At the tail of the first decade of the 21st Century, vintage for the first time, went mainstream into high fashion. Spearheaded by Gucci, heritage designers raced to dust off their archives, bringing back logocentric jacquard handbags that were once ubiquitous at the turn of the century. The calling for a conscious economy and sustainable consumerism transformed the perception of second hand goods from “thrift” to “hipster chic”. Vintage logo canvas bags from Gucci, Dior, and Fendi doubled or tripled their resale value from just a few years ago, as Instagram stars mixed and matched their million dollar lifestyle with a satirical Sex & The City flare.
Bearing a close resemblance to the newly revived Gucci handbags (or vice versa), the once dumpstered canvas bags from Gucci Accessories Collection back in 1980s have become one of the most sought-after vintage bags. The release of Gucci Ophidia, pushed up the resale value of its almost identical predecessor, the web camera bag to somewhere from $500 to $900 on popular resale sites of The RealReal and Vestiaire Collective alike, and often time sold out, which is up to 10 times of its original retail price back in 1980s.
The undiscerning fad for vintage Gucci was troubling and unsettling for people who want fashion to be taken seriously. 40 years ago, these bags, the Gucci Accessories Collection (GAC) canvas bags, were the trigger of Gucci’s very first disaster of losing control of its quality, falling from grace of the ultimate Italian luxury. Gucci Accessories Collection was introduced in 1979, intended as what now called a diffusion line, at a much more accessible price point complementary to Gucci’s licensed perfume business. By end of 1980s, “the GAC would be the product - massively distributed through department stores and cosmetic counters - that professional buyers associated with Gucci’s ‘drugstore image’”*. This, along with a decade long family dispute led the brand come to its first dormancy and eventual change of ownership.
Never intended made to last or upcycle, these GAC bags are trimmed with pigskin, an inexpensive leather type, certainly not a luxury favorite, due to its visible pores, stiffness, and difficulty to absorb various dye colors.
The interior was even more humbly made, with printed paper tag and a thin fabric lining coated with tonal plastic paint that is prone to peeling and chipping. Most of the lining of GAC bags will peel away over time regardless of usage.
Even Gucci’s main line of business at the time, in my biased opinion, was of little aspiration. I put ads of Gucci and Chanel in 1986 and 1987 side by side; the images should speak for themselves: if Gucci is heritage, Chanel is pure legend.
Not all vintage bags came from the same pedigree. If Chanel and Hermès are better than gold and stock markets, Gucci would be the bubble or the subprime haste. At the end of the day, allow me to stay optimistic, only quality and originality could withstand the erosion of fashion trends. Question is - who’s there to burst the bubble?
* Sara, G. Forden, The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed, 2001