Chanel Bags: A Quick History and Authentication Guide
Chanel Handbags and the Chanel purse have been a status symbol for fashion for over a century. One of the most desirable French luxury houses since its inception in 1910, Coco Chanel’s eponymous label needs no introduction. Chanel Bags and Chanel Purses featuring the world-famous interlocking Chanel logo is something we’re all familiar with and have coveted for as long as we can remember, while the Chanel No. 5 perfume is a cult classic favorite. Though it’s been more than a century since the introduction of Chanel handbags when first Chanel doors opened, Chanel’s allure and magnetic pull are as evident as ever; a testament to the label’s beloved heritage and charming history.
Who is Coco Chanel?
Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel was born on August 19, 1883, in Saumur, France. Her childhood was far from idyllic: her mother died at an early age, resulting in her father abandoning the family and leaving her and her two sisters at a Catholic orphanage. When she turned 18, she left to work as a seamstress and began her brief stint as a cabaret singer, wherein she frequently sang popular songs such as Qui qu’a vu Coco and Ko Ko Ri Ko, which is how she got her famous nickname Coco.
Though now most known for her immense influence in the world of fashion and popularity of the Chanel bag, Chanel’s first store was actually a milliner’s shop located in the legendary Rue de Cambon. She eventually branched out to make her own clothes and is credited as the first designer to experiment with jersey, a fabric that had traditionally only been used to make men’s undergarments, to create simple yet elegant clothing that focused on comfort and practicality.
What are some of Coco Chanel’s most iconic designs?
The 2.55 Bag
Coco Chanel is rumored to have said: “I got fed up with holding my purses in my hands and losing them, so I added a strap and carried them over my shoulder.” The 2.55 Chanel Bag was introduced in February 1955 (that’s why it was named the 2.55!) and is one of Chanel’s most noteworthy and popular designs. Characterized by two gold chains and a rectangular fastening called the Mademoiselle Lock, the first 2.55 bags were made from jersey and were fashioned after Chanel’s preferred color palette: beige, brown, navy, and black. The small zipped compartment under the bag’s top flap is reported to have been designed by Chanel to keep secret love letters from her affairs. To this day, the Chanel 2.55 is still one of the most sought-after handbags of all time.
Chanel No. 5
It was in 1921 when Ernest Beaux, the perfumer to the Tsars, was commissioned by Chanel to come up with a fragrance that would go against the traditional notions of perfumery at the time, which originated from only one floral source. He came up with a unique scent featuring over 80 scents, including jasmine, ylang ylang, sandalwood, and orange blossom. Aptly named Chanel No. 5 as it was the fifth scent that Beaux presented to Chanel, it remains as the world’s most popular and bestselling perfume.
Coco Chanel’s own personal style has also heavily influenced fashion trends, with her signature jewelry look still copied to this day. From conducting fittings for her models to walking through the seaside resort town of Deauville, you could always count on her neck to be accessorized in many ropes of pearls. Always a woman ahead of her time, she criticized others for wearing what looked like their whole fortunes around their necks and challenged tradition by wearing her pearls with daytime clothing. Aside from Chanel bags, she began making costume jewelry during the mid-1920s and combined large imitation stones with pearls and crystals. As she reportedly said: “Costume jewelry is not made to given women an aura of wealth, but to make them beautiful.”
Where are Chanel bags made?
All Chanel handbags such as the Double Flap Bag and the Chanel Boy Bag are made in France, Italy, and on rarer occasions, Spain. You’ll find “Made in” labels stamped into the interior linings of the bags, which are discussed at a greater length in the latter part of this post. Under no circumstances should a Chanel bag ever have a “Made in Paris” label on it; this automatically means that the item is a counterfeit product.
How much are Chanel bags?
When the 2.55 Bag first came out in February 1955, it was available for $220. The price steadily went up throughout the decades and has since maintained a steady, and sometimes rapid, increase over the years.
A common question that’s frequently asked is if a Chanel bag price is cheaper in Paris. Since all foreign visitors are able to get a 12% VAT Refund, you’re essentially paying for a tax-free bag, which would have a smaller total than if you buy a Chanel purse in Los Angeles or New York. However, a lot of factors add to this, such as the cost of your trip to Paris rather than a 10-minute car ride to the nearest Chanel boutique in your city. Though it very rarely happens, some Chanel handbags do go on sale but the classic styles are always an exception to this. If you want the best deal on a Chanel handbag, buying it pre-owned or secondhand has plenty of advantages.
Why do Chanel bags go up in price?
There are a lot of likely reasons why Chanel bags keep getting more and more expensive. Not only does Chanel raise their retail prices at a rough average of 15% every year or so, but the demand for Chanel purses has never waned, so increasing their prices could be a part of their strategy to keep their products exclusive and lust-worthy. Other factors are due to inflation, the cost of labor, and the increase in the cost of materials.
How to authenticate Chanel bags
Similar to other leading luxury brands like Louis Vuitton and Hermés, Chanel is no stranger to imitation knockoffs, with their purses and wallets as some of the most copied bags in the world. With counterfeit versions becoming so well-made that it’s getting more and more difficult to distinguish what’s authentic and what isn’t, there’s no better time to learn a few tips on how to authenticate Chanel bags. Whether you’re the lucky owner of a small Chanel Boy handbag or you’ve finally gotten your hands on your first Chanel bag, read on for ways to distinguish authentic Chanel purses from counterfeit versions.
How to spot a fake Chanel bag
First impressions matter
The reason why Chanel bags are so exclusive is because of the impeccable quality and exceptional craftsmanship behind each design. Before you thoroughly examine a Chanel bag for authenticity, it’s always a good idea to get a general feel for it. If you spot any inconsistencies such as hardware with air bubbles or a chemical-like smell coming from the bag, you can assume that it’s not authentic. After all, you should expect nothing less than perfection from any Chanel purse.
The materials used
Most Chanel bags are made of lambskin leather or caviar leather. An ultra-smooth and supple leather, lambskin will almost have a buttery-soft feel when you glide your hands over it. Meanwhile, caviar leather is made from pebbled calfskin, so while it’s still equally as luxurious as lambskin, it feels grainier and more textured upon touching it. If the bag feels like it’s made from cheap material and has an overall inferior quality that’s not up to par with Chanel’s standards, then it’s likely a fake.
The interlocking CC logo lock
Karl Lagerfeld introduced the iconic interlocking CC logo in the mid-1980s. Unlike the original Chanel lock, which was rectangular and had no logos on it, the interlocking C logo is a status symbol at first glance and is more widely used on today’s Chanel bags. If you look closely at any authentic Chanel interlocking logo lock, it will have a “C” on the right side that overlaps the “C” on the left side. If you see a marking on the left side of the “C” logo lock, then it means that the product was manufactured in France. If there is no marking, then it was made in Italy. Locking and unlocking the bag should always be a smooth and seamless process; any struggle with this could mean that the hardware used is a fake.
Once you unlock the interlocking Cs and open the bag, you’ll see the backplate of the turnstile lock. There should be four screws on each corner, with the left side engraved with “Chanel” while the right side is engraved with “Paris”. Pay attention to the screws used on the backplate as Chanel purses only use flathead screws or star screws.
The logo lock for the Chanel Boy Bag
The Chanel Boy features a squeeze-lock closure instead of the traditional Mademoiselle lock or the interlocking C lock. The backplate features four screws on each side, using six-sided star screws. Unlike most Chanel bags, it’s important to remember that flathead screws are not used for Boy bags.
Examine the stitching
For Chanel’s classic diamond quilts, there are more than ten stitches per one inch for authentic bags. A counterfeit version will usually only have half of this stitch count or even less, resulting in a puffier-looking bag with a slightly uneven shape. On par with Chanel’s highest levels of standard, stitching will always have even spaces and will never be done in a sloppy manner.
Look at the interiors and stamping
When you open a lambskin 2.55 bag, you’ll see a stitched Chanel logo on the flap, which should have perfect stitching and an equal width. There will also be stamping that should measure approximately 1.5cm below the stitched logo. The stamping should state “CHANEL,” with another stamping that says “MADE IN FRANCE” on the opposite side (in the bag’s main interior). The same goes for caviar 2.55 bags, except that the “MADE IN FRANCE” stamping will next to “CHANEL,” so both can be located on the flap of the Chanel bag.
For all Chanel handbags, the color of the stamps will always be the same as the hardware of the bag. The stamping should not have any uneven spaces or any smudging on the letters. It’s also important to note that some bag styles will have a stamp embossed on the interior lining or on a leather patch instead.
Investigate the quilting
The diamond pattern for authentic Chanel quilted bags should always be consistent and seamlessly blend together. For Classic Flap Bags, close the bag and examine the flap to see if the diamond pattern still lines up perfectly with the rest of the bag. The same applies to any external pockets the bag may have.
Feel the weight of the chain straps
In the 1980s, Karl Lagerfeld decided to add leather to the chain straps of classic Chanel bags. Since then, most Chanel handbags have had leather straps that are interlaced with gold chain hardware. Knockoffs are likely to use gold-coated hardware that will look brighter and are likely to peel off.
While authentic chain hardware will vary in color depending on the Chanel bag style, it’s recommended to never overlook the smaller details, such as any sloppy stitching of the leather or any visible breaks in the chain. Another essential thing is to feel the weight of the chain strap. Real Chanel chain straps will be heavy and weighty in your hand; if it feels flimsy and lightweight, then it’s a knockoff version. This is especially the case for Boy Bags, which have wider chain-like straps with no leather woven in. On the sides of the straps are two rectangular-shaped hardware that have “CHANEL” engraved on them.
Look into the lining
The first-ever 2.55 Chanel handbag featured a burgundy red leather lining. Nowadays the linings for the Flap Bags can be either burgundy or black and are very smooth to the touch. If you try to separate the leather lining for these classic styles, you should have a very hard time doing so. Other bag styles will have different linings, for example, the popular Boy Bag has a simpler fabric lining in order to keep the bag more lightweight.
The general rule of thumb is that if the Chanel bag is lined in leather, there should be no bumps of any kind as it should lie completely flat. If the lining feels baggy or course to the touch, that’s a red flag you should take into consideration.
Understand the serial number stickers
During the mid-1980s, hologram stickers and authenticity cards were introduced and accompanied Chanel handbags. These signify the bag model and the year that the item was manufactured. Most serial stickers can be found somewhere in the bag’s interior lining and will contain the serial number for the product. If you can’t find a sticker on your Chanel bag, there’s no need to worry as the stickers that were used from the mid-'80s to the ‘90s could have been easily rubbed off. Chanel bags made before the 1980s will not have any hologram stickers.
Watch out for the authenticity cards
Authenticity cards are provided with each Chanel purse and should have the consistency of a credit card. Cards with gray circles on the right side mean that the item was made from 2005 onwards. If there’s no gray circle, that means it was manufactured before 2005. Unlike the stickers, authenticity cards will have no hologram sheen on them. The serial number on the authenticity card should match the number on the hologram sticker. If the serial numbers don’t match, this isn’t an immediate indicator of a fake as the cards are easily misplaced and could have been mistakenly swapped with another Chanel bag card. If you notice mistakes in spelling or see any uneven gold borders on the authenticity card, these should be looked into.
Do all Chanel bags have serial numbers?
All Chanel bags that were made after 1984 should have a unique serial number. The serial number is made of 6 to 8 digits, with bags made between 1984 to 1986 having 6 digits. A Chanel bag will never have more than 8 digits; if you find a serial number with 9 digits then it is automatically a fake.
As of early 2021, Chanel handbags do not feature a serial number sticker or come with an authenticity card. Chanel has replaced these with a microchip embedded inside a metal plaque.
Here is a quick guide to Chanel serial numbers:
|Serial Number||Year of Manufacture|
|26######||2018 – 2019|
|24######||2017 – 2018|
|22######||2016 – 2017|
|21######||2015 – 2016|
|20######||2014 – 2015|
|18######||2013 – 2014|
|17######||2012 – 2013|
|14######||2010 – 2011|
|13######||2009 – 2010|
|12######||2008 – 2009|
|11######||2006 – 2008|
|10######||2005 – 2006|
|9######||2004 – 2005|
|8######||2003 – 2004|
|7######||2002 – 2003|
|6######||2000 – 2002|
|5######||1997 – 1999|
|4######||1996 – 1997|
|3######||1994 – 1996|
|2######||1991 – 1994|
|1######||1989 – 1991|
|0######||1986 – 1988|
As mentioned, the serial number on the authenticity card should have the same digits as the number on the hologram sticker’s. The year of manufacture should also be on par with the bag style’s release. For example, the Chanel Boy was released in 2011. If the serial number shows that it was released prior to that, then it’s a fake.
Is a Chanel bag worth it?
Owning a Chanel bag is a stylish investment piece that will definitely retain its value over time. Classic Chanel handbags also represent an important turning point in fashion history, as well as being a reflection of Coco Chanel’s timeless and unparalleled style. Chanel purses are timeless designs that ensure you’ll get a lot of mileage out of them no matter your age or your personal style.
Where to buy Chanel bags
There are plenty of options when it comes to buying Chanel handbags. Whether you decide to purchase one in Chanel’s online store or save some money by buying through us, owning a Chanel bag is a special milestone for anyone.