Chanel caviar or lambskin is probably the most debated question for many bag lovers and Chanel addicts. I couldn’t answer this question for the longest time which held me off from purchasing the classic flap.
There are a lot of blog posts and materials online regarding this topic (I especially love all the helpful posts on Purse Forum!) However, I want to share my two cents because every Chanel buyer (especially first time) will come across this debate. In my opinion, there are 20 key considerations (yes 20!) Hope you find this post helpful!
For disclosure, I have finally decided on the lambskin and I will share my personal reasons in brackets!1. Type of Bag – The type of bag impacts the caviar or lambskin decision. If you are looking to buy a cross body bag (i.e., WOC) then I think caviar is a better choice since it will be worn against your hips and is more likely to be bumped / scratched. If you are looking to buy a tote (i.e., GST) then the durable caviar will be a safer bet. If you are looking for a shoulder bag then you can consider both caviar and lambskin. If you are looking to buy wallets / SLGs then you should pick the durable caviar for everyday use! (My ideal Chanel collection is a black jumbo caviar and a red M/L lambskin.)
2. Color – Lambskin is better with darker colors because the wear and tear will be less visible. So in theory for darker colors, you can should go with lambskin and in lighter colors you should go with caviar. However, I think colored lambskin is richer and much more beautiful than the same color in caviar.
3. Size – In general, smaller and bigger bags are better in caviar. Then the mid-size bags you can consider lambskin. Between the jumbo and M/L flap, I think caviar is better on the jumbo purely because the jumbo has a larger surface area and is more likely to get scratched. If you are looking for the M/L classic flap then there is no clear winner between caviar or lambskin.
4. Preferred Look / Feel – Do you prefer the look of the smooth lambskin or the pebbled caviar? If you prefer lambskin then consider whether your preference will change if it’s lambskin + a few scratches. Also do you prefer the buttery soft touch of the lambskin or the studier feel of the caviar? Overall, I think the lambskin is more luxurious and dressy looking while the caviar is more young and casual looking. (I personally love the look and feel of the lambskin. So many times I would go to the store set on getting the practical caviar only to turn away because I just didn’t love the look / feel of the caviar. The weird thing is I prefer caviar in the jumbo size but I really don’t like caviar in the M/L, to me it feels and looks plastic-y.) 5. Number of Bags in Your Collection – If you only have a few handbags in your collection then caviar is the better choice. On the flip side, if you have a large handbag collection and this will be your “special” bag, then go for lambskin! Also if most of your collection is more durable handbags then maybe it’s time to welcome a “baby” to your collection! However, if you have a few delicate bags then it might be good to try the durable caviar! (I don’t have a large handbag collection but I do have a few bags and the Chanel classic flap will definitely be my “special” bag, so I ended up picking the lambskin.)
6. Practically / Intended Use: Do you intend to use your bag everyday or is it for special occasions only? If everyday pick caviar, if special occasions only pick lambskin. Although, from comments on Purse Forums, some people do wear lambskin everyday and they have no problems! Also if you are planning to travel with this bag then caviar is definitely the smarter choice. Overall, caviar is definitely more practical and carefree! (I would like the option to use it everyday but I know this will likely be my special occasion bag just because it’s not appropriate / practical during the weekdays for work and for weekends I would still like to rotate through my bags.)
7. Your OCD-Level: Are you OCD about your items (especially your handbags)? If scratches and marks give you anxiety then please save yourself the heartache and get the caviar! You are spending way too much money so you should enjoy the bag and not to worry about it! On the other hand, if you are okay with some scratches and marks and like your bag to have “character” then lambskin is a good choice. (Personally I am only OCD about my bags for the first few months then after regularly use / a few scratches, I don’t pay as much attention anymore.)
8. “Chanel Dream”: How many Chanels do you want in your collection? I’m sure we all want unlimited number of Chanel classic flaps or boy bags; however, realistically how many do you need to be content? If you only need one then I would suggest picking a lambskin because that is quintessential Chanel! If you want more than one then it may be better to buy caviar first then lambskin. (My Chanel dream is a black jumbo caviar and a red M/L lambskin!)
9. Resale Value: If you tend to sell your bags or think you might want to sell your Chanel in the future then pick caviar. Based on used Chanel’s on Fashionphile and Yoogi’s Closet, caviar has a much better resale value than lambskin (sometimes for the same bag the difference can be ~$1,000)! This is likely due to lambskin showing more wear and tear and thus less valued. (I don’t intend on selling my classic flap so resale value is less relevant for me. Although it’s nice to know your bag will fetch a good price!)
10. “Special” Factor: This might be biased because I personally love the lambskin. A Chanel classic flap in any leather would be special but a Chanel classic flap in lambskin is extra special in my opinion!
11. Care / Storage: Do you have a habit of taking the time to properly stuff and store your handbags after each use? Storage for lambskin is more important than caviar. You have to stuff the bag, put felt protective covers over the flaps, and wrap the chains so the hardware won’t “dent” the lambskin. If you don’t mind taking the time to properly store your bags then having a lambskin Chanel might be okay for you. On the other hand, if you’re too busy or you don’t have the habit of taking the time to store your bags then you should consider caviar. (Personally I’m in the middle. I take the time to stuff my bags but that is it. However, I don’t think I would mind taking the extra step to store the lambskin and I am aware that even if I do everything correctly, the zipper and hardware will still dent the leather.)
12. Your Usual Outfit: Do you often wear leather jackets, jeans or any clothing with zippers, studs and other embellishments? If so then caviar might be a better fit because your cloths are less likely to cause scratches against the leather. However, if your usually outfit is soft sweaters, silk skirts, flowy dresses, etc. then lambskin can be a consideration. (My cloths are pretty simple with no “sharp” edges so it should be not be a problem).
13. Use-O-Meter: How careful are you with your bags when you use them? If you tend to throw your bags around (on the floor / benches) then caviar would be better (although you probably won’t throw your Chanel bag around even if it’s caviar leather). If you tend to put your handbags on a chair or even in your laps then you can consider lambskin. Another consideration is whether you are always on the go / in a rush where you are less likely to tend to your bags. (Depending on the bag, leather type and whether the bag has feet, I would put the bag on the floor, chair, etc. Overall, I think won’t mind paying a little more attention to a lambskin bag while I’m using it on special occasions.)
14. Your Nails / Jewelry: If you have long nails or tend to wear a lot of bracelets then caviar is the better choice. On the flip side, if you have shorter nails with minimal jewelry then lambskin is probably okay. (I keep my nails short so I can type and usually I only have one or two bracelets so it should not be a problem as well.)
15. Puffiness / Shine: Chanel’s diamond puffs are iconic and well loved. I think lambskins starts out puffier but as it ages it de-puffs faster. So if you like the look of the puff then caviar will be the better bet long term. Also do you like the shine of the leather? I think the lambskin is shinier than the caviar. However, I do think used caviar develops a shine over time because the new caviar bags in stores are pretty dull while the used ones in pictures are much more shinier. Please let me know if you’ve had experience and know whether caviar “patina” and develops a shine overtime! (I like the puff and the shine.)
16. New vs. Used: If you are buying a Chanel bag brand new then I would suggest considering the caviar. In my opinion, you usually don’t save that much buying it pre-loved and the price difference is not enough to justify the potential risk of getting an inauthentic bag. If you are buying a used Chanel then lambskin is a better choice. You will get a greater discount on the bag and don’t worry if it already shows wear and tear because even if you purchased a new lambskin, it will eventually show the same wear and tear. (I am not yet comfortable with buying a bag pre-loved out of the fear that the bag I purchase will not be authentic. For my first Chanel, I purchased it new and I still went against logic and purchased a lambskin!)
17. Preference in 5, 10, 20 years? Most Chanel bags are classics and it’s likely you will still be carrying it in 10 to 20 years. Do you think you would want a well-loved lambskin or a still new-looking caviar? I know is it hard to know your preference in the future but I think it is a worthy consideration. (I personally think in my 50s I prefer a lambskin bag over a caviar.)
18. “Fit” With Your Life: I think your lifestyle impacts the caviar or lambskin decision. If you have an active lifestyle and tend to be on the go then caviar would be better. If you are a busy mom with cute babies or young children then caviar would also be the better option!
19. Vintage: If you are considering a vintage bag then definitely go for lambskin! Vintage lambskin is incredible! I think it’s so interesting that we don’t see too many vintage caviar bags, at least I don’t. Is caviar a “newer” type of Chanel leather or did a majority of women prefer lambskin 10-20 years ago? Let me know if you know the answer or have a theory!
20. Brain vs. Heart: Out of all the considerations this is most important and sometimes the only consideration that matters. For me, my brain told me to go with caviar because it’s more practical but my heart told me to go with lambskin. In the end, my heart won. If the answer in your brain is the same as your heart then you don’t have any problems, but if you are like me and your brain and heart are telling you different things then I think it’s wiser to listen to your heart on this one or you just won’t be satisfied…
After 5 years, reading thousands of comments and blogs posts and watching hundreds of YouTube videos, I finally decided on lambskin. I thought about all the considerations above but in the end it came down to this one rationale: if I buy a caviar bag then I know I will still want a lambkin classic flap. However, if I buy a lambskin now then I will be okay with not owning a caviar classic flap.
Regardless what you end up deciding, just remember to not regret your choice because either way you got yourself a Chanel! Even if you change your mind later, Chanel bags tend to hold their values pretty well so the switch won’t be too pricy! Don’t spend so much just to worry and doubt. Spend it, Enjoy it!
As always thank you for reading!