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How to look after a leather handbag according to an expert

23rd July, 2018

A beautiful quality leather handbag is often the pride and joy of most women’s wardrobes. And if you happen to have invested a fair bit of money on one then it’s only right that you would want to care for it to ensure its longevity. So what’s the best way to show your bag some TLC? As the owner of Melbourne’s The Royal Bag Spa Alex How specialises in the cleaning and restoration of top end designer bags. Here he shares his best tips for ensuring that your investment accessory remains in pristine condition.

What are some protective measures people can take from the moment they purchase a bag to ensure it stays in top condition? 

Place a protection layer shield on your leather bag before using it. This can prevent a lot of problems in the long run.

Royal Bag Spa does a protection service which cannot be achieved with home use product, to prevent discolouration and liquid staining from use for up to a year.

Does a commercial leather spray really work to protect a bag? 

Not all of them work and for those that work, it will only work if it was sprayed appropriately. This is also part of the reason, we purchased and tried all of the sprays sold in the market and only stock and resell those that work (with appropriate instructions to use them).

Other than that, most leather handbags come with shiny metal hardware and these sprays will [cause] the metal hardware to become less shiny and tarnish faster over the time of use. When we use these sprays in-house, we tape up all the hardware on the bag so they don’t get affected.

Where is the best place to store a leather bag?

In an open air wardrobe on a shelf in a clean dust bag.

What’s the best way to store a leather bag?

Placing an appropriate amount of tissue paper stuffing [into the bag]. Not too much though as it can expand the bag too much. [Doing this will help] keep it in good shape all the time. This will allow airflow within the bag which prevents mould and at the same time act as a support for the leather so that the bag can last longer.

[Avoid] hanging [a bag] on its handle/strap on the wall or behind the door. [Don’t stack] anything on top of it and definitely [don’t store it] in a box or enclosed wardrobe as leather needs to ‘breathe’. Open up all the zips to allow airflow within the bag.

What the best course of action for someone to take if they get a stain or a noticeable mark on their leather handbag? 

Use a white eraser right away for ink stains. This method can be effective right after the point of incident but will need a professional leather technician if the ink stains for a long time. Look for leather handbag specialist, as most of the time when a stain gets onto the bag, cleaning itself will not get you anywhere. Just don’t do anything to make it worse which will make our job harder [later on].

What’s one thing you wish people would stop doing when it comes to their handbags?

Placing pets into their handbags while out shopping. Cats and dogs get excited sometimes (most of the time) and [they can urinate] when they are in the bag. The process to clean [it] can be a nightmare.

Alex’s Dos and Don’ts for caring for a leather bag


  • Try to keep all leather handbags out of direct sunlight during storage. Sunlight will damage the leather and increase the chance of oxidation.
  • Place a protection layer shield on your leather bag before using them, this can prevent a lot of problems in the long run.
  • Clean your leather bag once a year or two depending on usage.


  • Use hand creams, body lotions on leather. These are great for your skin, but they contain mineral oils and waxes that are not compatible with leather. You may get a darkening effect that you desire, but it will attract dirt and soil. Other than sulphonate oil, other types of oil will cause leather to corrode and oxidize over time.
  • Use Saddle Soap under any circumstances! Saddle Soap contains compounds such as Neatsfoot Oil, Glycerin and Lanolin. It is a mild soap with softening ingredients and can be used on sofa leathers and car leathers but the compound is too harsh for handbag leathers. [It has a] pH over 10 which causes pH damage to leather over time in the long run.
  • Use baby wipes, or any other wipes on untreated leather as it may create stain which will darken the colour of the leather.
  • Use any leather cleaners created for car leather or furniture leather on your unfinished/untreated leather bags as they may stain. These cleaners are usually soap-based and contain high pH scale which is not suitable for delicate leather bags at all.
  • Dry clean your leather bags

How to buy a designer bag that you’ll love for years to come

10th March, 2018
Kate Waterhouse carrying Chanel designer handbag

My Chanel bag has been with me for years and is still going strong

I’ve spoken in the past about the importance of cost per wear for me and there’s no area that I apply it more to than my handbags. I am all about quality over quantity. I will often hold out for a designer bag as I know that it will withstand everyday wear and tear as they’re so well crafted. Also, I’ll often go for classic styles so they have longevity. Case in point: I’ve had the above Chanel handbag for years and it’s still going strong.

If you’re going to splurge on a designer bag it’s important to make sure you get it right. After all you are spending not an insignificant amount of money so it’s the type of fashion purchase that needs some planning behind it first. Here are some things to consider before buying:

Think of your lifestyle 

What kind of lifestyle do you have? For me I have to carry everything from Sophia and Grace’s snacks to my phone and wallet so I need something that’s quite roomy. For the kind of life I lead a tiny handbag (as much as I like the look of it) just wouldn’t work.

It’s crucial to tailor your bag to suit your lifestyle and needs. If it doesn’t then you’re never going to use it as often as you’d like and that’s a lot of money that’s wasted.

Consider the brand

If you’re going to have a bag that you use every single day you want a classic style. I think you can justify splurging on a bag if it’s something that can be used every single day. Everyone has their own favourites but if I was going to splurge on a designer bag I would definitely go for Céline, Balenciaga, Jil Sander or Chanel because they do classic, timeless styles.

Check out it’s extra features

Little details can mean you get double the wear out of a designer bag. For example it may seem a small detail but consider the handles on your bag. I like two handles on a bag—smaller handles so I can just carry it on my arm and a longer strap so I can carry it on my shoulder. Having the option to do both expands the use of a bag. Also some bags now come with detachable pouches that can be used to carry things like cosmetics but can be used as separately as a clutch. Win-win!

Kate Waterhouse street style designer bag Gucci

When it comes to designer bags aim for classic and timeless to ensure maximum cost per wear

Opt for simplicity

A statement bag with lots of embellishment is great but if you’re going to have just one designer bag that you’re going to carry all the time make sure to keep it quite pared back and stick to neutral colours. A subdued colour palette makes it easier to work back with your wardrobe. Minimal amounts of detailing also makes it less likely to look overly on trend. Also keep in mind that plain leather generally won’t date as easily as patent leather.

Avoid ‘it’ bags

When it comes to designer bags I like to have something that no one else has. For this very reason if there is an ‘it’ bag I tend to steer clear of it. However I might get inspired by a brand and choose something that is within that collection. If you can afford to have a new designer bag each season then definitely go for the ‘it’ bag. If however, you are buying a designer bag that’s intended to see you through season after season I’d steer clear of the bag of the moment and opt for something that’s not as common so it doesn’t date as easily.

Choose an ongoing style

I will always ask a shop assistant if they’re continuing a particular type of bag the following season because some are just one-offs and I think that can really date a bag. When choosing a bag opt for one that’s a signature style to the brand because then it is recurring every season rather than being the 2018 summer bag which everyone will know is a couple of years old.

An example of a signature style is something like Chanel’s 2.55 black quilted leather handbag or the Hermes Birkin. It’s a bag that’s done every season which means it won’t date and it’s great quality so it lasts year after year. I’ve had my Chanel bag for 10 years and I still wear it all the time so the cost per wear is great!

Tell me—what designer bag do you have your eye on?

Photography: Sophia Athas


Fashion, Shop

The cult bag celebs and bloggers are still loving

14th January, 2018

Every once in awhile a bag comes along that really taps into the fashion zeitgeist. Enter Los Angeles based brand Cult Gaia’s Ark bag (below) which is a favourite bag of many a fashion blogger along with A-list celebs including Jessica Alba, Michelle Williams and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. A refreshing change from your usual ‘it’ bag which typically comes with a four figure designer brand price tag, the Ark bag starts at an affordable $150. In keeping with the trend towards adopting pieces in natural fabrics, the Ark is made from bamboo giving it an earthy touch, however its sculptural style keeps it completely contemporary. If the style isn’t quite your thing Cult Gaia have also introduced a crossbody bag and a top handle bag which looks ultra modern and would be a definite talking point each outing it had.