By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi
Buying vintage is one of the eco-friendliest ways to shop, and quality items will be in great shape decades after their initial release as Catherine B well knows. This Paris based vintage Chanel and Hermes expert has run a shop at n°1 rue Guisarde in St Germain for decades, attracting a stellar clientele. Catherine states: “I have handbags that are over forty years old in the shop and they are in perfect condition. People want timeless items that withstand the test of times and that’s what vintage Chanel and Hermès are all about.”
These timeless items abound in Catherine’s shop, and she guarantees that none of her stock is fake–in fact, many people approach Catherine to see whether their own bags (especially those given as gifts) are fakes. But for those of us not lucky enough to visit Paris, we may need to be more cautious before investing in a valuable pre-loved Chanel bag. Even Catherine admits there are many good fakes on the market, and it’s not always immediately obvious that a piece is not ‘vrai Chanel’.
“I’ve been collecting vintage Chanel and Hermès for over twenty years and have acquired the knowledge and experience by handling, purchasing–for myself and the boutique–and admiring thousands and thousands of bags, jackets, and accessories,” says Catherine. One of her biggest sellers is the classic 2.55 Chanel bag–which is also one of the brand’s most popular and most faked. With her expert help, we have determined several factors you have to look out for to avoid being duped.
How to Spot a Fake Chanel 2.55 Bag
Chanel lambskin leather feels “buttery soft,” if it’s lambskin. In fact, it’s so delicate, it’s prone to tears, and the quilting may not be as pronounced for as long as it would with Chanel’s other key leather used, known as ‘caviar’ leather. This is a rougher, pebbled leather and it is more durable; less likely to scratch and mark. But either one could well be an original Chanel. Caviar leather is normally ‘Made in France’ and Lambskin is ‘Made in Italy.’ Remember to check there are no glue residues on the leather, which are ever so common in fake bags. Also be aware that whilst Chanel uses many different materials, these will always be high quality: think patent leather and wool, not plastic and polyester.
The Turnstile Lock
The turnstile lock, specifically the CC lock, is one of the most recognisable features on the 2.55 Chanel bag. This iconic lock was designed by Karl Lagerfeld in the mid eighties. Begin by checking that your lock’s right C overlaps the left C at the top; also, the left C should overlap the right C at the bottom. Only replicas get this wrong. You may have noticed CC locks sometimes have a stamping mark. But don’t fret if yours doesn’t, not all 2.55 bags have these markings. Furthermore the Cs on vintage bags have a flat finish, whereas more contemporary Chanel 2.55 bags have more rounded Cs. One more tip that can help you with vintage is that pre 2009 locks were gilded in 24k gold, a deep yellow colour.
Original Chanels always have 11 stitches per inch. A fake bag only has 9 stitches per inch. Naturally the stitching must be even, neat and strong, which ensures durability and helps maintain the bag’s original shape. Obviously this takes more time and is more costly to produce, especially with the diamond or square stitching which distinguishes the brand. The classic burgundy interior uses stitching that matches the colour of the leather. The line and the pattern must not be broken. This means even the most complicated styles must be crafted so perfectly that observing them from the distance gives the impression there are no pockets or flaps. Replicas are rarely that perfect and, although the stitches on major pockets and flaps may initially seem perfect, further inspection will prove you wrong.
It is very difficult to separate the lining at the bottom of the bag because it is so well constructed. Genuine Chanel lining lies flat against the bag. There are no visible lumps or bumps: the fit is tight with no wrinkles, consequently authentic lining fits snugly with no creasing. Reproductions often can be spotted on the quality and fit of the lining, because its lining below looks inferior and feels like it is made from a cheaper leather. The colour doesn’t match the original and you can see a crease line to the left and right of the CC embossed logo. Also pay attention to the stamp inside the bag, which should say Made in Italy or Made in France but never Made in Paris, Hong Kong or any other city or country. “Made in” letters are stamped either under the Chanel ® writing and always match the colour of the hardware. So if the seller claims the bag with no stamp, because it came “straight from the factory” rest assured he is giving you a fake.
The very obvious knockoffs, instead of having the interlocking C logo, have interlocking Os. But the more refined fakes have to check the Cs’ details. For instance, the width of the Cs and the gap between them should be a consistent 0.9 cm on a 2.55 bag. Remember that the Chanel logo’s width is 3.3 cm and should sit one and a half centimetres below the quilted C.
The same rule of turnstile locks works with the chain straps that were made pre 2009: chains were gilded in 24k gold, so keep an eye out for that deep yellow colour. Look for that refined Chanel trait that has leather thread through each link. Replicas can rarely be bothered to go through the hassle of recreating this alluring trait of the original bags.
The quilting must be symmetrical, consistent and the stitching should line up. If you look carefully you’ll notice that the quilted pattern is consistent from the flap of the bag to the body of the bag when it’s closed, creating consistent diamond patterns. That quality of craftsmanship in an original Chanel is never equalled in reproductions.
Authenticity Card & Serial Sticker
The card system was introduced the same time as the serial sticker. The serial number on the card should match the serial number inside the bag. Authentic cards use a thick card coated with plastic. It feels a bit like a credit card, and should never have a hologram on it. The serial sticker should be in the bottom left hand side of a 2.55. Remember that a serial sticker on its own does not signify authenticity, nor does a missing serial sticker automatically mean the bag is a fake. Serial stickers were first introduced in 1984 and continue to be used today to identify the bag’s model and year. For example 6 digit codes, signify a bag made some time between 1984 and 1986; 7 digit codes signify a bag made sometime between 1986 and 2004; 8 digit codes signify a bag made from 2005 onwards. Be aware that Chanel produced bags with serial numbers up to 8 digits. So if you see a bag with 9 digits or more, it’s a fake.
To buy authentic vintage Chanel, click here.