Purse Flings


Since buying my first Louis Vuitton as a Christmas present a few weeks ago, I’ve been on a bit of a binge. I’ve been scouring eBay for deals and snagging a few up here and there; I’m not out any huge amount of money on these items, and I’m starting to calm down a bit from the purse-shopping frenzy I was in for a week or so.

The reason I even mention this, though, is because a few of them need some refurbishing, and I decided to document the process Sunday. I’d spotted a ridiculously cheap LV Papillon 26 bag on eBay, and it was just too good a deal to pass up; it didn’t cost much and was in fairly good condition. I’d been reading up on how to care for and clean Vuitton bags since buying the first one, and had also run across instructions for how to clean up and repair an older bag that needs help. So Sunday afternoon I decided to try out these techniques on the little Papillon and see how it turned out (you can click the small photos to see them bigger).

Pap Leather B and A
A before-and-after shot of the leather handles. The one on the right has been cleaned; the one on the left has not.

With all my love of before-and-after transformation blog posts in mind, I photographed each step of the process, as well as taking some shots of the bag before I started, with the intention of writing a little instructional post about what I did to spruce it up. The entire time I was buffing and cleaning, I was certain this was going to be an interesting post and the improvement to the bag would be impressive – it definitely did look impressive to me as I was working on it. And what’s more, I actually enjoyed cleaning and polishing it up, which may be a sentence I’ve never uttered before in my life. It was fun to watch the brass grow shiny and the leather deepen.

Before and after of the brass buckle and more leather. Unfortunately, I was not astute enough to realize I needed to photograph the same exact buckle, so this is a bit of false comparison.

But. When I uploaded and combed through the photos, I found that none of them captured the magical transformation I thought was taking place. I think there are two reasons for this: 1) I used my cheap camera because it’s lighter and easier to manipulate, but it doesn’t have near the color rendition or clarity of my 7D, and I think the subtle changes to the leather and the canvas didn’t translate.  And, 2) the bag actually was in pretty good shape to start with. I do have a second bag with more water damage to the bottom (the bag in the foreground in the group shot), so it may show a greater transformation that this one did. And, when I work on that one, I’ll be sure to use the 7D to photograph the process and write a proper “how to spruce up a Louis Vuitton bag” then.

The zipper before cleaning is on the left, on the right is zipper after cleaning. To me, this was the most noticeable difference. Plus, it was fun – seeing the brass come to life right away was gratifying. 

There are other things I need to do differently next time, photographically. I made sure to take shots after every step, but I didn’t pay close attention to, say, which handle I photographed before buffing, to be sure I photographed the same handle after. And, when I got all the shots onto the computer, I actually couldn’t  recall what photos were taken at what stage, so it’s not possible for me to give much commentary about them. I took 139 photos and was unable to tell which shots were taken right after leather cleaning, for example, and which were taken after leather conditioning. Next time I try this, I’ll have to make notes along the way so I know where I was in the process when I took each shot.

Before (left) and after (right) of the side of the bag – at least this time I photographed the same side for both shots! If you click on it I think you can see the subtle difference in cleanliness a bit. Also you can see that the piping looks more even in color. 

As far as what I did here: First I used Brasso brass cleaner, applying it to the brass on the bag with a Q-Tip. This led to a mid-day panic wherein I realized Simon had made off with one of my discarded, Brasso-drenched cotton swabs and I had to dash around the house trying to find him before he ate it and poisoned himself; since he is a cat, he knew I was looking for him which meant he made himself hard to find. In not too much time, though, he was discovered under the kitchen table, staring at the Q-Tip he’d obviously just been knocking around the floor. Cat crisis averted.

After the Brasso was buffed off, I used Apple Guard’s leather cleaner on the handles and straps, followed by Apple’s leather conditioner. While that was drying I used an organic makeup wipe to clean down the canvas, then used a damp rag to wipe that off (all of these suggestions I’ve read repeatedly online, so I feel OK trying them all out). After the leather dried, I buffed it a bit and was good to go. It took about two hours, partly because of all the stopping and photographing and chasing of cats.

Almost no editing of these shots, BTW. Just some added contrast and sharpening. Wouldn’t be fair to snazz these up in photoshop when the purpose is to show the results of cleaning the bag.

The above, then, was the end result. Don’t be surprised if you can’t tell the difference between the before and after – but I promise you in real life it was a more dramatic reveal. After cleaning and conditioning the leather, supposedly, it takes a few days for the true effects of it to show, so I’ll see if in a day or two if the leather looks different or not. For now, it’s at least done, and I enjoyed the project. And since I did the work and took these damn pictures, well, I’m going to write a blog post and make you look at them even if they aren’t impressive.

One more week of vacation! Oh and by the way – I have password protected yesterday’s post, because I definitely do not want that to be seen by the relatives in question. If you want to know the password, email me and I’ll send it along.



6 thoughts on “Purse Flings

  1. I can tell which bags are which. great job in restoring. Now the question is can you tell a fake from a real LOL. Great videos on youtube when getting these gently used bags at a steal from ebay. And how to tell a fake from a real. I saw some on coach bags a year ago. How to tell them apart and what to look for.

  2. I agree! I didn’t treat the leather, like weatherproof it or anything. And i didn’t do that on my new one either. A lot of people do, i Think, because they like the Vachetta leather when it is very light. But I am not going to do that so it will darken. Honestly this one already had a nice patina. But it did need cleaning.

    At the moment I am cleaning up the Alma and it is so much fun. Weird since I’ve never been one for restoring or cleaning older things like this before. Just spent over an hour on the brass alone, LOL.

  3. Pingback: Bag Lady! Part Two – Sprucing Up a Vuitton Alma | mareymercy.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s