Notes from Paris – The Loved Chanel

Bonjour from Paris! I was on a no rain, no snow streak for my last four trips during winter here…only to have my record finally broken. I was rained on and almost slipped in a puddle heading to the Metro. It felt like New York. The sun is back out today though.

Anyway, just now as I was on the Metro heading back to work, I sat across a very chic woman. After a few minutes, she proceeded to whip out her handbag – which I noticed she had been using as some kind of back/lumbar support – and unpack a multitude of items, including a fur hat and a hardback novel. Yes, hardback! I was very impressed, and it led me to something I’ve noticed about Parisians here…notice anything about the big Chanel bag below?

photo (1)

Forgive the quality of the photo by the way – it was a sneaky “spy” picture!

Anyway – if you’re looking at how used this bad boy looks, we are on the same page. I loved seeing this bag with its folds, wrinkles, creases, and even the worn bits on the corner. It’s obviously a bag that is treasured by its owner – but also used – banged around, things stuffed in, maybe even scuffed on the wall now and then.

I’ve seen this quite a lot with Parisians, and many of my favorite “street style” photos from Paris, I notice, feature these well loved bags as well. Like this ultra chic girl with her Hermes Plume.

via The Sartorialist

It’s quite a  contrast to when I am in Asia, where bags always seem to be kept in absolutely pristine condition, with women carefully setting them down (never on the ground), and being careful not to scratch the hardware, etc.

I think I am somewhere in between the two. I love how the bags look on these super chic Parisians, but I’m not sure if I would be so happy if one of my own was so battered (unless there was a cool story behind it). I am more careless than many out there and do like to use my items, with the requisite wear and tear, but don’t like to have too many dings or dents, and I probably won’t be using most of my bags for lumbar support, unlike my Parisian Metro friend.

What about you? How do you treat your bags – are you the one affixing the Hermes raincoat over your Birkin once the rain comes out, or are you putting The Da Vinci Code, your gym shoes, and all sorts of goodies in it and stuffing it under the airplane seat in front of you?

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  • Groupthink7
    February 26, 2014 at 7:09 am

    I think the Parisians wear their things out because they limit the amount of things that they buy. I had to send my Maxi Bottega Veneta to get repaired in Italy via Barneys and was speaking with the Manager that is over the department. He says that handbags are meant to be worn with the exception of Hermes or a Chanel. He said once they get beat up, they don’t look as nice. He says that the Balenciagas are meant to be worn and look well after wear. What I am finding is that material possessions are meant to be used to the fullest and not stored up and babied. That is why I like a more rugged type of bag or boot because it fits my Chicago lifestyle of commuting in cold weather and snow. I agree with women in Asia really taking care of their things. I lived in Japan for 4 years and their handbags were always immaculate. However, they don’t keep their things that long. They trade them in for a new model. LOL

    • Katherine
      February 26, 2014 at 7:56 pm

      Very interesting anecdote – thank you for sharing! And that is also true in Japan about trading 🙂 I want to go back there just to hunt for a nice older used bag, lol.

  • Elna
    February 26, 2014 at 7:42 am

    My husband always reminds me not to over-use my quite expensive bags. However, what’s the point of buying if you are not using it???

  • Shirling Vanessatime
    February 26, 2014 at 7:58 am

    I think I am somewhere in between,pristine bag for Hermes and Chanel, but I like well worn for Balenciaga or Prada or Miu Miu, depending the ‘look’ that you want. Maybe because Hermes is expensive and hard to find whereas Balenciaga you can almost find it everywhere 🙂 I purchased my first Balenciaga biker bag 10 years ago, well worn and loving it. I carried it with to travel around the world, it’s kind like your best friend 🙂

    • Katherine
      February 26, 2014 at 7:55 pm

      The biker bag is one of the best travel bags – perfect size and so comfortable.

  • Pret a Porter P
    February 26, 2014 at 8:00 am

    Depends on the bag. Majority of them get used and abused especially the totes. My Samourai is the one I baby, but it did survive a torrential down pour (it was waterproofed though). That’s why I don’t want to get anything too fragile, and I’m skeptical of big bags with those skinny straps.

    • Katherine
      February 26, 2014 at 7:55 pm

      The skinny straps also add so much more weight on your shoulders…

  • Titti
    February 26, 2014 at 9:25 am

    I love old worn bags. I have a black Kelly made in the sixties and I call it my rain bag. The bag and I are nearly the same age. we complement each other and we both look a little worn after many hard years in bad weather. In Europe we live with our bags in rain, snow and hard wind. If you ask me, a bag that looks like my Kelly is a loved bag. A bag that looks like my new Garden Party is just a bag, but when I am a lot older I will have a loved worn GP as a rain bag.

    • Katherine
      February 26, 2014 at 7:54 pm

      Your Kelly sounds fabulous! Wow!

  • laura
    February 26, 2014 at 9:52 am

    Oh man… that Chanel is gorgeous… but I’m not sure that I’d be okay with it touching a public transit seat! On the flip side though, just like you said, it is so nice to see a woman enjoying her bag. I mean.. it’s what we buy them for and what good are they if you don’t use it and love it?

    • Katherine
      February 26, 2014 at 7:54 pm

      Oh dear…well now you’ve gone and mentioned my greatest fear…public transit seats. I try to block that out of my mind when I’m on them! Lol.

  • diane
    February 26, 2014 at 11:34 am

    Although I don’t baby any of my bags, I’m not careless with them either. I use them and enjoy them. I keep a fairly small collection. If I feel that I am “done” with a bag, I replace it. I prefer Bottega Veneta as I love the woven treatment and very soft leather. The slouchy styles work for my lifestyle and they are without logos which helps keep them under the radar. Actually, I do not really prefer things that look too new, even BV’s. I like the “lived in” look.

    • Katherine
      February 26, 2014 at 7:54 pm

      I love Bottegas! What’s better than a nice broken in slouchy hobo? 🙂

  • Beautygirl24
    February 26, 2014 at 1:50 pm

    Wonderful and thoughtful post Katherine. I would love to carry my Chanel more often, but she is usually tucked away in her box. This is sad, now isn’t it? The whole point is to carry it, and to do so often! I think because it was a graduation gift from my mother, and because it’s my dream bag, I am so careful with it. I can’t imagine how I would react if it ever got scuffed up or scratched. I’m hoping as time goes on, I’ll loosen up a bit. I think our most treasured possessions should be loved and worn in good health, not stowed away.

    • Katherine
      February 26, 2014 at 7:53 pm

      I think you should do what is most comfortable for you to enjoy it – maybe right now thats seeing it in pristine unused condition but then later, you can take it out when you are more comfortable 🙂

  • Savvy j
    February 26, 2014 at 5:47 pm

    It’s so funny I just read this post as I am sitting on the train on my way home tonight. I was just staring at my Balenciaga Velo and seeing the cracks and the leather peeling on the bottom corners. I was thinking that although she was pricey (not a Hermes or Chanel by any means), I still enjoy using her everyday.

    • Katherine
      February 26, 2014 at 7:53 pm

      I think B-bags especially look amazing worn. I love the Velo!

  • Oonagh
    February 26, 2014 at 6:41 pm

    I think all bags look better a bit worn.

  • Ammu
    February 27, 2014 at 12:35 am

    Hmmm…I think it depends on the bag. I don’t baby my bags (or anything else I wear) – they are just things, beautiful things, but things nonetheless. That said, I do try to buy things that I expect will age well. One of the few times I spent a lot on a bag I then babied to no end – a cream canvas & navy leather Kelly-style bag by Yvonne-Yvonne – I found myself ruing the purchase and feeling very guilty over not getting much use out of it. I wanted the canvas to remain pristine – so no wearing it with jeans, etc. One day I finally decided that I either had to get rid of it or wear it often – since then, it’s accumulated much more character and I enjoy it so much more. Some day it will look really worn out and discoloured, but at least I will have enjoyed it heaps by then.

    • Katherine
      February 28, 2014 at 7:38 am

      I know what it’s like to be soo cautious especially with light colord items – I have almost the exact same story as you but with a cream BV bag…!

  • Marlene
    February 27, 2014 at 5:35 am

    I’m like you. Somewhere between the two. I don’t baby it but then I hate putting it on the floor. I’m careful because the bags are expensive but then I don’t panic over every little scratch. I’ve scared enough SAs and artisan when I show up with my Kelly fully stuffed. Most of my bags have been rained and snowed on too 😛

  • JJ
    February 27, 2014 at 6:48 am

    A few months ago I met a friend for lunch at this adorable, but rather small bistro. I really didn’t have a place to put my bags so I just put it on the floor; two ladies that came in at the same time, waited 30 more minutes because they wanted a 4 top so there’s a chair for their designer bags. That was one of the more extreme examples I’ve seen but I often see people go out of their ways to baby their bags. Yes it’s expensive, and at the risk of sounding bratty, but at the end of the day, it’s just a bag isn’t it? I think it’s silly to let materialistic possessions to inconvenient our daily lives. I mean I’ll always sit my bags down somewhere clean if I can, but if I have to put it on the floor, then so be it. I’m not going to let a handbag inconvenience my day.

    • Katherine
      February 28, 2014 at 7:39 am

      Hi my friend! Yes I’m the same as you – I’ll put it on the ground (well especially if my bag has feet – if it doesn’t and the ground looks filthy I just stuff it behind me on my seat. I would never delay my eating for a bag! 🙂

  • Jill
    February 27, 2014 at 8:06 am

    I tend to baby my baby Chanel, but it does get used fairly often when I go out at night. I have been very reluctant to use my vintage Jige in box Rouge Vif but this post is a great reminder that it’s time for that bag to go outside!

  • J
    February 27, 2014 at 2:41 pm

    Great post! As a long time reader and someone with a similar bag preference and work travel obligations, I have been meaning to ask you what bag do you carry when you travel for work? I travel quite a bit internationally for work and I am looking for a replacement for my 10+ (!) year old LV pochette.

    In response to your question, I tend to take very good care of my bags. I clean them periodically and store them in their respective dust bags and/or boxes. The only exceptions are my 35 black birkin and goyard st louis which I have known to fill with my grocery purchases instead of paying the 10cents bag surcharge! 🙂

    • Katherine
      February 28, 2014 at 7:40 am

      Hello, I really just alternate – this last trip I just took my Le Pliage for laptop, etc and my Evelyne for everything else. Nothing else! Usually I’ll take a huge tote and then something smaller – a little crossbody (vintage Coach, Hermes Roulis, Chanel WOC), etc. That 10 cent surcharge drives me crazy!

      • J
        February 28, 2014 at 11:50 am

        Thanks for your reply! Do you find the Le Pliage comfortable when carrying your laptop? I am currently using a Timbuktu bag for my work/travel bag and it’s very hard to fit a normal size purse (and I refuse to travel with more than my work bag and a carry-on). I didn’t think of the Chanel WOC – since mine is lambskin. Perhaps this is the excuse I needed to buy a caviar one!

        BTW – thanks for your post on the Evelyne, I may have to try one on again 🙂

        • Katherine
          March 1, 2014 at 1:43 pm

          I do find it comfy but it’s not going to exceed the comfort of a Timbuktu 🙂 I would look at the Evelyne before the caviar WOC, I think it’s a great bag and it smushes to nothing for easy packing!

  • Maria
    February 27, 2014 at 7:06 pm

    I’ve been a silent reader for years now but felt compelled to reply this time. 🙂 For me, there is nothing more chic than a well used and loved luxury item that has fulfilled what it was designed for. I think the Paris metro woman has it right. But then, when I spend serious money on an Hermes bag or a great pair of boots, they are forever pieces and not something to get rid of when I grow tired of them. I do take care of my things but don’t obsess when they show signs of age. It makes them more mine!

    • Katherine
      February 28, 2014 at 7:41 am

      Hi Maria, thank you for commenting 🙂 Expensive pieces should be forever, shouldn’t they?

  • Miu Miu
    February 28, 2014 at 12:14 am

    Hong Kong has so many repairing shops for bags nowadays. I took my a little bit worn Soft Dior lampskin leather bag to them and they came out a well polished bag to me. They charge much cheaper than the Dior shop too.

    More people are taking their Hermes and Chanel to those shops. What a great service!

    • Katherine
      February 28, 2014 at 7:41 am

      These sound fantastic. I wish they had them in California!

  • Audrinajulia
    March 2, 2014 at 6:16 pm

    I am more between the two. Though i still don’t own the luxury brand like hermes and chanel i love my pieces since having them is like a dream come true. Would love a piece that would not have scratches but i also have an item that is a favorite to use even if i ride a motorcycle. Love too see her like that though, looks even better through wear and time. Just think that a bag spa would help somehow to restore. I am happy for that.


  • Diva In Me
    March 5, 2014 at 9:43 am

    I guess I’m just like you. Somewhere in between. Some bags are for daily use and some bags are more precious than the other. I just had a conversation or more like a heated conversation with my bf the other day about my bags. In fact, most of the pricier bags were presents from him and he got a little upset when I don’t use them as much as I use my daily bags. He was wondering why do put monetary value on them as they’re just things bought to be used anyway. Not that I do not agree with his point, just that I find some of them harder to come by as they’re are limited editions and some bags are only used for a certain occasions. He would prefer the bags to have some mileage on them but as for me, I would prefer to take good care of my bags so that I can prolong the use of it. I guess we would just have to agree to disagree.

  • Lynn
    March 9, 2014 at 12:36 am

    I love the quote attributed to Emile Hermes, “True luxury is something that can be repaired.” I definitely think bags should be well loved and well used, but also well cared for. Great post as usual!

    • Katherine
      March 9, 2014 at 10:56 am

      That’s a fabulous quote. Thank you for sharing!

  • Elizabeth
    March 9, 2014 at 3:45 pm

    I always love this discussion. I fall in between, I guess: I don’t see a reason to buy a bag and keep it in a box, so I carry all my bags, including my Hermès – I use a Birkin nearly every day. I’m not happy that there is some wear and tear, but it’s unavoidable, most damage can be repaired, and the alternative would be worrying about my bag instead of important things. My H bags get a seat in restaurants if there’s room, but human beings and hunger take precedence 😉 I AM tickled when someone brings out a chair for them!
    In general, I just don’t buy bags that require too much coddling – the exception is my vintage box Kelly. She is pristine, so she stays in the box except for genteel occasions – the one time she came to a club I was panicked.

    • Katherine
      March 10, 2014 at 9:08 pm

      What is your favorite H bag? WOuld love to know!