As much as we love the instant gratification of picking up the newest it-bag online, there’s a certain charm that accompanies a beautiful, well-designed vintage bag.
To help you on the quest of collecting the best vintage designs that luxury brands such as Hermes, Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent have to offer, we’ve consulted Ace Tan of Oldsowhat, a local collector who specialises in collecting and selling vintage clothing, bags and accessories, to give you tips on how you can ensure your piece is authentic. Trust us, you’re going to want to bookmark this piece before diving headfirst into a flea market, vintage fashion or an antique store. There’s nothing worse than being duped out of the real deal.
1. Inspect The Leather
Vintage leather bags are made with either calf or lamb leather. The former is slightly harder while lamb skin is soft. Both of these skins will soften as they age but they will also last for a long time when kept in proper conditions. Here, Ace recommends looking out for flaking. While she states that flaking might occur due to wear and tear, it could also be a sign that the bag has been restored or treated with artificial mink oil during cleaning. Pure, real mink oil acts as a moisturiser for the leather and you would need very little when using it. However, Ace adds that much of the mink oil sold commercially is mixed with chemicals to increase the lifespan of the product, and it is these chemicals that result in the leather flaking.
2. Scrutinise The Labels
Another way to authenticate the bag is to look at the label. Firstly, trawl through Google and forums to find out how the brand label looks like from the period it was created — does it match in terms of the font and labelling? Secondly, the series number is another avenue to investigate. Ace gives an example: A Chanel bag from the early ’80s would not have a serial number as the system hadn’t been introduced yet. As such, you shouldn’t expect a serial number sticker or card. Brands such as Chanel, Celine and Salvatore Ferragamo only started serial numbering in the mid ’80s. In short, we recommend erring on the side of caution and doing more research than you need to ensure you’re getting the real deal.
3. Dig Around Online
Ace recommends taking a picture of the bag and looking it up online on popular shopping websites, especially those from China and Korea. If the bag appears multiple times and in multiple quantities, think twice. She further states that branded products from the ’70s to the ’90s are rare, which make them more likely to be sold by a personal collector or a reputable online store such as Farfetch, which has a niche in selling vintage designer pieces. In a sense, scarcity would denote that the bag has a lower chance of being a fake.
4. Look At The Hooks Of The Bag
According to Ace, the hooks of the bag are another way to verify its authenticity. Firstly, the signs of wear should be obvious, even if they’re rarely used. Secondly, the design of hooks, buckles and other hardware that support the structure of the bag are much more complex for vintage pieces, compared to their modern day counterparts. Lastly, look at the straps and belts of the bag. Leather has a “memory” that retains the shape that they’re normally used or kept in. If the way the leather curls or hangs looks odd and contrary to common sense, chances are it isn’t authentic.
5. If The Bag Looks New, Walk Away
This point is clear-cut. Regardless of how well the bag is stored, Ace argues that natural leather and suede will inevitably age, soften with time and will definitely not look fresh from the factory. Therefore, if the bag looks brand new, it is likely a sign of a fake so don’t even bother.