How to Bag the Iconic Chanel Classic Flap for a Fraction of Retail

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CC CLASSIC FLAP BAG: THE PINNACLE OF STYLE

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As much as I love a good fashion trend, I’ve always been partial to timeless elegance. Not surprisingly, the Chanel Classic Flap with its signature look inspired by a rich history is my most coveted bag.

As a very generous congratulatory gift for finishing law school, my parents fulfilled (what felt like) my lifelong dream of owning the medium-sized black caviar flap bag with gold hardware from the iconic House of Chanel.

Although I spent an inordinate amount of time in my early twenties obsessing over the casual, formal and semi-formal outfits I could elevate with the Classic Flap, when it came time to finally take my new bag out, I was suddenly paralyzed by fear. The very thought of scuffing a corner or scratching the pristine gold hardware made me shudder. 

It took a couple of years to warm to the idea that all bags are meant to be worn despite the number of zeros that follow on the price tag.

Unfortunately (for GC) during this two year period: 1) my purse addiction turned into a strictly Chanel purse addiction (how could I not fall in love with the quality, craftsmanship, and its signature simplicity???); and 2) Chanel increased its prices - the cost of my bag rose by $1k! Unfortunately (for all Chanel lovers…and GC), Chanel continues to regularly increase the prices of its classic bags.

In fact, when the original 2.55 flap was first released, it sold for approximately US$200, in the early ‘90s the classic medium flap was priced around US$1200, and today the classic medium flap retails for US$5600!

But price increases also mean that classic Chanel bags hold their value really well which is a double-edged sword: it's harder to find a great deal on a classic Chanel bag but once you own one, you can likely resell it in the future for minimal or no loss - or perhaps even at a profit!

4 Ways to Purchase Chanel Bags for Less

Having developed the fiscally dangerous habit of spoiling myself after pulling a grueling string of late nights and weekends at the office and (easily) convincing myself that I need more Chanel in my life, I was forced to quickly come up with low(er) cost alternatives to acquiring them.

If you’re expecting to purchase a Chanel flap bag in good condition for under $1000 or if you think buying one is decadent and wasteful, this isn’t the read for you. However, if you have your heart set on a Chanel bag and you want to pay a lot less than retail, this information should prove useful.

1. ~80% off retail: Vintage fixer-upper from eBay + Leather Surgeons

Screenshots of the  eBay  auction I won

Screenshots of the eBay auction I won

I wanted a light beige Chanel Classic Flap for years but given the hefty price tag and knowing that the light colour is just begging to be marred, I thought it wasn’t in the cards. I decided the only way I would buy a light beige Chanel bag was if I could get one at a steep discount.

I checked eBay with no real intention of buying but after months of casually tracking prices (ranging from near retail to as low as US$800), I bid on and won a vintage medium light beige classic flap bag from a seller, with over 1500 positive reviews in the past 12 months, for just under US$800. 

Check out my post here that contains helpful tips, like the best time to buy, to guide you through purchasing a vintage Chanel on eBay.

Refurbishing my new-to-me bag: A Review of Leather Surgeons

When my eBay bag arrived, it appeared to be more worn than what was shown in the pictures. If I didn't intend on refurbishing the bag at the beginnning, I would have tried to request a refund.  

I decided to use Leather Surgeons' "Spa Service" for US$265 (which included free shipping to and from my apartment in NYC. For shipping to Canada, Leather Surgeons will charge you their cost.  For a medium classic flap, it's around US$60 roundtrip). 

The Spa Service includes: polishing of all of the hardware; thoroughly cleaning the bag (inside and out); rehydrating and pH-balancing all of the leather; applying pigment (as necessary) to restore the original colour and luster of the bag; addressing general fading and helping conceal any remaining stains.

For $100 more, I could’ve opted to have the gold re-plated but I was already happy with the condition of the hardware. 

After 2 weeks, I received my bag and a complimentary certificate of authenticity. As you can see below, the results are remarkable! I could not believe the transformation - the leather remains supple, the corners look brand new and the shape is completely restored. For a grand total of less than $1100, I now own a near-perfect vintage beige Chanel Classic Flap.

I should note that typically shape restoration is an additional cost; however, it was provided to me free of charge due to a minor issue with the bag that had to be corrected. I am thoroughly impressed by the level of customer service and craftsmanship of the Leather Surgeons.

 
 

My vintage Chanel bags are my most used handbags. I love the quality, look and style of most vintage Chanel designs and I think a small scratch or scuff just adds to the character and charm of a vintage bag.  Given this outlook, I do not baby my vintage bags and can enjoy using them (practically) carefree for every occasion - from running errands to attending weddings. In order to keep my caviar and lambskin leather bags in excellent condition, I only use Cadillac and Apple products.

 
 

2. ~50% off Retail: Facebook

My 2009 Chanel GST

My 2009 Chanel GST

I scored the discontinued, but still very much sought-after, Chanel Grand Shopping Tote (GST) in near-pristine condition for over $2500 off its last retail price from my local Toronto high-end designer buy/sell Facebook group (Shop my Closet). Before I met up with the seller, I requested 20+ clear pictures of the bag, including close-ups of the stitching, the “made in” stamp, the zipper pulls, other hardware, corners, serial number sticker, authenticity card, receipt, dust bag, box, etc. 

Given my vast familiarity with Chanel handbags, I was certain the GST was authentic but still paid US$47 to get a second opinion and certificate of authenticity from Meme’s Treasures. Once authenticated, I met the seller, in a safe, public place with GC to carefully inspect the bag and compare it to the pictures I sent for authentication. Shortly thereafter, I paid via PayPal and walked away with my brand-new-to-me GST.  

Tip: If you find a great deal on your local Facebook group from a reputable seller, chances are a few others are also jumping at the chance to purchase. I find that being very polite and expressing a willingness to meet asap, helps in securing the deal. 

3. ~20-50% off Retail: Consignment

I haven't yet purchased from an online or B&M consignment shop but popular ones (which boast some form of authenticity guarantee (I would still use a third party authenticator upon receipt of the bag)) include: Fashionphile, Yoogi’s Closet, and Haute Classics (Toronto based).

4. ~25 % off Retail: Buying in Paris

If you want a brand new Chanel bag, shopping at the boutique in Paris is the way to go. In 2016 I purchased a red caviar wallet on chain (WOC) at the 42 Avenue Montaigne, Paris location. Since Chanel had harmonized its prices globally by this time, my savings were not as impressive as the pre-global harmonization days. However, I find the prices in Paris to still be cheaper than in Canada.  

I also received a VAT refund of approximately 12% so I ended up saving over $600. I am not advocating flying to Paris to save money, as the cost of the trip will far exceed any savings, but if you're already planning a trip for pleasure or business, you should check out the boutique. Keep in mind that you will likely have to pay duties when you return home.  

At Chanel Paris Montaigne 42

At Chanel Paris Montaigne 42


Let me know in the comments below if you're planning on buying a Chanel bag! And please let me know about your best designer deal finds!

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