My first slip happened as a result of picking up some bags at Louis Vuitton for a friend.* The rumors are true; it really is cheaper to buy them in Paris. The price is a bit lower, even with the execrable exchange rate, there's no sales tax, plus non-European residents get back a 12% VAT refund. I know they've become a symbol of conspicuous consumption, but every time I visit one of the LV boutiques I surprise myself with how much I really like some of their pieces. Most of the canvas styles are lightweight and wear very well. After buying my friend's bags and realizing how much money she had saved, I caved and went for one I've actually been considering for some time. As is my tendency, I went for "classic with a twist," a classic Speedy 30 but in the Damier canvas which I prefer to the LV monogram design; it's a bit more subtle and not as often seen (or faked).
The Speedy, though handheld, is a great bag for traveling. It weighs next to nothing, holds quite a lot, and can take a lot of knocking around without showing wear. And when not in use, it folds flat for storage.
I really surprised myself with the second bag. Because one cannot buy Lancel bags in the US (except for the Duty Free shop at JFK Airport apparently) I wanted to peruse one of their boutiques just to see what these bags were about, after reading some good reviews over at the Purse Forum. Purely research, mind you; I was not familiar with their styles, and had not set out with a purchase in mind.
This bag did not catch my eye at first. I was looking at some of the simpler, more subtle styles. The sales associate pointed to one wall and indicated several bags that were 30-40% off, and that's when I noticed it. At first, the color was what piqued my interest. I loved the deep green, but this normally isn't the type of bag I go for. There's a lot of visual detail with the contrast stitching, braid trim and the drawstrings/tassels. But was a great color, it did have a strap long enough to wear the bag cross-body, it was 30% off, and the sales guy started showing me all of the different ways it could be worn...
This style of bag is called the "Premier Flirt" and it really did flirt with me, and won me over. It wasn't until later that I saw the color of the leather in natural light and realized just how rich and saturated this color is, and how high the quality of the leather.
When I unpacked at home, I discovered that the Lancel folks had also included a small book about the history and tradition of Maison Lancel. It's full of gorgeous vintage ads, drawings and photos. I'll work on translating some of it, and share more from the book in a later post. But in the meantime, below are a photo of Angèle Lancel, (whom, from what I'm gathering from the text in French was the initial brains behind the operation) and an ad for luggage in Art Deco style.
*and if you are planning a Louis Vuitton purchase while in Paris, skip the Champs Elysées and Avenue Montaigne stores, and head straight for the smaller, quiet boutique in the 6th just off Boulevard St. Germain. You'll be able to shop without having to fight your way through busloads of tourists, and will have several eager sales associates just waiting to assist you.