smart move

These 3 Products Saved My Céline Bag From the Rain

Another very expensive bag that could use some protectant. Photo: YOUNGJUN KOO/I’M KOO

Two years ago, I decided to take the plunge and buy an insanely expensive Céline handbag. I was on vacation and with the currency exchange, I did that delusional thing one does while on holiday. Oh, it’s so much cheaper than if I had bought it in New York. I’m toooootally saving money. So I handed over my credit card and became the proud owner of a gorgeous burgundy saddle bag. The leather was spectacular — I must have spent an hour stroking it lovingly. It had a gold clasp, the kind of signature Phoebe Philo finishing touch to make it feel extra special.

That specific leather-and-gold-clasp combo, as lovely as it looked, also became the bag’s biggest downfall. Every time I opened or closed my purse, tiny scratches accumulated. The clasp needed to be guided into its slot and, being a fairly clumsy person, I would miss more often than not. This left a series of long, vertical marks on the leather that drove me mad. Also, in my shopping-induced haze I didn’t even consider what would happen if my precious purchase got wet.

So I did the only thing a crazy handbag obsessive would do — I searched Purse Forum for leather protectors exhaustively. I learned two things: (1) People go to insane lengths to keep their bags pristine and (2) You can effectively safeguard your new purchase with very specific combination of products. A few names were tossed around but the most popular were Collonil waterproof protectant spray, Cadillac conditioner, and this trio of products from a brand called Apple (no relation to the tech giant). They all had comparable rave reviews on Amazon so I dug deeper and did an informal poll of friends who trawl the forums as much as I do. The overwhelming response was to choose Apple. My friends trusted them on their pricey Chanel and Hermès collections above all other leather protectors.

The process is tedious — it takes several hours for the layers of product to dry effectively. The initial step is to clean your bag, no matter how new it may be, because you don’t want to rub or seal in dust and dirt. I dabbed a few drops of the cleanser into a terry-cloth towel and massaged it gently onto the leather. It resembled a creamy lotion with a chemical scent that reminded me vaguely of a Clorox wipe. When applied it will darken your bag briefly and that caused me to freak out initially. But once I laid it down on another clean towel and left it overnight to dry properly, the leather wasn’t stained.

After giving it a night to dry, I waited until the next day to apply the conditioner. You repeat the same motion: dab onto a cloth, massage in, and let dry. Since leather is a skin, you want it to be as plump and hydrated as your face, except you use this cream and not La Mer. Three hours later, it seemed ready, so I sprayed it with the repellent before letting it set overnight.

One caveat: The combination of conditioning and waterproof-spraying won’t make your bag bulletproof (nothing is that good). You also need to follow up with this process every six months or so. Tiny scratches are inevitable but these three products will protect your purse from major slashes. You’ll still need to use an umbrella but on drizzly days (or when I find myself under a disgusting, drippy air conditioner), the water rolls off easily, without staining. I once even spilled half an iced coffee down the front, without leaving a mark. Two years and many wears later, my beloved Céline bag looks almost as good as the day I bought it — and it would be pristine, were I more diligent with the reapplication process. I guess I know what I’m doing this weekend.

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Here’s How I Protect My Expensive Bag From the Rain