Bag Review: Balenciaga City

Hi again everyone!

This will be my fourth bag review, and it will be of the Balenciaga City.  I finally got around to writing a review on one of my soft, slouchy, unstructured bags in the City.  My previous reviews had been on my structured handbags (Saint Laurent Sac de Jour, Givenchy Antigona, and Prada saffiano double-zip tote), so it’s quite refreshing to write about a bag that is truly different from the ones I had written about before.

Happy Reading!

Bag: Balenciaga City

Size: one size (medium)

Color: Mauve from 2013 Spring/Summer collection

Hardware: Regular

Introduction

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The Balenciaga City was introduced in the early 2000’s by Balenciaga’s then-creative director Nicolas Ghesquière (who is now at the helm of Louis Vuitton after leaving Balenciaga a few years ago).  He released the Balenciaga First (so named as it was the first model of the now famous motorcycle bag line of the brand) and followed it up with the City.  It might seem unbelievable to us now but back then, company top brass dismissed the motorcycle bags when Ghesquière first presented them.  Ghesquière then had to give out some free motorcycle bags to models and “It” girls such as Kate Moss.  The aforementioned ladies loved their bags, and this caused the Balenciaga executives to re-think their impression on the bags’ potential for success.  They eventually gave the motorcycle bags the push, and the rest is history.

In the early 2000’s I was still in college and had no business thinking of expensive handbags (in my opinion anyway).  I had other priorities and didn’t feel I was financially independent enough to even consider buying luxury items.  I felt more confident purchasing luxury items for myself when I made executive after some years of working, and this marked the beginning of my love affair with handbags.  A few years after that I eventually fell in love with the Balenciaga City – the colors were divine, the leather was soft to the touch, and the bag was so light!

My City is from the 2013 Spring/Summer collection(it feels strange thinking about how 2013 was two years ago at this point… I feel like I just got my bag).  The color is called Mauve (though color purists would probably protest and say it’s really not the color mauve… I can see where they’re coming from, but I still love Balenciaga’s “Mauve” from 2013 😉 ).  It’s lambskin (Agneau) and not goatskin (Chevrè).  The City bags were made of goatskin until 2007 or 2008, after which the City was made from lambskin instead (except for some limited edition and metallic edge City bags which are Chevrè).  Most Balenciaga oldies seem to prefer the Chevrè Bals as the leather was thicker, “chewier” and deemed more durable.  I like both though I suppose I can say I slightly prefer Chevrè over Agneau – but this is not to say that I do not like Agneau.  I have some Balenciaga bags in Chevrè (but not City) and I must say the Chevrè really does have a “chewy” quality to it.  One must own a Chevrè Bal to understand what all this talk of “chewy” leather is all about. 😛  I for one didn’t get it before that.  Anyway – again, I like the Agneau Bals, but just a little less than how much I like the Chevrè ones.

So – going back to my Mauve Bal City – it was my first City and I was really quite smitten.  Read on to find out why. 🙂

General Features and Usability

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The Balenciaga City has hand-stitched handles and it also comes with a removable shoulder strap.  I use both the handles and the strap though I find that I use the handles more often.

The bag is extremely light – one of its biggest assets, in my opinion.  Even when fully loaded, the bag is still very light. The City is one of the favorite leather bags of people with back and shoulder problems precisely because of this.

One of the problems of the bag as far as usability is concerned is the shoulder strap (this seems to be an area overlooked by some designers).  It just keeps slipping off my shoulders, though I found that wearing certain materials (such as wool) for my top or jacket decreases or removes this problem. I can’t wear the same material for my tops/jackets all the time though, and it would seem ridiculous to do so just so the strap of my bag stays on my shoulder.  There have been known workarounds to this problem outside of wearing certain materials – some say that the weight distributor pad on top of the strap is what causes it to keep slipping, so removing that has solved the problem for them.  People I trust have said the same, so I think that is probably a good workaround, but I cannot find myself doing it because removing the pad from the strap is not necessarily a straightforward thing (not to me, anyway).  I would worry too much about scratching or damaging the leather of the pad and in general I just don’t feel comfortable with DIY bag modifications.  So, the strap has proved slightly problematic for me. Besides – for the price – I don’t think I’d have to even apply DIY techniques… couldn’t they just have given me a better strap off the bat? 🙂

Other than that, I find the bag very usable due to its weight and capacity.

Score: 8/10

Look/Design

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Isn’t she just gorgeous? I love her color 🙂

The design of the City is very “rocker chic” – edgy and casual with a rock-and-roll vibe (especially the ones with tassels and regular hardware), yet also sophisticated and yes, chic.  One of the design elements I love the most is the hand-stitched handles – I just love holding them and they look nice to me.  The tassels on the motorcycle bags with regular hardware are also a nice touch.  If you do not like tassels, the City bags with gold/silver/rose gold hardware (versus regular brass hardware) do not come with tassels.  I like the look of the bag regardless of hardware (regular hardware, gold hardware, silver hardware, rose gold hardware, metallic edge – with the possible exception of the covered hardware as I am not a fan of bags with covered hardware), though my favorite has always been motorcycle bags with regular hardware.  The bag has no visible logo on its exterior, and Balenciaga is known for releasing bags with beautiful pops of color.  I love the color of mine – called Mauve, it’s a pretty pastel color that manages to be usable and is surprisingly easy to match with clothes (mine anyway, as I have quite a number of neutral clothing pieces in my wardrobe).  As with all Balenciaga bags, the color of my City seems to change under different lighting.  Bals have a chameleon-like quality to their colors which adds to their appeal.  The combination of the bag’s design with its color has turned heads while I walked along Michigan Ave.  The Magnificent Mile is home to many designer boutiques so I suspect quite a number of people walking in the area are fashion-savvy (or just tourists 😛 ) so they probably know what a Balenciaga City is. Even if you don’t, the bag still manages to catch the eye.

I will say that the bag’s design is not for everyone, as is the case for most or all bags, I suppose – the divide is however more highlighted with the Bal motorcycle bags.  The design can be polarizing since some people find it too busy (with the tassels) or too plain (without the tassels for the silver/gold/rose gold hardware).  I am firmly one of the Balenciaga motorcycle bag lovers – the design appeals to me, and works for me.

Score: 9/10

Interior

Yes, I still haven't removed the plastic covering the metal plate... I don't want it to get scratches :P
Yes, I still haven’t removed the plastic covering the metal plate… I don’t want it to get scratches 😛

Again, if you are one of those who cares little to none for bag interiors, then you can skip this section altogether. 🙂  I will reiterate that a bag’s interior is a key aspect to me so I make it a point to include this section.  Anyway, the City has a black cotton-lined interior with zip pocket, 2 slide-in pockets and a Balenciaga-embossed palladium plaque.  I like the Balenciaga-embossed palladium plaque/metal tag inside the bag, as it looks good and adds a level of “seriousness” to an otherwise fun and lighthearted bag.  The material of the lining feels a bit thin but I haven’t had issues with holes or damages. The interior isn’t bad but it definitely doesn’t feel luxurious (my favorite interiors/linings are still those of my Saint Laurent Sac de Jour and of my older Prada bags with leather lining – swoon). It’s very basic outside the metal plate, and perfectly fine – just not great.

Score: 7.5/10

Quality and Construction

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My City has very good quality – its color has not faded in the two years I’ve owned it, I haven’t noticed any scuffs or damages, and it still looks beautiful.  Some might argue that it might be because it’s not my everyday bag (frankly, I don’t really have an everyday bag since I rotate my bags so much – I use a different one practically everyday. I know not many people have the patience to rotate regularly as it can be bothersome – I have however mastered the art of the easy bag content transfer 😛 ) – they might be right.  Some people think the leather of the City (especially the Agneau ones) is too thin and delicate.  I’ve seen some with light damages posted on the internet.  It’s true that my City is not my everyday bag (as I don’t really have one to speak of) but I haven’t been too careful with it.  I’ve put it on the floor of some places for times I did not have a choice but to do so (I took a friend to Willis Tower and when we were taking photos by a glass balcony at the Skydeck I had to put my City on the floor then… ); I’ve also dropped my City a few times just from plain clumsiness; I’ve bumped it into people and things.  Even with all of that, my City still looks great.  So just speaking from my personal experience, I think the quality of the City is very good.

Score: 8.5/10

Value

The City is not too expensive when compared to other premier designer handbags made in Italy as it is one of the few ones left which costs less than $2000 (for the City with regular hardware anyway).  My City cost even less since I got mine before the latest price increase. Mine has held up really well and so far I feel like it was well worth the price.

Score: 8.5/10

Longevity/Staying Power

The City has been around for over 10 years and is still covetable.  Of course it no longer has its “It” bag status and probably does not sell as well now as it did back in the early to mid 2000’s – however it is still one of the biggest attractions in the Balenciaga handbag line, and is a staple in many handbag lovers’ arsenal.

Score: 9/10

Conclusion

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The Balenciaga City changed the handbag game over ten years ago, and it’s still going strong today. Its days as an “It” bag are behind it, but it’s still a favorite among handbag aficionados.  Its many eye-catching colors, light weight, soft leather, and versatility have enabled the City to remain a significant player in today’s competitive handbag world.

Over-all score: 8 (8.42 actually, but I rounded it off to 8 🙂 )

Thanks again everyone for taking the time to read my latest bag review.  The weekend’s close enough… enjoy the coming weekend! 😀

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