Changing the exterior color of your leather handbags, purses and backpacks

The recoloring decision

A client brought in a Balenciaga Gris goatskin handbag with carry handles and a shoulder strap for "cleaning and conditioning."

The handbag was heavily soiled, scratched and crushed. The cording on the carry handles was badly frayed. And the exterior color varied from very light to very dark olive.

The client asked whether it would be possible to "clean and condition" the handbag.

After careful evaluation of the handbag, we informed her that a cleaning and conditioning -- no matter how thorough --  would only only result in a marginal improvement and that she would be disappointed with the results. We informed her that, as such, we would have to -- reluctantly -- decline the work.

Recognizing that she would be disappointed, we suggested that she consider a full restoration of the handbag. We explained that this would involve repairing, cleaning, conditioning and recoloring (aka repainting) the handbag.

We also explained that the value of the handbag -- in it's then current condition -- was close to zero and that a full restoration was likely to increase the value of the handbag to a least 2 to 3 times the cost of the restoration.

This led to a discussion of the restoration process, in general, and to the issue of color, in particular.

The client asked us to suggest a new color for the handbag -- a color that would blend in with the silver hardware, the color of the zippers and the color of the interior lining (which was, incredibly, in very good condition).

We informed that client that, although we offer over 70 different colors, we would like to suggest an alternative approach.

When we originally examined the handbag, we noticed that the attached mirror embedded in a gray-colored  leather holder. We deduced that, in all probability, the exterior of the handbag was originally that same gray color.

We suggested that she consider "repainting" the handbag the same color as the mirror, thereby retaining the "authenticity" of the handbag. We reinforced the "authenticity" idea by googling "Balenciaga Gris handbags" and discovered that gray was a standard color for this Balenciaga handbag.

The client liked the idea. We'd finally agreed that we would  repair, clean, condition and repaint the handbag gray.

The results

The results of the transformation can be seen in the following BEFORE and AFTER photographs:

RAVE FabriCARE in Scottsdale, Arizona cleans and conditions handbags, purses, wallets and backpacks. RAVE FabriCARE can also recolor (aka repaint) these accessories.

For even more BEFORE and AFTER photographs on the transformation of this handbag, please view our slide show below:

To view this slide show on a full screen, hit the X button with the arrow tips.


How we can help you

There is no "one shot" solution to every handbag. Every leather handbag is different -- type of skin; existing color; color of hardware, color of the lining and zipper base material; damage; staining, soiling and scratching.

Accordingly, every handbag requires an individualized evaluation. After evaluation, a course of action can be formulated to restore a handbag to as close to original condition as is technologically feasible.

That being said, here are some of the actions that could be included in a full restoration of a leather handbag:

  • Neutralize noticeable odors (smoke, mustiness, fragrance, etc.)
  • Hand clean the interior lining
  • Disinfect the interior lining with virucide (kills bacterial and viral pathogens)
  • Hand clean the outer surface
  • Condition/hydrate/rejuvenate the exterior leather (maintains the long term suppleness of the skin)
  • Select an exterior color (in most cases, a darker color)

In this regard, decisions that need to be made include:

Is the new color in our inventory of 70 plus standard colors?

If not, can the client provide a color swatch (from a paint or fabric store) of the new color?

Will the color contrast on leather edging be retained or be covered?

Will the color of existing lining clash with the new color and require changing?

If the color of the lining will be changed, what fabric (linen, canvas, nylon, polyester, silk and ultrasuede) will be used?

Please note: when it comes to changing the lining of a handbag, purse, wallet or backpack, we do not recommend suede linings.

Will the color of the exiting zipper(s) clash with the new color and require changing?
Please note: when it comes to changing the color of a handbag, purse, wallet or backpack, we have many more options for leather than suede.

  • Reshape the slouching, folded and creased corners, bottoms and sides
  • Apply a RAVEshield water and stain repellant (not available for suede, unfinished cowhide/vachetta, patent leather, vinyl, PVC coated canvas and various other plastics)
  • Package in a custom made, breathable, polypropylene dust cover.