I want to start this article with a huge expression of thanks to you, the PurseBlog reader. When I started writing here last summer, I had no idea what your response would be to my articles. Would you appreciate my odd range of knowledge? Would you get my pop-culture references? Would my articles make sense within the greater range of PurseBlog’s focus? I have been so heartened by the warm reception to my articles, which I write from a place of gratitude and joy; each article begins organically, inspired by either an issue that I am dealing with, which I want to share with you, or a topic that is currently in discussion on the PurseForum, which I want to bring to a wider audience, and then draw you readers in to our PurseForum community. Thank you for spending a bit of your time each month with me; I hope to continue to make it worth your while, even on those occasions when some of you think I’ve gone off the deep end! I really enjoy reading and responding to your feedback – positive and negative – because it inspires me to be a better writer for you.
If you’ve read any of my articles, you can probably tell that I am a little obsessive – perhaps a little OCD – about the details, and that’s because I really do come by my knowledge honestly, through experience, and I am happy to share it with you.
In 2004 I got my first Hermès bag – a Trim – secondhand, from a friend who collected Trims. She preferred the larger, 35cm size, but had a gold 31cm Trim in Togo leather with gold hardware that she didn’t use. At the time, my older son (who is now 16) was about a year old. I knew little about Hermès bags at the time. I knew plenty about the scarves, which I had started collecting seven years earlier, when I was still in law school. Since professional attire at law firms was pretty set, I liked the scarves as a way to put a little fun color into an outfit. My boyfriend at the time (now my husband of nearly 20 years) thought the scarves were a little obnoxious, which led me to bet him that I would wear one Every. Single. Day (and I did – for about ten years). So, I knew about the scarves, and I had been eyeing the leather goods for quite some time, but the bags were new to me.
I probably made every possible mistake with that beautiful Trim, and in the process I learned a lot about how to take care of bags – the hard way. Of course, a secondhand Trim was not the huge financial investment that Birkins and Kellys are today, and when I was done with it, selling it to a good friend who enjoyed its many flaws, I (and my dear husband, who eventually came around on the whole scarf/bag thing) was ready to move on. By that time, tPF was gaining popularity and I was thankful to have such a huge and responsive resource available to me. Now, and after 16 years of Hermès handbag experience, I can take this (very specific, possibly obsessive) knowledge and share it with you.
A handbag is an object. It is meant to be used and enjoyed.
Of course that’s true.
But to be honest, even though I do use and enjoy my bags, I have to still tell myself this sometimes, because I’m that person, the one who likes to try to keep their bags perfect for as long as possible. I know that’s not realistic. I know I’m going to keep using these bags and enjoying them. However, if it is at all possible, I’d like to make as few “unforced errors” as I can in caring for my bags, and whatever happens beyond that, so be it.
To that end, there are some things you can do – and things you can avoid – to keep your bags looking good for the maximum amount of time. I’ve realized that I do a lot of this unconsciously now, but each suggestion comes from something I learned by firsthand experience, so take from all of this what you will.
1. No Pens
This has to be number one. No pens. Please, no pens. Avoid pens. The one thing that is nearly impossible to get out of leather is ink. I’ve been there – I’ve tried – and countless threads on tPF bear out this same advice. Pen is, in many cases, impossible to remove. This is, of course, not limited to handbags; one of my boys got a huge streak of ballpoint ink on my car seat and all the Amodex I could put on it didn’t budge that ink at all.
So please, watch out for pens.
If you absolutely MUST carry a pen, make certain that it is inside something (like a pen case that is fully sealed) inside your bag.
And while we’re at it, watch out for hand sanitizer, too. It’s alcohol, and will often leave a dark, clear mark, unless it’s colored hand sanitizer; in that case, it will deposit color onto your bag (been there!).
2. Be Aware of the Weight of What You’re Carrying
Many (if not most) people use their daily bags with at least a minimum of practicality in mind, especially those who work or are often traveling all day. The tendency to load up your bag is certainly reasonable; personally, I have felt that the amount I “need” to carry at any given time is in direct proportion to the size of the bag I am carrying. However, bear in mind that just because it fits in your bag, doesn’t mean that you must bring it – at least, if caring for your bag is a concern. Umbrellas, water bottles, shoes(!) – people carry lots of things in their bags, of course, but just be aware that if you are carrying a lot of weight proportionate to the size of the bag, the handles will absolutely stretch out (been there!). If that doesn’t bother you, then by all means, proceed; although again, when there is a lot of weight in the bag regularly and the handles stretch, the bag itself tends to get a bit distorted, too. For me, it was because I was carrying an iPad inside my Birkin. It did indeed fit fine, but it did indeed stretch the handles out as well. The iPad also tended to push other items into the sides of the bag, creating pressure points of contact that may be visible from the outside of the bag.
3. Light-Colored Handles Should Be Protected
In a previous PurseBlog article, I wrote about tying twillies on your bag handles as a fun and decorative way to bring extra color to your bag, and also, as a way to protect the bag handles. Even if you don’t regularly use hand creams and your hands are always clean, our skin has natural oils that will, over time, discolor a light bag handle. Therefore, it isn’t a bad idea to keep your light-colored bag handles covered, at least sometimes. Hermès will replace very discolored or damaged bag handles, but that’s expensive and puts your bag out of commission for at least a few weeks or, more likely, months.
4. Bag Organizers Are Not the Be-All Interior Saviors We Assume
Many of you probably like your bag organizers so this one might be a bit controversial. I’m going to come right out and admit that I am NOT a fan of bag organizers for several reasons. First, they take up a significant amount of interior space, especially inside the smaller bags. Second, they really don’t – at least to me – make things much easier to find; if your bag is reasonably organized to begin with, an organizer is really not much help. Third, while I know that organizers will, generally speaking, protect the cleanliness of the interior of the bag, they can create other issues. If an organizer fits snugly inside a bag, it in effect creates some pressure on the interior of the bag; over time, anything not completely flat at the contact points between bag and organizer will be pressed outward, eventually becoming visible from the exterior of the bag (as shown in the photo above). This means that, for example, the bag’s interior pockets will become faintly visible from the outside of the bag (been there!). Any organizer corners poking into the interior will eventually be visible from the exterior as well. While the visibility will be greater or less depending on the type of leather that the bag is made from, this has been my experience with nearly all of the regular leathers, although less so for Epsom.
What’s the answer for bag organization, then? I personally enjoy a little “rainbow of Hermès SLGs” in my bag, which includes a small wallet (I use a small Silk’In), a Calvi (for extra cards), a Bastia (for change, a scarf ring, guitar picks and headphones) and a Karo (for makeup, breath freshener, feminine items, purell, hair items, etc.) daily. [Note that the Karo is discontinued, but you can find some other options here]. I may also bring a sunglasses case and maybe another mini-zip bag for papers. Hermès makes MANY small leather goods that can help organize a bag without adding much bulk, but you can also find less expensive options anywhere, including craft stores and Target. I’ve even tried my hand at sewing together my own mini-zip pouches with a sewing machine, with, ahem, mixed results (I had help from this video by MADE Everyday). With nothing rolling around the interior of your bag, its easy to keep it fairly organized and neat. I have also been known to use a small, clean white cloth (cut from an old t-shirt) in the bottom of a bag if I have any concerns about spills from, say, a water bottle or errant movie theater snacks.
5. However, Organization IS Key
No matter what method of organization you use, however, any of those choices is better than no or very little organization. Having a lot of items rattling around inside your bag just creates more friction in the interior, which will cause wear, including marks and discoloration.
6. That “Rain Jacket” is just a gimmick
The only thing that will truly protect your bag in an emergency is putting it inside of something else. Lots of the Hermès bags come with rain gear; have you ever tried to use it? I did, once. (…once!) It’s folded like origami, so if you ever do open it, good luck closing it up again for future use. But more importantly, it’s got openings for the bag handles, so it’s not completely protective. And also….have you seen what a bag looks like with the rain jacket on?
I “took one for the team” here to show you:
7. Storing Your Bag “Properly” Has Its Limitations
In our bare-it-all society, we have seen countless photos of bag collections painstakingly organized and utterly photogenic. In some cases, it’s stacks of boxes, piled high, each one full of the promise of a leather joy, snug in its sleeper and resting on its back. More likely, however, it’s shelves of artfully arranged purses, often fully dressed up, with twillies tied and charms dangling, just ready to be plucked up and dashed out the door. Are either of these scenarios better than the other for practical, everyday storage? Obviously, we each must do what works for our individual lives, and if you are constantly on the run, keeping your bags boxed when not in use might not be the most practical method. Here are just a few things to bear in mind:
Storage on its back may not ultimately be the best choice. Over time, if a bag is always laying on its back, depending on the leather and the length of time stored, the rear pocket may begin to show through the back of the bag (been there!). Whenever there is weight or pressure on the back of the bag (like with carrying more weight than the bag should bear, as I experienced with my iPad), that outline may begin to show. Of course, you can avoid this by storing the bag in its box, but upright, or just rotating the box occasionally.
You are supposed to store the bag in its box, but leather does need to be aired out occasionally. I have seen bags stored for years inside their boxes with no ill effect whatsoever, and I have heard of stored bags that did develop small issues over time, usually but not always due to the local climate, so unfortunately your mileage may vary.
For that matter, note that bags are susceptible to moisture. If you live in a moist climate, or the bag is located in a place where there is some humidity, it’s a good idea to have anti-dessicants/moisture absorbers in the area where the bags are stored. I have a few of this reusable mini-dehumidifier, which I purchased from Amazon.
Anything on your bag that rubs against the leather should be removed at least sometimes, or a wear mark will appear on the leather. I personally remove all charms, twillies, straps and the lock/clochette when I store my bags. It’s time consuming, but it couldn’t hurt to, again, remove points of friction (been there!) and air out the leather.
8. The Eyes Have It
I tend to use each of my bags for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks in a row, so I’m not changing my bag every day. I keep the rest stored, and the one I’m using is out and available for me to grab and go. However, one thing I do every time I come home and put it down for the evening is that I always give it a once over; just a quick look to see if I’ve spilled anything on it or somehow bumped or scuffed it. Most types of dirt are removable (except ink!), and occasionally I’ll see a spot that isn’t dire and won’t need more than a tiny dab of water or even just a rub with a soft cloth (usually for me it’s a drop or two of coffee). Giving your bag just a quick once over every day when you’re done with it prevents anything from really setting in and requiring a trip to the leather spa.
9. The More You Know
Most bags are, to an extent, an investment – the return being our enjoyment of the bag and getting as much use from it as we wish. To that end, it doesn’t hurt to learn as much as you can about the strengths and weaknesses of the leather of the bag you are carrying. With Hermès, some bags can take a soaking, while others can be damaged by a drop of water. Some leathers handle scratches well; some leathers will show a light scratch easily; and yet other leathers will show a scratch, but that scratch can be buffed out of that leather with a few rubs of your finger. Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of the leather you own will go a long way towards helping you keep it fresh for as long as possible. I’ve attached a variety of PurseForum links below. Happy reading!
After the jump are some threads to help you:
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Various Threads About Chevre Mysore (this is the commonly-produced version of chevre)
Evergrain & Evercalf: What’s The Difference Between Evergrain and Evercalf? Does Anyone Own An Evercalf?
Gulliver: Thoughts On Gulliver
Hunter: Vache Hunter
Jonathan: Hermès New Leather? Veau Jonathan
Novillo: Novillo Leather
Porc: Ode to Peau Porc
Sombrero: Experiences with Veau Sombrero?
Vache Liegee/Ardennes: Vache Liegee vs Ardennes
Volupto: Veau Volupto, New Leather?
Other Useful Threads
On The Various Leathers:
Inserts/Maintaining Your Bag’s Shape:
Protecting Your Bag: