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Which Pre-Loved Chanel Flaps are the Best Buys?

"Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance.” Coco Chanel.

Coco was the queen of the quotable. Behind the glamour and the high-profile romances with English royalty and German intelligence officers, was an acutely intelligent mind with a singular understanding of what it meant to be a woman in the 20th century. If there was one thing she knew more than any other, it was elegance. She owned Parisian fashion in the 1920s; inventing sportswear, blending male and female styles, introducing lace and adding glitz to Bohemianism. In 1929 she brought us the first handbag with straps and in February, 1955, after a fashion hiatus, she came back with her most lasting contribution to the fashion world—the 2.55 bag.

Soon to be 68, there is still nothing like the 2.55. In fact, we wrote an ode to it being the best handbag ever made. Although it has an air of simplicity, it actually has a handful of ingenious details that give it inimitable character—the gender-neutral mix of a feminine cut with harsh metal accents, the exquisite quilted stitching, the femme fatal-burgundy interior, the secret pockets. While few people could be trusted to play with such a design, Karl Lagerfeld, a lifelong admirer of Coco, reimagined and remodelled it many times and largely did it justice, with most pieces deftly paying equal homage to Coco and to the generation in which they are born. There are, however, copious options and today’s shopper is faced with a sea of choice. So to help you get the one that works for you, here are the things our buying experts look out for.

Which Pre-Loved Chanel Flaps are the Best Buys?

Model

Starting with the basics, there are four generations of Chanel Flap—Coco’s original 2.55, Lagerfeld’s Classic Flap from the ‘80s, the Reissue 2.55 from 2005 and the Le Boy from 2012. We love all of them in their own particular ways but here’s a quick breakdown of how we see them…

The Classic Flap comes in single or double, which merely describes how many pockets it has. It’s more feminine than Coco’s original as it has the gold hardware with the CC lock and accentuated quilting. These are the most popular designer bags ever made and are usually seen in soft black lambskin in a range of sizes. They hit the mark and they probably always will. Whether vintage or new these are equally stylish and have long been the number one choice for the collector and first time buyer. We like to have one in the collection alongside other options for when we want to mix it up. But then again, who doesn’t!

BLACK QUILTED LAMBSKIN VINTAGE SMALL CLASSIC DOUBLE FLAP BAG 1990
BLACK QUILTED JERSEY FABRIC MEDIUM CLASSIC DOUBLE FLAP BAG 1994

The original 2.55s are now quite hard to get hold of and while they definitely nail that retro look they possibly do it a little too convincingly. For us, you’re better of with the Reissue 2.55, which is a near-exact replica but with aged leather and a modern cut. Less ubiquitous than the Classic Flap and more Coco, the Reissue is our favourite.

VIOLET QUILTED JERSEY FABRIC 2.55 REISSUE 226 DOUBLE FLAP BAG 2013
CORAL ORANGE QUILTED PATENT LEATHER 2.55 REISSUE 226 DOUBLE FLAP BAG 2011

The Le Boy is based on Coco’s gender-blending tendency. It’s named after one of her early lovers Arthur “Boy” Capel who provided the money for her first shop at 31 rue Cambon, Paris. It has a borderline gothic feel with its rough and ready lock and chunky chain in “aged” metal. It also has a border on the front flap and overall it strays furthest from the original. It has plenty of character and it has been a huge hit in recent years, especially as gender-fluidity has finally entered the market. Again it’s rarer than the Classic Flap and decidedly more modern, but generally it suits a younger, rockier crowd.

GREY CHEVRON QUILTED CALFSKIN LEATHER MEDIUM LE BOY 2014
NAVY QUILTED LAMBSKIN MEDIUM LE BOY 2016

Colour and Material

The Flap bag was born in black and metal and that’s the way we like it best. That said, the Classic Flap combination of smooth black lambskin and yellow gold hardware outsells anything else and the harmony of black and gold cannot be ignored. However, what with the flooded market, colour adds individuality, as does material. Caviar leather is more durable and the grain has character, but options in tweed and jersey fabric are even less common. 

BLACK QUILTED CAVIAR LEATHER SMALL CLASSIC DOUBLE FLAP 2005

But above all else, ethical question aside of course, are the exotic skins. We recently got our hands on a Reissue in black alligator with the aged metal and it’s one of the best handbags we have ever laid our eyes on.

BLACK ALLIGATOR LEATHER 2.55 REISSUE 227 DOUBLE FLAP BAG 2011
“The best things in life are free. The second-best things are very, very expensive.” Coco Chanel.

Where

Since the fifties the price of Chanel handbags has risen considerably above the rate of inflation, but it was in the 2000s that it really started to skyrocket. In general, the price of Chanel Flaps has doubled since 2010 alone, with the Classics leading the charge in terms of appreciation and some rare and exotic versions finding their ways into auction houses. Given the prices, the best place to buy nowadays is through the online pre-owned dealers with the best reputations. At Xupes, for example, the fastest-growing seller in the UK, you can find a wide selection of pre-loved and vintage Chanel bags from across the decades. All bags are authenticated by experts, serviced where necessary and accurately priced. This means you get the high quality pieces at typically 20-50% off RRP.

In Short

To wrap things up then, for us, while we love the one-off versions and wild colours and offbeat materials, which particularly suit the bolder amongst us, the Reissue in the original black and metal is Coco-level simplicity and it takes gold as an everyday bag. True elegance.

That said, generally speaking all Chanel Flaps, providing you buy them pre-owned, can be sold for the same if not more than you bought them for, so, and this is the real beauty, you can keep swapping your bags if you don’t have the luxury of building a collection! So have a browse of the huge array of designs from over the years. They are all made to exceptional standards and reflect the vision of two of the most influential names in fashion. 

For more reviews and views, follow our magazine, or for buying options you can shop pre-loved and vintage Chanel Flap bags on Xupes.