How a $3,000 burned Chanel Flap Bag is professionally restored

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  • Leather craftsman Gerry Gallagher is the owner of Leather Surgeons in Philadelphia.
  • He shows us how he restores a burned Chanel Jumbo Classic Flap Bag.
  • This includes cleaning, removing the burned part, quilting a replacement, and reassembling the bag.

Following is a transcript of the video.

Narrator: My name is Gerry Gallagher, master leather craftsman and founder of Leather Surgeons. Today we have a black caviar Chanel classic flap jumbo bag that's been severely damaged by an incandescent light bulb. We had this customer reach out to us. She did a closet restoration, actually, and somehow an incandescent light bulb from a contractor burned its way clear through her handbag. Through the outer flap, through the lining. But what I'm going to try to do here is just graft new leather over the damaged area and preserve as much of the original part of the bag as I possibly can.

I'm going to start by opening up all the stitches around the front flap of the bag. We're going to use a sewing awl and a really sharp knife to be able to just get in between the lining of the bag and the shell of the bag without causing any damage. I like to pull out the stitches one at a time, 'cause eventually when we stitch this bag back together, we're going to have to stitch in the same exact holes that the manufacturer stitched in the first time. I'm going to open up the two gusset tacks so that we can access the interior lining of the bag, between the shell and the lining of the bag, and see just how much we need to do as far as replacing the internals. The burn went completely through the outer shell and through the interior lining of the bag.

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For the most challenging part of this job, we have the damaged area in the lower right quadrant. So it will be much easier for me to take the front panel off and just recreate the front panel. But what I'd like to do is preserve as much of the front panel of the bag as I possibly can and just replace the part that's damaged. So I'm going take my knife and I'm going to very carefully skive off, which means cut away, the existing leather that's burned or damaged. I'm going to make our little pattern, and I'm going to replace that piece of leather. I use a pattern to cut the size of the front panel and make sure it's 100% accurate.

Because the bag was so severely damaged and it was burned completely through, and actually clear through the interior lining, I'm going to cut fresh lining panels. We have patterns already precut for this particular bag. The interior lining of the bag is made of goat, so we replace it with goat. As far as Chanel, this bag is Chanel caviar leather, which we also stock. We're able to replace everything about this bag exactly the way it was done the first time.

I'm going to take that piece of caviar leather and I'm going to hand-skive it, which means shave it down. If I skive the leather paper-thin and I lay it right along that line, when I drop my new stitch over that seam, there'll be zero transition between what was there before and what we have now. It should completely disappear. I'm gonna lie and cement that piece of leather right over that seam. This a traditional leather contact cement, so you need to apply the cement to both surfaces and give it a minute or two to set and then press the pieces together.

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When you're doing a restoration and you want to put the stitch back in the stitch hole that was there before, you need to aim the needle for the hole. So when I requilt this leather, any stitches that are visible, I have to make sure I drop the stitch in the same exact hole. It's just a question of measuring everything out. Because the flap quilting has to match the body of the bag quilting. When you close that bag, all of those seams should line up.

Now we're going to unweave the leather of the chain. This customer felt that the patina on the gold was starting to fade a little bit, so we replate the metal. Then I'm going to reweave that leather through the chain and stitch the two ends. I feel really good about what we did here today. We took a bag that would've otherwise been trashed, and we gave it a new lease on life.

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