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Image / Style / Fashion / Sustainable Style

Buying a pre-owned designer bag? This is how to keep it in top condition before selling it on again


by Erin Lindsay
08th Aug 2020
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This is the time of year when many of us invest in a timeless designer piece or a beautiful vintage gem that will be the star attraction of our party season wardrobe. But beyond 2020, how can you look after these pieces to ensure they stand the test of time — either for the next generation, or to get a return on your investment when you eventually sell them on? We chatted to vintage lovers Holly White and Ella De Guzman about their top tips for looking after designer pieces

The Chanel bag. The Gucci loafers. The Louis Vuitton suitcase. Iconic designer pieces are the dream of any fashion lover, and there’s nothing like the feeling of earning the money to make such a celebratory purchase.
But when it comes to a designer piece like this, what’s even more important than the initial credit card swipe is the time and maintenance that goes into looking after it. We may not realise it, but how we wear, store and look after our designer and vintage pieces could be ruining them — making them eventually unwearable, and, even worse, unsellable.
The second-hand trade is booming in Ireland, with changing attitudes around fast fashion and the environment having a massive effect on our spending habits. Where once we would have blown our paychecks on a bunch of cheap throwaways from the high street, we are now much more considerate when it comes to fashion — as the saying goes, buy less, buy better.
Designer pieces are especially attractive for the 2019 fashion lover, as they promise a nice return on investment in future. The Chanel bag you buy now will almost certainly be worth a lot more in five years’ time — and if you look after the piece properly, the amount will go up and up.
But how do you look after a Louis Vuitton handbag? How do you prevent staining, indenting, and bad smells seeping into the leather?
We spoke to two vintage and designer lovers who are well-versed in the art of clothing maintenance — influencer Holly White and founder of Siopaella, Ella De Guzman. They gave us some expert advice on looking after your best pieces so that you can reap the rewards in the years to come — whether that’s passing the piece down to a loved one, or selling it on for a profit (to go towards another beautiful bag, of course).

How to store them

First up is not the wearing of the bag — it’s the storage. Throwing a bag into the back of a wardrobe just isn’t going to cut it when it comes to designer goods.

Holly advises keeping the packaging that comes with your piece and using it to your advantage: “When it comes to watches and accessories, how they are packaged is often almost as lovely as the item itself,” she says. “If you have invested in a bag or a watch, it’s worthwhile keeping the original box, dust-bag and any linings.

Of course, these are perfect for storing your items in but also, down the line, if you want to sell them this makes it much easier.”

Ella’s top tip? Beware of colour transfer. “Do not store a black leather bag and a white leather bag on top of each other — the black will stain the white leather and it can’t be fixed. Make sure nothing is touching your white bag, and ideally wrap it in tissue paper, which will let it breathe.”

But as important as it is to store your designer pieces correctly, don’t put them away and forget about them — check on your pieces regularly and make sure to wear them. That’s what they’re there for.
And the main thing to remember, according to Ella, is never, ever store them in a hot press.
Some of Holly’s vintage treasures, including a handmade bag by her mum

How to wear them

You keep your bag beautifully, but when it comes to wearing it out and about, how should you keep it safe?

The first thing to consider, Ella says, is your lifestyle — which item is going to be realistic for you to look after? “If you commute on the DART or Luas every day, do not invest your money in a cream lambskin leather bag, as it will inevitably get ruined,” she says.

“Same with if you live by the sea — the metal detailing on your bag will eventually rust. Pale-coloured, untreated leather bags are only suitable for those who drive to work and keep things covered. If you commute, go for black or patent leather.”

When it comes to wearability, Holly advises keeping an open mind. “Bear in mind that older pieces might have been custom-made and therefore suit a specific body shape or frame,” she says. “Definitely consider the possibilities of altering something to suit you or fit how you would like. And remember to invest in good underwear — a slip underneath a vintage garment will make it much more comfortable.”

Holly White in one of her favourite vintage outfits

How to clean them

Trying to keep those designer pieces clean is difficult, but not impossible — you just have to be careful. Holly says: “Proceed with extreme caution with particularly old vintage pieces and don’t put them near the washing machine. I tend to handwash with a gentle liquid soap like the Dr Bronner Castile soap and I air dry them flat.”
Ella is also a fan of the handwashing method — especially as, if you’re considering the environment, dry cleaners are not the way to go. “The only things I bring to the dry cleaners are silk dresses and scarves,” she says. “Everything else I gently handwash at home.”
For leather handbags, Ella has a wealth of knowledge. For indents? “Massage it out with a hand dryer.” For smells? “Put it in the freezer. Or take a few large scented wax candles and place them inside, and leave for a couple of weeks. This will help to neutralise the smell.”

Above all

But the one big takeaway we should remember for vintage and designer pieces? Love them, and wear them often. “Timeless style has always been my thing. High street and online shopping presents as seen-on-screen options within weeks of celebrities appearing in them — but the problem is both environmentally damaging and also sometimes looking back makes you more fashion-forward,” says Holly.

“Accessories and clothing are considered vintage once it’s 20 years old. Not everything I have ticks that box but I do have some pieces I know I will love for another 20 years, so perhaps these are vintage in training.”

Holly White Hair – Lily @ Davey Davey and Photography: Sean Macnamee


Read more: 15 questions to ask yourself before buying a new item of clothing

Read more: Fabrics to avoid and embrace if you want to make more sustainable fashion choices

Read more: 8 Irish Instagrammers you need to follow for sustainable fashion inspiration

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