Bag Lady! Buying Online Consignment

I’ve bought a few more bags since I last posted about my Alma – well actually, I’d already bought them at the time , but I didn’t own them yet. There are a few online shops selling used designer goodies that offer a layaway option, and I used this to nab a few more Vuittons and spread out the payments a bit to fit it into my budget better.

I feel a little guilty sharing all these finds, because I know how it appears to a lot of people. Several designer bags in two months? Ridiculous! But I do have a monthly “play money” budget, and in order to buy some more bags and build up a little collection I simply eschewed my other, usual monthly purchases to buy these. So I really didn’t spend any more on my new bags than I do any other month, and spreading the payments out over time helped me to acquire them. That said, I don’t intend to keep doing it long-term, because I have limited storage as it is and don’t intend to buy things I am not going to use; I’ve already sold one bag I bought and ended up not liking and given two away (one to my best friend Candace, who really loved it and is using it like crazy, and another one I donated to our school to auction off in this year’s fundraiser). So, even though I know I haven’t spent any more money on these than I normally spend on other things, I’m going to avoid talking about actual prices in the posts so I don’t come across as obnoxious. But if you really want to know how much I paid for these, ask me in the comments and I’ll answer; I get why people would be curious to know how much these cost. I will say they all cost almost the exact same amount, because as much as I am obsessed with Vuitton right now, there’s a limit to how much I’m willing to spend and I just can’t bring myself to go over that. Moving on.

All of these bags were purchased used, and with one exception came from the same online store – Fashionphile. There are a few other places I like to browse that also offer layaway, but Fashionphile’s policies are the most reasonable; 25% down and 60 days to pay off the item with a minimum payment of $50 each time. I can cancel the layaway at any time for a re-stocking fee of 10% of the item’s cost. I did change my mind on one layaway and request to cancel it; I received an email response within five minutes of making the request and the layaway was canceled, no questions asked (my fee in that case was about $28). I read up on the site a bit before my first purchase, and as with any store that generates a decent amount of traffic there are some negative reviews out there; but my personal experience so far has been great, so for now I’m quite happy with them.

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Shipping is fast and the bags arrive packaged nicely, as you can see (click the images to get a larger view). Fashionphile puts each item into its own dustbag, packs it up in plastic, then stuffs the box with paper so the bag doesn’t slip around. Very nice presentation all around; even if all that fancy paper waters down the store’s commitment to promoting a green lifestyle by recycling bags instead of buying new ones. But still – very nice, pretty packaging that makes it feel like you’ve bought something new. A far cry from the typical packaging you get on eBay, where purchased items are often stuck into flimsy, abused Amazon.com boxes and stuffed with old newspaper that smells like wet feet (if packed in anything at all).

Some of the messaging on the site, however, is confusing. For example, when reading about the store’s layaway policy, the site claims that there is no minimum required on layaway payments, yet when you go to make a payment you find there actually is a minimum of $50. And then, there’s this:

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The card on the left states that a buyer can return a bag for 70% of the purchase price after “wearing it and loving it” for up to 90 days. Yet the tag attached to the purse states that the item can’t be returned once it’s removed. So, does this mean I have to leave the tag on while I “wear and love” the bag for 90 days? Because that’s just stupid. I suspect what they mean is that I can return for a full refund with the tag still on, but will only get 70% of the purchase price back if I return the item without the tag, but I’m still not sure.

But enough of all that, let’s look at the bags (remember, click the photo for a larger view):

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After acquiring several pieces in the traditional Monogram canvas, I decided I wanted a few casual ones in a more relaxed material, since I am generally a dress-down kinda gal. The Speedy 30 on the left is a linen blend fabric (and came with the original dustbag – score!), while the one on the right is, obviously, denim. The denim one was an unexpected purchase, in that it’s not something I ever would have thought I’d like; if you described a denim purse to me it would sound horrible, but when this one showed up on the site I liked it right away. As always, I waited about a week before pulling the trigger, because sometimes I really like something when I first see it and then later change my mind (hence my one canceled layaway). But I still loved this one a week later, so I went for it. It’s heaver than I expected due to the flashy hardware, which I normally am not drawn to in bags and have never had, but other than that I’m still quite happy with it.

One lesson I’ve learned so far is to look out for the bag’s description. Both of the bags above were labeled in “good” (the denim) or “very good” (the linen) condition, and in my opinion they’re even better than I expected. Sure, the denim is faded, but it already has a faded look even when new, so I don’t mind, and the leather and zippers as well as the hardware are all shiny and nice. But the first bag I bought from them was in a condition the site described as “fair,” and I realized after owning it a few days that I wasn’t happy with the state of it. While the bags above don’t need any re-furbishing from me, and the other eBay bags like my Alma were easily revivable (if that’s a word), I disliked the condition of the leather on this one, and gave it to my friend eventually, because I knew I wasn’t going to be happy  with it in the long run (as I  mentioned already, she absolutely loves it, so it all worked out. And now she’s as obsessed with Vuitton as I am, so my evil plan is working…heh).

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The purse itself is pretty, but the leather really bugged me, and the interior wasn’t all that great either. It looks fine from a distance, but the handles were so worn out and dry I didn’t like they way felt any more than how they looked:

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You can see that I tried to treat the top handle, and in fact spent several days trying to get the leather into a condition I could like, but it just wouldn’t work. The leather on the corners was also in bad shape:

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Top top photos are the corners before I cleaned and conditioned them, and the bottom shots were taken after I did so. However, I still felt they looked a bit worn out and dingy overall, and obviously I couldn’t get that pen mark out either.

I do not think this bag was misrepresented on the site; rather, I think I overestimated my ability to spruce up a bag: I could not work the miracles on this one that I’d hoped for. Moving forward I decided to avoid any bag the site described as ‘fair,’ and to stick to the bags in better condition; I don’t want to risk getting another one that I don’t care for. While I’m getting good deals on these, they are still expensive enough that I’m not willing to risk it again.

Now – there’s one more. I spied this one on eBay when I was looking for bags in Vuitton’s Epi leather, which is something I want to add to my little haul. I stumbled across this St Tropez bag in an Epi leather color called Vanilla, and it was only $170. Plus, it appeared to be in very good condition, so even though it wasn’t the sort of bag I’d usually carry (in case you can’t tell already, I lean towards large, floppy, unstructured bags) I couldn’t pass it up. However, I think I am going to send out some photos and get some quotes from consignment shops about this one; there’s a chance I might get offered more for it than I paid, since it sells used anywhere from $380 to $600 online. It’s not very “me,” but it’s very pretty (not sure it photographs well, but trust me, in person it’s a lovely bag).

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As far as selling bags, I sold my first one to a site called Couture USA. They offered me a fair price for my Sac Plat and paid me the day they received it, so I have no complaints about them. I sent photos of the Sac to both Fashionphile and another site I can’t remember, but they both declined to buy it due to its age. I’m going to send the photos of the St. Tropez several places and see who gives me the best price, so I’ll keep you posted on that.

As far as shopping at these places, as I mentioned I like Fashionphile best, but Couture USA also has nice finds and a good layaway option (30% down instead of the 25% Fashionphile offers, but still decent). And, while Fashionphile only peddles the purses of high-end designers, Couture USA also re-sells contemporary designer bags like Coach, Dooney and Burke, and Tory Burch – for very good prices indeed (less than $100 in many instances). I ordered a used Gucci wallet from them quite some time ago, and was pleased with the overall transaction as well as the item I received.

I hope some of this was at least interesting…and by the way, I was in no way paid to write this post up and discuss these stores. As I think I’ve already made clear, I bought all this stuff with my own money, so there you go.

Bag Lady! Part Two – Sprucing Up a Vuitton Alma

OK, here comes another boring purse post again, readers beware! And by the way, you can all blame Beth Byrnes for all these purse posts. I emailed her and gave her the opportunity to talk me out of buying my first ever Louis Vuitton, but instead she told me to go for it. So it’s all her fault! 🙂

art bag cat

I’ve been skulking around eBay and a few online consignment stores, looking for deals on designer bags. I’ve found a few that were a real steal (much less than, say, a new Dooney and Burke or Coach bag), but they have needed a little work. With one exception I’ve been good about picking up bags that are in decent shape already, so all they need is a little spiffing up – and I’m still working on the exception, which I may end up taking somewhere to get the professional treatment. I guess the upside of actually enjoying getting up every morning and sitting in front of the computer scrolling through eBay listings with a cup of tea is being the first to snatch up a good deal; the downside being carpal tunnel syndrome. And a lack of storage space. Moving on.

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I also took some arty-farty shots of the bag.

Anyway, one of my favorite shapes Louis Vuitton makes is the Alma bag, and in the Monogram canvas they are abundant on eBay – this one looked to be in nice shape except for the large water stain across the bottom, something I noticed a lot of Alma bags have anyway, since the bottom of the bag is vachetta leather, and the older models don’t have feet of any kind. So I figured, for the great price, I could deal with the water stain, and after I got it in I gave it a good cleaning. I got slightly more noticeable results than I did with the Papillon 26 I posted about awhile back, so here we go with the details! (By the way, as with my last bag repair post, I did not edit these photos except to add a little clarity and contrast. They are basically SOOC).

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Click on the photos to get a larger view

As you can see, the canvas on the bag was fine  – it’s durable as hell so that’s no surprise. In fact, I think LV’s coated canvas is one of those things that will survive a nuclear detonation, like cockroaches and styrofoam. Not sure how the company would feel about me saying that; I doubt they’d use it in an advertising campaign. Almas, apparently, are known for caving in and losing their shape a little bit, but I tend not to get too concerned about stuff like that. I buy bags to really use them, so if they look used, I’m cool with it, including if they lose shape a little. The leather at the base of the bag was the worst part, really; other than that I couldn’t find much wrong with it. It even still had the lock, although the key was long gone.

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Speaking of the lock, that’s how I got started – by working on the bag’s brass. I used Brasso applied with a q-tip to clean up the zipper and pulls, as well as the lock and all other hardware. It’s time consuming, but fun, because you get to see the most immediate results when the brass is really tarnished, as it was here. And by the way, I stumbled across a great tip for how to clean Brasso off the cloth part of the zipper if some of it gets on there and turns it white; another q-tip with Dawn dish soap on it will remove it.

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Wear gloves; the Brasso is messy. Also pictured is the Apple leather cleaner and conditioner I used.

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The zipper before and after.

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The lock and zipper pull before and after

After that was done, I used the Apple leather cleaner to clean all the leather areas. I used a soft towel that came with the kit to apply the cleaner and let it dry, then used another soft towel to apply conditioner. After the conditioner dried, I did my best to buff it out to get a little shine, but my  buffing skills are sub-par, so I didn’t get too much shine out of it. Could be the age of the leather and not my buffing skills, who knows.

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Shot of the handles, before and after. Not bad!

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Nothing too dramatic here – but the slight darkening of the leather caused by the cleaner and conditioner helped to conceal the water stains a bit.

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But check out those corners! Great improvement.

After all that was done, I used an organic baby wipe to clean the canvas, then a damp towel to wipe off the residue. And voila! My new and improved old bag:

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There were two little spots on the bag that looked like nail polish or paint, but the baby wipe and a little scrubbing got rid of it. Click on the photo if you want to see a larger view. 

I can honestly say that so far, this is my favorite bag, and it’s in part because I fixed it up myself so successfully. My Papillon really didn’t need any work, and the end results of my more recent acquisition remain to be seen, because it’s a real fixer-upper indeed. But this one was so simple from beginning to end – buying it was a snap, it was an excellent price, it was described and photographed properly in the auction so there were no surprises when I got it in the mail, and it cleaned up nicely. It’s also a great size, has just enough structure to give it shape but not so much that it’s overly stiff or formal (I do not like structured bags much at all), and even though it’s covered in Monogram it’s not as ostentatious as my big Neverfull MM appears to be (I’ve gotten some rather interesting reactions to that big old Monogram bag from members of my family, but we’ll address that some other time. Except to say – I think the Monogram canvas can be seen by others as too showy or obnoxious, especially when the bag is large, like the Neverfull is).

And for those of you that have known me awhile, look out – I think these vintage bags are becoming my new wigs, meaning, I’m getting obsessed with buying them, fixing them up, taking pictures of them, then sharing on my blog what I did with them. And no, even though these are designer bags, because they are all used I am not spending more on them than I did on all the wigs. If I start making videos about them, though, we know I’m done for!