The Balenciaga City Bag is one of my favorite handbags in my designer bag collection. It may not have been the first designer bag I ever bought – but it’s easily one of my most loved. Let’s talk about why.
Nicholas Ghesquière is who we have to thank for the City Bag we know and love today. Ghesquière now leads the charge at Louis Vuitton, but was the creative genius at Balenciaga who saw a hole in the handbag industry for a softer, unstructured, carefree silhouette. The now much loved City Bag dates back to its 2001 debut, originally dubbed the “Motorcycle City Bag.” Ghesquière’s design wasn’t originally embraced by the company, as its complete lack of any structure was so different from any other popular bags on the market. Ghesquière did what any smart, savvy, confident designer would do – he created a small handful of prototypes and put them in the hands of all the “it” girls of the early 2000’s
And they fell in love. Each and every one of them.
Balenciaga has made a wide variety of Motorcycle Bag styles, from the original City Bags to a City tote style. Even within each Motorcycle Bag category, there are different hardware options, sizing options, leather and fabric options – and more.
My personal favorite Balenciaga City Bag size is the Town or the classic City!
The classic Balenciaga hardware we all likely know and absolutely love is traditionally made with antiqued brass and is small in size. This hardware can be seen in slightly different color tones (gold, silver, etc) depending on the collection.
Giant 21 hardware was featured on bags made between 2007 and 2012. This hardware is noticeably larger in size compared to the Classic hardware. Colors used include silver, gold, and rose gold.
The Giant 12 hardware replaced 21, launching in 2012. Giant 12 has also been produced in silver, gold, and rose gold.
Rose Gold Hardware
Rose Gold hardware hit Balenciaga bags starting in 2011. You’ll find that Rose Gold hardware styles have a beautiful, rosy golden tint to them, including all the studs as well as zippers.
Brogues hardware indicates that the studs are covered in leather rather than exposed metal. Brogues hardware was introduced in 2011.
The Metallic Edge collection is known as one of Balenciaga’s most popular Motorcycle Bag launches to date. Metallic Edge styles feature shiny metal details along with metal plates.
Like many high end designers, Balenciaga offers a wide range of material options when it comes to their handbags. You can find City Bags in a variety of materials – including my favorite linen style. If you’re more of a fan of leather bags, Balenciaga has three main leather options in their Motorcycle Bag range.
Lambskin is the most used material in City Bag styles. Lambskin is soft, pliable, and gracefully shows signs of aging. Lambskin will continue to soften and relax over time. If you love a slouchy, lived in sort of look, Agneau leather is for you.
Goatskin leather is a more rarely used material in Balenciaga’s City Bag line. You can find the Chèvre leather in specific, limited collections (such as the Metallic Edge styles).
Calfskin leather is the most durable of all the leathers Balenciaga uses in their bags. Calfskin leather is thicker and more structured than the common lambskin. Similar to the Chèvre leather, this material can be found in more limited styles and collections (again, such as Metallic Edge).
As of 2021, Balenciaga updated the shape of the well known and much loved classic City bag. The “Neo” Classic, the bag is no longer a true rectangular shape, but rather is wider along the base than at the top opening, creating a pyramid shape.
This update from the more traditional squared off design has been met with mixed reception.
I am personally not a fan of the new pyramid, tapered shape to the Balenciaga City Bag. The Classic City Bag shape is wildly iconic. We’ve seen this bag grace the arms of it girls and everyday girls alike for decades. The Classic City has been a fan of everyone from Nicole Richie to Miley Cyrus.
And they went and changed it.
I’m honestly personally struggling with this design change because I’m unsure why a fashion house would change such an iconic, much loved design. We were all a little confused when YSL became just Saint Laurent. I consider this five hundred times more confusing. Why change something that is loved and working? Why mess with such a classic, iconic shape?
I’m praying Louis Vuitton doesn’t get any ideas and update the shape of their Neverfull tote bag – I’d consider that equally confusing and blasphemous.
If you, like me, are not a fan of this new pyramid shape, I highly recommend scouring sites like Fashionphile and The RealReal to find like new condition, pre-loved Balenciaga City Bags in the original shape. Since we’ll no longer be able to find the Classic shape at retail, we’ll all be competing against each other to get our hands on these shapes and styles on the pre-loved market!
The cost of a Balenciaga City Bag will vary widely depending on the size, materials of the bag, as well as any specific collection the bag is a part of. The ultimate reality of buying a City Bag is that Balenciaga doesn’t come cheap. The average City Bag will cost well over $1,000 USD at retail price. The average Balenciaga Nano City Bag costs around $975. Mini City Bags often price somewhere around $1,850, although Balenciaga Mini City Bag pricing can vary depending on the leather used. Classic City leather styles in the Small size and larger almost always come in over $2,000 USD full price. New arrivals, no matter the sizing or materials used, will likely be priced higher than older releases.
With a handbag pricing in the thousands of dollars – it’s a fair question to ask if it’s worth it. I do get loads of questions over on Instagram and my YouTube channel (where I have tons of other handbag reviews) if I think the City Bag is a worthwhile investment and if I feel I’ve gotten the value per wear.
At the end of the day, no one can tell you if a thousand plus dollar handbag is “worth it.” What I can say, as a former Merchandiser and someone who holds a B.S. in Apparel Merchandising & Design, is that I do think Balenciaga prices their bags fairly for the market and the materials. Similar to other iconic fashion design houses like Chanel, Gucci, Fendi, Alexander McQueen, and Christian Dior, Bottega Veneta – Balenciaga is a recognizable and high powered brand name. Balenciaga prices rival that of its design competitors. In fact, Balenciaga bag prices often come in lower than many of the aforementioned other high end designers.
If your usual bag purchases float more towards the Longchamp Le Pliage, the Tory Burch shoulder bag, or Coach styles – the Balenciaga City Bag’s price may feel like a whole lot of sticker shock. In my experience, I’ve found not all designer accessories are worth the price (like my now long gone Christian Louboutin heels). But I own both a City Bag and a Town Bag from Balenciaga and have loved them both – and use them regularly to this day.
Whether you’re loving the new Balenciaga City shape or not, I still always recommend shopping pre-loved instead of retail for any designer purchase.
Shopping pre-loved is better for the environment, giving styles a second chance at love and life in your closet instead of ending up in the landfill. I have a whole handful of blog posts about why shopping fast fashion is bad. The truth is that any and all consumption in excess isn’t amazing for our planet. Buying your handbags, jewelry, shoes, clothing, and other accessories pre-loved extends the life of every item instead of new items constantly being produced and then ending up in the trash.
Shopping pre-loved is not only environmentally friendly, but can save you a ton of money. Often even the styles that are listed as “like new” are deeply discounted. This is especially true for a brand like Balenciaga and a bag like the City Bag. The City Bag hasn’t been known to hold it’s value on the second hand market – which isn’t amazing for sellers but is great for buyers! I believe I spent somewhere around $400-$500 USD for my City Bag when I purchased it pre-loved in 2019.
Fashionphile is by far my favorite website to shop when I’m looking for pre-loved designer handbags. Fashionphile is my top pick for a handful of reasons.
First and foremost, I always find Fashionphile to have the best prices and policies in comparison to other pre-loved retailers. In general, Fashionphile pricing is very competitive. Fashionphile items are also returnable – a BIG differentiator between Fashionphile and other pre-loved retailers with non-existent return policies. As long as you keep the pink Fashionphile tag on the item and return within the return window, you’ll get all your money back if you choose to return your item.
I also personally have found that Fashionphile is very conservative in their assessment of the condition of the handbags they sell. There are plenty of bags I’ve purchased from their site that were listed as being only in “good” condition, but upon delivery and inspection I couldn’t find any flaws at all.
The RealReal is another favorite pre-loved site I shop frequently. My Louis Vuitton Neverfull MM was a gift from my parents, purchased on The RealReal! TRR has a massive inventory of designer bags, meaning if you can’t find a specific style on other sites or at retail, you’re likely to find it on The RealReal.
Yoogi’s Closet is another one of my bookmarked pre-loved sites. I love Yoogi’s Closet for their detailed blog posts about different bags – they really focus on the history of each designer and fashion house. Their customer service is also above average and they reply to social media messages quickly.
I have less personal experience with Rebag, but they’re on my list of pre-loved sites to shop!
There is a big difference between shopping dupes and shopping replicas. I never recommend buying replica designer bags because these bags are effectively counterfeits: produced in substandard working conditions with subpar materials. Dupes, on the other hand, are often made by other designers and are simply “inspired by” the original bag in question. Dupes are an amazing way to get a look for less!
The best Balenciaga City Bag dupes I’ve found would have to be from Rebecca Minkoff. Rebecca Minkoff’s use of the long leather tassels and moto style hardware is very reminiscent of the Balenciaga City Bag – at a much much lower price!
Do you have a Balenciaga City Bag on your designer handbag wishlist? Let’s chat in the comments below!
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