed grain’, which is that same high quality top grain with the top layer buffed so create a consistent look. Although the quality of this type is very high and it is still quite durable, it is no longer the superior ‘top grain’ leather.
Next down, is ‘split suede’ which is further processed to make what is commonly known as suede. This is used for suede goods like shoes, bags and garments. It is also processed further to create a ‘top grain’ look leather which is commonly used in lower quality bags and small leather goods. These are the goods that will have the ‘genuine leather’ tag just because they can and don’t really deliver on quality. Bags sold as ‘leather bags’ on the streets of Italy are often of inferior quality.
The other qualities are not worth mentioning here as the amount they are processed, almost make them an alternate material.
The hardware of a bag is completely underrated and can really transform the way a bag looks and feels. Sometimes the key feature of the bag is the hardware. Hardware consists of any plastic or metal add on including the buckle, the chain, any zippers, studs, buttons and even the brand logo.
Plastic hardware is the cheapest and least durable and is usually used for trendy pieces that use plastic hardware as their key feature.
Many different kinds of metals can be used for bags like zinc, copper, nickel, brass and stainless steel, with brass and stainless steel being the most durable. Hardware on luxury handbags will usually last a lifetime with minimal scratches and marks, while zippers of lower quality bags will probably give after a while.
The other aspect of hardware that contributes to its perceived luxury is the design of the hardware. Unique hardware like oversized zippers or large chains really add to the design of the bag. Hardware design is a crucial process within design and a career in itself.
Bags can be hand stitched or machine stitched and either can be better depending on the product. Some products or designs are unable to be machine stitched and require costly labour to hand stitch it, which is why hand stitched products are considered a luxury good. Hand stitching has other benefits like certain stitches which don’t unravel if one thread comes loose.
Machine stitching has its own benefits of a cleaner, more consistent stitch. Most bags are machine stitched and with evolving technologies, it is difficult to beat the quality of machines.
Hand stitching has a unique emotional and individual element however in terms of quality, a high end machine stitch wins.
Bags exist for every occasion, from travel to work and baby gear to parties. With different bags for different events, functional design becomes key.A well designed bag will consider all circumstances like a pocket for phone, keys, travel wallets and more.
A baby bag will have completely different functional requirements from a work laptop bag. The best functional designs consider various situations and endeavour to make life easier for its user.
Even features such as a leather cover on a chain handle to make the chain more comfortable on the shoulder is a feature of good functional design.
Along with all the features above, many small details can make a bag more luxury than others. The lining of the inside of luxury bags is usually a very fine silk or satin, adding to the users experience. Along with this, features such as personalisation and a good quality dust bag to protect the bag add to its luxury status.
A lot is to be considered when investing in a bag and this information can really transform perspective on a bag from ‘overpriced’ to ‘appreciation of quality and design’.
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