1) Quality of Leather: smooth, soft, weighty full-grain leather.
2) Type of thread and stitching: Handstitched with Nylon thread.
3) Quality of fittings: solid heavy metal hardware
4) Internal lining and pocket sizes: leather of soft felt lining
5) Edge finish: Turned edges, Painted edges or Burnished edges.
6) The Design: Lesser number of panels and reinforcements.
Guide to Choose a well made Handbag.
Just like a shoe can tell a lot about a man, so can a handbag, be it a man or a woman. Leather bags are no doubt an easy, all-star, all-weather (except when it’s raining) go-to accessory. But how to tell the difference between a good quality leather bag that will accompany you for years and something that will give away in a few months? Even though it is a durable material a leather bag has a lot more parts than just the leather and together they define the quality of the bag. Whether you decide to buy a leather bag from, a local shop or a bigger brand, they are expensive. It is important as a buyer to know where you are putting your money.
From a leather craftsman point of view, here are a few pointers to identify a well-built leather bag that can last you a long time.
What are the Parts of a leather bag?
Best Leather for Handbags:
How can you tell good leather?
Naturally, this is the most important aspect of a leather bag. How does the leather feel when you touch it? Run your fingers over the surface and sense its nature. Good leather has a subtle softness, a smooth, natural sensation with a thick, weighty and heavy character. A poor quality leather would feel light and thin or have a uniform plastic-like coating to it with a dry artificial sensation. They might also have cracks and wrinkles around the curves and bends.
It's also good to have some idea about the different type of leather. The two most common leather types are softer cow leather and more durable buffalo leather. Always ask the seller what type of leather has been used and how to maintain that leather bag.
Quality of thread and stitching:
How to identify good quality stitching in a handbag?
The quality of stitching always an important part. Check if the stitch line is straight with consistent gaps with more stitches between the stitches. Nylon threads are the best, they are strong and durable. They have a smooth, slightly glossy finish that complements the polish of a leather bag. Thin cotton threads that have small fibres standing out with a rough texture should be avoided. They tend to wear off and break easily giving a shabby look.
Handstitched bags have the best quality, it's done in a way that locks in every stitch individually. So even if a single stitch comes off the rest of the stitching is not affected.
We hand-stitch our leather bags too, but only where it's necessary. Like portions of the bag that need reinforcements or experiences high stress. Hand stitching is a time and effort-intensive process making it very expensive. A mix of machine stitching the pockets along with the lining and limited hand stitching provides durability and keep our handbags in a reasonable price range.
What type of fittings should be used in a leather bag?
If the type of leather and stitching defines the identity of a bag the quality of fittings defines the nature and personality of the bag. They are all the metal components of a bag like the clasps, locks, strap adjusters, stud etc. In a good quality handbag, the look and colour of the fittings complement the colour and design of the bag. Parts of the fittings move smoothly without any squeaky sounds and have a polished uniform and glossy finish.
Most of the fittings are made of metal but, as the saying goes all that glitters is not gold. One way to judge the quality is by the weight of the fittings. Usually, a heavier fitting has a better build quality as it is made from a solid piece of metal. Light hardware means they might be hollow from the inside. To reduce costs, the manufacturer makes them hollow. Thereby making them lighter and reducing their sturdiness and durability.
Lining and Pockets
What type of linings is used in luxury Handbags?
In any bag, a lining is a must. It is one of the most important aspects that define the make quality of the bag. Most of the high-quality bags are lined with sheepskin or soft felt or smooth silk fabric. Both leather and fabric work well and it ultimately comes down to your personal choice. A leather-lined bag is relatively more expensive than a fabric lining and makes the bag heavier. While a fabric lining can give you a soft plush feel when you're grabbing things out of the bag.
A design that has been well thought out will have the lining placed in a way that the stitch line is not directly visible. It will be hidden in-between to give a seamless look on the inside. Pockets are also an important part of the bag. They should be able to fit your phone, wallet, keys and help you organise your belongings well.
Edge finish of a bag.
What are the different types of edge finishes?
A good quality leather accessory always has a finished edge. An unfinished edge gives an uncaring, lazy and unprofessional feel to the craftsmanship. Functionally, a finished edge prevents excess moisture from seeping into the leather. It also provides a slight curve to the sharp edge. Giving you a delightful experience when you run your fingers over them. Aesthetically it gives a luxurious perception of the leather edge being bent over to continue on the other side.
There are three types of edge finishes. Turned edges, painted edges and burnished edges. Most of the bags have turned or painted edges. Bags that have painted edges must have uniform edge paint with no drip marks. The paint should also cover the entire edge with a smooth consistent finish. An example of a sloppy edge paint job is when the fibrous texture of the leather can be felt and is visible through the edge paint. Although this detail is not visible, it gives an incomplete feel to a bag. After all, the devil lies in the details.
What kind of design makes a handbag durable?
For any physical object, there are two aspects of design. The usability and the functional. When you are investing in an expensive product, it is important to understand how it is going to benefit you in the long term.
The sturdiness of a bag depends on the number of panels used to make the bag. Fewer the number of panels joined to make a bag will have fewer stitch lines joining them. Reducing the chance of the stitches ripping open, making a single panel design the most durable. A good design would also have reinforcements in places that would experience more stress like the top handles, the loops the shoulder straps hook on to, and around the locks. These points should have extra support like rivets accompanied by a double stitch or a piece of hardboard that's been sandwiched in between the leather and the lining.
High quality and well-crafted leather bag is a sensory experience. When all the parts of the bag come together they can appeal to your senses making them irresistible. It should also suit your needs and be able to be of service for many years to come. The quality and precision of any craftsmanship can be found in the details. So take time in making your purchase, shop consciously. Buy less choose well make it last.