For some inexplicable reason, I can never entirely acknowledge to myself that a month has begun until it’s around the tenth of that month, and then I always inadvertently have an OHMYGOD-it’s-[insert month]-moment and panic about how late I am on my deadlines/exams/plans-to-start-yet-another-exercise-regimen/etc. So around yesterday, it dawned upon me that it’s August and you know what comes after August? SEPTEMBER! Okay…. that doesn’t sound nearly as dramatic as it does in my head, but September has a few *very* important days that define our respective fashion calendars. Like the National Lazy Mom’s Day on the 4th – get ready to see a lot of mu-mus y’all… Or sweatpants, whichever feels lazier.

Also Labor Day is on the 6th, hence August will probably be the month I’ll officially be wearing white every day (and I have less than 20 days to do that! Honestly, shouldn’t everyone be hyperventilating by now?) Jokes aside though, the rule of “Don’t wear white after Labor Day” was basically created when women’s magazines eavesdropped on snobbish Ye Olde Rich people yelling at each other to distinguish themselves in some way from the noveau riche. True story.

On a more practical note, if you’re not jet-setting to some exotic summer house, wearing white in the city amidst the rain and dirt probably isn’t that great of an idea. Jennifer Lopez clearly disagrees though.

Anyhoo, despite the myth of “to white or not to white, that is the question” having long been debunked, many in the upper echelons of society still tend to cling to the rule. And another similar giant fashion faux pas, or at least, a highly Googled one, remains whether one should only wear suede bags (and shoes, and clothing) in winter. Now, living in Bangladesh, where summers are humid, winters are damp and rainy seasons are just, well, rainy, I never really got the opportunity to witness suede bags up close. Slightly balding velvety Gucci-Marmont-knockoffs, maybe, but never real suede. And according to my mom, who doesn’t mistreat her bags (save for the occasional over-stuffing, and pen marks, Spidermen action figures, and maybe even a bit of hoarded food), “DON’T BUY A SUEDE BAG, EVER”. Turns out, a lot of people on the PurseForum seem to share this opinion too, with many having significant reservations against the material’s delicacy and upkeep. And it’s not like they haven’t got a point, it’s just sometimes when you desire something, you want it to defy logic.

But how did I get to lusting after suede in the first place, especially given my utter lack of exposure to it? Well, it all started with the Sergeant Tote from Métier London, that Nicole Kidman carried in HBO’s The Undoing – a gorgeous, rich tan (the official color is called Marrakech) spacious tote, and seeing it on her as she waltzed around Manhattan’s Upper East Side in flowing cashmere coats, from glamorous schools to art galleries and police stations, had never made a suede everyday bag seem more posh. In fact, the bag was very much in point with Kidman’s innocent, damsel-in-distress, wife-of-a-guilty-hubby look, something which I highly doubt a plain leather bag would have achieved. Not long after that, I got into watching Call My Agent, and the suede Jérôme Dreyfuss of the lead character, Andrea, seemed right up my alley as well. Needless to say, I was hooked on the material, and very soon, I began looking at suede versions of my favorite purses, from the Sac de Jour to the Baby Daim Balenciaga Work and the Extra Large Proenza Schouler PS1 – it was an endless loop of ogling and constant Ebay-searching that I couldn’t stop dreaming about, a feeling that PurseForum member London 411 described very well,

“You know how, when you find something you just absolutely love, you can talk yourself into it and it all makes perfect sense. And then, later on, reality sets in and you realize you made a mistake.”

It was then that I decided to explore all the myths surrounding suede, possibly with the very logical intention of trying to suppress my temptation, while crossing all of my fingers that they’d be all wrong. You can probably guess how that went.

Myth 1: Suede is made from kittens

Not to irritate PETA or anything, but this was an outlandish myth I genuinely believed at one point because have you even seen how soft it is? But as it turns out, suede is actually the soft underside of the hides of cows, goats and pigs, which gives it the “napped” feel, and is made by splitting away the top layer of the leather and sanding out the imperfections on it to achieve smoothness, lightness and pliability. At this point, it’s also useful to distinguish it from nubuck, which is made from the outer layer of the split hide by sanding out the grains, so some imperfections may be present. Being made from the more hardier side of leather, however, nubuck tends to be more durable than suede, but in turn is also more expensive. Velvet, which I previously often confused for suede as well, is entirely made of natural or synthetic fabric, so yeah, totally separate.

Myth 2: Suede is notoriously difficult to maintain

I’ll leave this part to the expert, Purseforum member Stormy Heart:

“If you protect suede with Rain & Stain guard, you’re fine. Use a clean dry terrycloth to dust off the bag once a week. Keep a good suede brush and art gum eraser for touch-ups if any spots appear. An emery board followed by brushing refreshes edges if they begin to show wear. If you happen to ever get caught in the rain, shake the bag hard, allow it to air dry, then brush it.

A flannel dustbag for storage helps keep the nap clean with light friction.

Caring for suede is no more complicated than any other good leather. It’s just a little different.

I even keep a little eraser inside every suede bag so it’s always handy. Upkeep is no big deal.”

Myth 3: Suede does not make for a good everyday bag

Okay, there is some (read: quite a bit of) truth to this, as suede is highly prone to staining and liquid transfers, as well as fading of the dye itself. Not only that, light-colored suede bags tend to absorb color from denims and dark colored clothing, while darker ones release color onto light-colored clothing. Plus, it attracts dust a lot more readily than regular leather, and all of these are, I must confess, reasons enough to deter a buyer. In fact, this thread tells the (sad) tale of how a TPFer got dissuaded from buying a 35cm Birkin in black suede because of the combination of its size and material.

Nonetheless, there are actually a lot of users who swear by suede, and tPFer papertiger actually believes that suede ages better than leather since it doesn’t suffer from scratches or scuffing. The key here is buying high-quality suede and regularly color-protecting and spraying them (much like other leathers, to be honest), since cheaper, poor-quality suedes are most susceptible to all the aforementioned faults, while well-cared for ones can last far longer than is popularly believed.

Suede Chanel Flap

Myth 4: You can only wear Suede in the winter

If you’re worried about the suede collecting snow and dirt and grime, shouldn’t it be all the more reason not to use suede in the winter? So this myth probably has got to do more with the heavy feel of the material itself rather than the warmth it actually provides, plus suede bags in darker colours admittedly make for great fall bags. However, suede bags do come in a beautiful array of pastel and bright colors too, such baby blues and shocking pinks and cool lavenders, while tan remains a year-round option. And the best part? Since you’re likely to wear lighter clothes in summer, carrying lighter suede bags would prevent color transfer on or from them, and in winter, pairing darker clothes (no whites, remember?) with darker suedes would do the same!

So there you have it, the most popular myths about suede, debunked, and I’m hoping it doesn’t look as intimidating to you as it probably did earlier. And guess what, now you can shop for suede guilt-free, be it summer or fall! Actually, I realized that the biggest fallacy people fall into when considering clothing and accessories of the material is that they tend to buy cheaper items made of poorer quality suede imagining that expensive ones wouldn’t last as long or wouldn’t provide the desired cost-per-wear. These suede items end up being worse for wear too soon, only proving their fears correct. It’s a vicious circle instigated by common misconceptions about the material, and the good news is, you can easily get out of it, just by getting yourself a quality suede bag!

So this Labor Day, get yourself a richly-textured, brightly-hued suede purse and jump-start your fall fashion OOTDs.

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10 months ago

Sajid, your mother knows best. I’ve owned four suede bags and I have subsequently sold three of them without any regrets. They are extremely difficult to clean and maintain, get ultra dirty in the Winter, unsuitable for the Summer, pick up dirt like Northern Floridians pick up covid (no hate, stay safe), and can barely ever be worn, save for one dry day in the Autumn. The one I kept was because it has a huge blue stain (on the back) from the first time I used it, and I used half a whole can of colonil to avoid it from that happening ?.

As a woman who has many clean white bags, I will never touch a suede bag or shoe (still own one from the multitudes of suede shoes I owned and used) ever again,

10 months ago

Thanks for this article Sajid, I enjoy reading all your stories here.
I like to see the myth list and clarifications to offer food for thoughts to those handbag enthusiasts that are still away from the perfect suede piece. In my opinion, the holy grail handbag in suede is Loewe Amazona. You can imagine what a suede handbag could offer you until you can have that handbag in your hands, the classic suede and calfskin in golden and brown, a 40-year iconic model from the house. I was in love with that handbag since the 80s when I was passing by an elegant Loewe shop in way to my high school or to any errands. I started my collection much later and I let Amazona for later in the list. I thought it would be always available and as many others around here I went for the Hermes Kelly as my highest priority. I felt a great release when I got the top models in my list. I realized last year that I was maybe wrong and Amazona would maybe not be there for ever waiting for me. I got a bit anxious, and I tried my best to get one on Loewe online, and then in Madrid, Paris, Stockholm shops and nothing was available anymore. I was calling and I was checking pre-loved as well, but I could not find the quality that I was looking for, so I gave up in December and talked with Loewe assistant at Stockholm Loewe shop and decide to buy a different Loewe handbag just to try to forget about the missing Amazona. The day I was at Loewe collecting another bag and just ready to pay and I turned my back and suddenly I saw my dreamed Amazona just there, just arrived, and just placed in a shelf. I run to the shelf, a picked it, and brought with me home as you can imagine. It is an amazing piece, the quality standards from Loewe suede and the skills from their artisans have not changed in decades (and we cannot say the same with many other brands). My serendipity moment occurred around 8 months ago, plenty of use and pristine. Curiously, the SA did not know that they were going to get any Amazona at all in the delivering, she was as surprised as I was. However, more recently I saw that Loewe are producing that classic suede model in 2 sizes, so I want to tell you my experience because I think that it is the holy grail suede handbag and out of the radar of many handbag lovers.

10 months ago

Don’t be worried. Because Loewe and JWAnderson will bring us a new Amazona in two sizes and different shapes. Have an eye the Loewe FW21 woman collection. (But still isn’t on sale, perhaps in October 21…)

10 months ago

You are totally right. We should give suede a chance. I remember an SA once telling me it’s really no different in terms of maintenance. And you just made me realize summer is coming to an end! ?

Ed B
Ed B
10 months ago

Good article! Thank you.

I agree with all, except I can’t help but see it as a fall/winter leather. Which is fine, I mean that’s still half of the year you can get use out of the bag!

10 months ago

I’ve owned expensive suede clothing, handbags, shoes, pillows and furniture. And every piece has been a waste of money. No matter how much I love the look and feel I will never buy anything suede again. Listen to your mama, mama knows best. Go out and find yourself something beautiful in velvet instead.

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