The bamboo and the milliner

I haven’t been looking at bags for quite some… time inside thrift stores . As a result, I was so delighted to see these two unexpected items. It was an unplanned trip because I was already on my way to Makati from Marikina. But as I was already in Cubao, I might as well drop by one store just because I had to.

First, it was this vintage Gucci leather case with bamboo zipper pulls and gold hardware. The poor thing was just sitting on the eye-level shelf of a five layer rack for pouches and clutches, but I immediately recognized the zipper pulls even from afar. It baffles me how anyone would miss or ignore such iconic bamboo accents. Judging by how it originally looked, the leather body had already seen better days and had a lot of superficial stains. Those were perceivably enough deterrent to prevent anyone from picking it up. However, I knew right away that the leather used was one of those hardy Gucci leathers. A slight pressure from my thumb had removed a little smudge at the surface, and it was not something my trusted pair of leather cleaner and conditioner could not handle. Here’s a look at what it had looked before I restored it:

Before restoration of the vintage Gucci bamboo cosmetic leather bag

Before restoration of the vintage Gucci with bamboo zipper pulls

Coincidentally, I just finished reading an elaborate book on the history of the Gucci group last week, and discovered what prompted them to use bamboo in their bags. Decades ago, Italy was still facing a fascist dictatorship and the shortages of raw materials prompted Gucci to use unconventional products (e.g. bamboo, hemp, raffia). I don’t need to elaborate how this material, along with the horsebit hardware and their flora print, became one of the most highly associated icons to their brand. I remember selling a black leather bag with a bamboo handle on Ebay about four years ago, and I haven’t seen another one in person for years (except maybe the Bamboo Top Handle bag behind the glass in Simone Handbag Museum back in 2012.)

It was not difficult to bring the leather back to its glorious state. After two rounds of spraying leather cleaner (with five minutes rest in between), heating the leather with a hair dryer and another two rounds of applying leather conditioner, this is how it turned out to be:

Restored vintage Gucci bamboo zipper cosmetic leather bag

Restored vintage Gucci

Vintage Gucci bamboo zipper cosmetic leather bag 2

Looking less flattened out than before

Not a grime in sight on the leather surface

Not a grime in sight on the leather surface

Leather handle and gold hardware of this vintage Gucci bamboo cosmetic after4

Hairline scratches on the gold hardware attaching the leather handle

Iconic bamboo zipper pulls of this vintage Gucci bamboo cosmetic after3

Bamboo pulls on the LAMPO zipper barely showing their age

To bring the leather back to shape, I had to stuff it with two folded eco bags. Surprisingly, I got the desired results after only about twenty minutes. The vintage item looked better than before. The inside has some minor issues, though. This type of leather is usually paired with a problematic lining. Nowadays, most bags (regardless if it were made from leather or canvas) use canvas linings, but earlier styles had leather ones. I have seen worse cases wherein the leather lining was very sticky, thus it was impossible to put anything inside without getting them covered with flaking leather. Fortunately, this vintage was still not at that point, except for pronounced scratches. To prevent this possible outcome, I have already put two small sachets of silica gel to absorb moisture.

The second item I had the shock to find was like the stuff of legends. Well, the designer was more renowned as a milliner, whose designs were furthermore shoved into the limelight when his creations were paraded one after the other during Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding: Philip Treacy. No, I did not find a Philip Treacy hat, but I still had the shock of my life when I fished out this clutch from the far-end of the second row shelf. It was propped against the wall, behind the other items for sale.

Cue the 'Hallelujah Chorus' --- a black Philip Treacy New Proportion clutch

Cue the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ — a black Philip Treacy New Proportion clutch

The photo shown above was already the after-restoration. Frankly, there was not much to do with the outer material, as it was just easily cleaned by a leather cleaner. It also had several smudges and grime, but it just took a single round of polishing to achieve its very polished look. The clasp hardware barely showed any usage as well. The wonders of having mobile internet while treasure hunting is that I get to research for product information while rummaging through items. I found out that this clutch is actually a Philip Treacy New Proportion clutch.

I have seen several variations, such as a black sequined:


a B&W polka dot:


a purple silk:


a gold glittered:


an electric blue one:


as well as Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe Lips print:


The prices vary from a discounted $275 to the full price $525, and even goes up with those Warhol designs. Remember that Daily Fail feature from two years ago, about a supposed fortune a thrifted Philip Treacy/Warhol bag that could have fetched a pensioner? Well, its supposed $350,000 value was already disputed by Philip Treacy’s camp, but it was always nice to get a sleek item at a fraction of the retail price, non?

Back to the clutch, what is more interesting was the surprise inside. Aside from the zipped pocket with a metal plaque, the lining is always an unexpected one. For this clutch, it has a tiger print lining. Ignore the unsightly mark at the right side of the zipped pocket, as it was where the price was unceremoniously stapled (ouch!):

Kitty wants to scratch

Kitty wants to scratch!

The question is, do I need this Philip Treacy? Nope. Do I have any use for it? Another no. But it was too pretty to pass up, and I would be most willing to loan the item to anyone who’d need a touch of glamour for any upcoming event. And the best part was I paid close to nothing for these items! Okay, I was exaggerating, but who in their right mind can sleep at night, knowing that a vintage Gucci and a Philip Treacy were equivalent of almost three McDonald’s Happy Meal apiece?



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