I recently picked up my very first piece of vintage Chanel and I wanted to share my experience with you in case anyone was interested in getting one too.
I went into this process knowing the specific model of bag I wanted – the Diana. The Diana comes in two sizes; what I didn’t know was if I wanted the small or medium Diana, so I did a lot of research on the dimensions, weight, what can fit into each size, and how each size would look proportionate to my frame. Since the Diana is a vintage bag (they stopped production of it in the 90s, and while it was reissued in 2015, significant design changes were made for the reissue), I wouldn’t be able to go into a store to try it on and had to rely on internet reviews and photos to decide this. Since you are still spending a good amount of money on a bag that was likely going to be shipped to you from overseas, it was important to do a lot of research to make sure that the bag you are getting suits your needs.
Some amazing resources I found to research the bag itself included My Grandfather’s Things, a specialist in Diana bags who owns multiples of each size so she often does comparison photos and also videos; Facebook, specifically the Chanel Reetzy Groups; Instagram, using the hashtag #ChanelDiana; as well as Youtube. I also found this blog post which I thought was very helpful in pushing me towards one of the sizes.
The price of vintage bags has also changed a lot in the last 6-12 months, primarily driven by the multiple price increases, as well as overall consumer awareness to be more sustainable, so it was important to also understand the price trends so you aren’t overpaying for something. The best resources I found for pricing references are Vestiaire Collective; Tradesy; and Instagram. I found them to be the most helpful because the sold listings continued to be published, so you can see what were the historical prices for the style you wanted, as well as the purchase date so you know at what point in time those prices existed.
Based on my research, the Diana small was sized in between a rectangular mini and a small classic flap, and the Diana medium was sized similar to a medium classic flap. The primary difference in capacity being that the Diana is a single flap bag. Since I’m 5’6 and a US size 8 / UK size 12, and I have one Chanel Jumbo and two Chanel minis, I thought that the Diana medium would be a better fit for my body size and my needs.
Because the bag has been discontinued for almost two decades, the next challenge was trying to find the bag at the right condition for the right price. I had wanted the beige Diana, which is harder to find than the black, and usually came in worse conditions than the black because light-coloured lambskin is harder to maintain than black. Another challenge was making sure that the bag is authentic, since there are a lot of fakes on the market, some of them looking very similar to the real thing.
I had around 10 websites bookmarked which I refreshed every day to see if there were new stock that came in. Some of them included Hedy; Amore Japan; and eBay. I also looked at Vestiaire Collective; Fashionphile; The Real Real; Tradesy; and 1st Dibs.
Since I was new to buying vintage, I wanted to make sure that the transaction would be low risk, so I decided that I would buy from a Japanese seller. Japanese vintage sellers are some of the most reliable and trusted on the market, particularly because Japan has very strict laws when it comes to counterfeits, and from what I hear, Japanese bag owners also tend to take better care of their bags, so the condition of the item will be better when it hits the resale market. I also wanted to make sure that if for whatever reason, the bag was counterfeit, I needed an authenticity guarantee which would allow me to get my money back.
For those reasons, I ended up getting my Diana bag from a popular Japanese reseller of vintage bags from eBay, and paid using Paypal. The reseller had over 30,000 positive reviews on eBay, and eBay and Paypal also have authenticity guarantees, so I felt like I was protected in case the transaction didn’t go well.
One thing that came up in my research that I didn’t anticipate to be so common was that a lot of vintage bags are re-dyed or re-coloured. I had asked the seller if the bag had been repainted or redyed, and they did not know. They just said they didn’t do anything to the bag while it was in their possession, but the previous owner(s) could have. This is something to be aware of if you are looking for a vintage bag, particularly if its light coloured. It’s hard to tell via photos if the bag had been repainted; one thing to look out for is if the leather looks wrinkled, if the stitches and the corners and nooks of the bag look like there is paint on it. It should be fairly obvious once you receive the bag, as it significantly affects the feel of the leather.
Receiving the bag
Shipping from Japan was lightning fast via DHL. I paid on Tuesday night, it shipped Wednesday night, DHL got it on Thursday morning, and it arrived in Vancouver at around 1PM on Friday. If you’re buying from a Japanese seller, they have the option of shipping via DHL or EMS, which is similar to Canada Post Xpresspost. If you have the option, you should ask if the seller can ship via DHL. I knew of someone else in the Chanel Facebook group who purchased a bag from Japan and their package was shipped using EMS, and it sat in Japan’s export customs for over two weeks before it even left Japan.
There is always risk of buying something sight unseen. The eBay listing didn’t mention the inclusion of a dust bag or authenticity card, so I thought the listing was for just the bag, but when I received it, I saw that the authenticity card and the original dustbag had also been included. This was a good thing, yes, but it shows that eBay listings can be inaccurate.
The primary thing that made me a little bit disappointed about this bag is that the bag looks to have been repainted. The leather is a bit dry, stiff and wrinkled in the back. It is a 2 series bag from 1991-1994, so I’m not surprised it was repainted since I imagine beige bags are hard to keep in immaculate condition over nearly 30 years. The flap of the bag, though, looks perfectly smooth.
I did pay duty on this when it arrived in Canada, but it was very immaterial compared to the value of the bag. DHL didn’t include a detailed invoice breakdown of the duty and taxes owed though, just said that I owed an amount in duty, taxes and brokerage fees. I paid this over the internet using a link they had sent me, so by the time the bag arrived, the courier just dropped it off with no additional paperwork.
After receiving the bag, I did get it authenticated just for peace of mind, and confirmed that the bag was indeed authentic.
I’m very happy with the bag I received. I’m super happy with the condition and the price that I paid. Even though it was repainted, the leather still feels very soft. I’m also pleasantly surprised that I was able to receive the authenticity card and the dust bag, which I didn’t expect at all since those are things that can be easily lost. I’ve just started using a leather conditioner to enhance the leather and also ensure its longevity, so I hope that this bag will last me for the rest of my lifetime.
The TL;DR of this is that you should do a lot of research to make sure that you know what you are buying, and in the end, it might not turn out 100% perfect and what you expected, but overall it’ll still be a good experience.
Here’s a photo of me modelling the medium Diana. You can see the proportionally, it looks pretty good for my frame. I’ll provide a more thorough review once I’ve had more opportunities to wear this out.