Chanel    Throwback Thursday

In Fond Remembrance of the Chanel Grand Shopping Tote

The OG Chanel tote that took the world by storm

Chanel is known for some pretty iconic bags. Still, there is one bag that remains a unicorn amongst bag lovers, crippling a generation of fans clamoring to get their hands on one, and if you grew up watching The Hills in the 2000s, you know what I’m talking about by now.

It’s the one, the only, the Chanel Grand Shopping Tote!

Remember? Well, of course, you do; how could you not? For many, it was the purse that got away – discontinued before they could buy all they wanted to their heart’s content. Others are left questioning to date – what made Chanel discontinue such a classic and (obviously) well-selling item?

Yet more people are still reeling from the global crisis that ensued amongst Chanel-lovers following the bag’s discontinuation. Do you have a GST sitting unused in your closet that you’re afraid of selling because you fear you’ll miss it, but you also fear ruining its pristineness by taking it out? Well, you are not alone, my friend, and today we shall explore the Chanel Grand Shopping Tote in greater depth so you can finally learn to love it…or leave it! Think of this as the closure that Chanel never gave us the chance to have. Or the beginning of a lifelong journey as a GST-hoarder. One of those things.

A Rundown of the GST

While there isn’t much information as to when the Grand Shopping Tote was launched, it has been around since at least the 90s, making vintage versions covetable on resale during the bag’s actual run and practically unicorns in the modern day. And why not, after all? The purse transcended three decades of massively different handbag aesthetics – the sleek and small 90s, the loud and oversized 2000s, and the more minimal 2010s – and earned compliments from its users all throughout. It’s not only rare for a handbag to do that in the present day, but it also marks the sign of a true classic. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, shall we?

Chanel GST Red

What made the GST so adaptable and, by extension, desirable was the huge array of color and material options it was produced in. Caviar leather was undoubtedly the most popular, making the already organized and compartmentalized bag even more usable (and a perfect beater bag, too!). Still, it was also produced in lambskin for the braver of heart. It’s also important to note that only the lambskin version appears to have been made with the leather lining (also in lambskin). The caviar GSTs usually came with fabric/canvas interiors.

And if you’re into a bit of shine and worry-free, wipe-friendly convenience, the GST entertained a patent leather version for you too.

And as for the colors, Chanel truly went wild regarding the GST. There were metallic options, red, pink, purple, and blue, alongside the forever classics of black and beige, all made available in gold or silver hardware combinations to match your preferences. With the range of options offered, to say that buyers were merely spoiled would be an understatement. Many buyers at the time, unable to choose between color-hardware pairings, ended up purchasing the same color in different combinations! And all this on a normal shopping day – just imagine the panic-buying that took place on the eve of the purse’s discontinuation!

Another point of interest that many Chanel buyers today are unaware of is that the GST was actually a part of the brand’s Shopping Tote line, with the Petite Shopping Tote and the Grand Shopping Tote XL serving buyers with varying size requirements. At the same time, the Timeless Tote range was a spin-off of the original shopping totes for users who prefer the security of a top zipper. It is, however, the Grand Shopping Tote that was the hottest-selling item from the collection.

The Resale Performance of the GST

Before its discontinuation in 2015, the GST was priced at $2,900 in the US market, with the GST XL being sold for $3,500. Currently, however, on resale sites like Fashionphile, GSTs in excellent condition, especially in the most desirable colorways, like black or red (and the GST in red is quite possibly one of the most stunning red bags there ever was), can fetch upwards of $3,600!

Chanel Grand Shopping Tote Beige

Now, that price doesn’t quite consider inflationary increases, nor does it represent the average prices GSTs can bring you, which probably hovers somewhere around $2,500 right now. Plus, depending on the condition, or if it’s in patent leather (generally getting worse for wear with age and is deemed less desirable), prices can drop as low as around $1,200.

The lambskin versions are generally much harder to come by, and even if you do, they’re likely to show up more wear owing to the delicate nature of the leather. That is unless the user was too agitated at the idea of using it to ever take it out of her closet (haven’t we all done that at some point?)

And if it were still a part of Chanel’s current collection, it probably would have seen much more pronounced price increases by now, as apparent from the prices of similarly-sized totes on the Chanel USA website. The chain-trimmed handle shopper sells for $5,500, for instance, while the leather Deauville Tote retails at $6,600.

Chanel Shopping Tote

That does not give us a definite idea of whether or not to hold on to our unused GSTs. If yours is in a classic color and in excellent condition, you might make a substantial profit on your original purchase (at least nominal price-wise). If, on the other hand, yours show a fair bit of usage (we’ll get to that presently), you might want to pare down on the expectations a little bit.

The Cons of the GSTP

Now, despite its immense popularity and the prevailing sense of tragedy among Chanel-lovers following the GST’s discontinuation, to say that the GST had a flawless reputation wouldn’t entirely be true. Yes, the GST fanatics were in the habit of collecting it in every colorway possible. But the bag’s structure itself rendered it less functional to certain users.

The Grand Shopping Tote consists of a fairly rigid leather body with two open compartments, and a non-removable zipped one in the middle, acting as a partition between the two. Some buyers loved this organization; there was even a slip pocket in the back to slide cards or cash into. For other users, however, the compartmentalization meant less space for their bulkier belongings compared to the Louis Vuitton Neverfull.

Plus, the bag had substantial weight, so putting things inside (tempting, given its roomy interior) made carrying it difficult. Not only that, the GST was prone to sagging at the slightest over-stuffing, something that irked the lovers of structured carryalls, and sometimes even those used to excessively babying their bags couldn’t save it, much to their dismay.

But perhaps the biggest complaint about the GST was its straps sliding off the user’s shoulder. Thankfully, our PurseForum members came up with a solution to this (and no, it wasn’t to get plastic surgery on the shoulder like member Classic Chic suggests). Rather, simply tuck in one strap beneath the other in a crisscross maneuver, and you’re good to go!

Celebrities and Their Chanel Bags 82
Eva Longoria with a GST

But Why Discontinue a Classic?

And now, everyone has been asking the question, but there isn’t yet a definitive answer. Why does a brand discontinue a bag? Well, I speculated on it over the course of an entire article, and the reasons can be manifold – from poor performance to over-exposure in the market. A better question here would be, “what exactly is a classic, and can the GST be called one?”

The GST had all the elements that make the Classic Chanel Flaps classic. The quilting, the chain, the logo, the leather – one couldn’t get a tote that was more quintessentially Chanel than this. In fact, although the GST fell behind a few points compared to its similar but more functional contemporaries from Chanel, like the Cerf Tote or the Soft Caviar Tote, buyers still opted for a GST as their first purchase simply because of its inherent Chanel-ness.

Yet, why was it discontinued? Well, as we have already seen, for a full leather Chanel tote from the house of Chanel, a $2,900 starting price feels not only affordable but almost a bargain, especially in the light of how ridiculously its prices have increased nowadays. As a result, buyers often considered the GST their entry point into the world of Chanel. And with the same aesthetic and versatility as the Classic Flap, but in a more functional silhouette AND a lower price tag? I would probably share the same sentiment too!

That, however, made it all the more difficult for Chanel to strike the fine balance in luxury between exclusivity and availability. Plus, with the rapidly saturating market and the brand’s aim to move to a price point similar to that of Hermès, discontinuation seemed like the only way of restricting supply without an exorbitant price increase where people would likely continue buying it.

Chanel Grand Shopping Tote 1

At the end of the day, all good things end. Even the Birkin or the Classic Flap would become a thing of the past sometime in the future, as their supply in the market shows no signs of decreasing, even with their now-prohibitive price tags and quotas limiting their sale. In fact, discontinuing the GST probably marked one of the first steps Chanel took to elevate itself to the level it has reached today (despite the quality issues). It serves as a learning experience of sorts for other brands to adapt their offerings and prices with the times or risk being perceived as a “mass-market” brand.

But even now, GST-inspired bags appear occasionally in Chanel’s seasonal collections, the Classic Shopping Tote from the Spring Summer 2016 Collection being an ideal example. Or you might just get lucky on the resale market like the PurseForum member Jaanice describes in this thread how the universe conspired to unite her with a brand new beige Grand Shopping Tote after its discontinuation. If you love it, it will find a way to reach you.

So, are you a part of team GST?


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