Is the Balenciaga Motorcycle bag a Classic or just an It-bag?

I still remember the first time I saw a Balenciaga bag: slouchy and swinging delicately over an Olsen twin’s arm, leather tassels floating ethereally in the wind.

It was some time in the early 2000’s when Nicolas Ghesquière (creative director of Balenciaga) designed the motorcycle bag as a prototype for a runway show. The lightweight bag combined soft leather with studs, buckles and zippers pulled by long leather tassels.

After its introduction, models and fashionistas fell in love: the Balenciaga Motorcycle bag became an “It Bag”. There were no logos on the bag, which was a departure from the logo-mania that bombarded the 90s. The Balenciaga Motorcycle bag took a different approach: just hardware and luxurious leather. I loved it.

Any chance I got, I went to visit Balenciaga Motorcycle bags at Nordstrom. I’d drool over the different colors of leather—the colors were all so saturated and vibrant. And that leather, wow. Even the thought of the that leather smell makes my heart flutter.

I knew some day, somehow, I would carry one as my own.

When I got a job at luxury consignment site Yoogi’s Closet, I knew I needed to get my hands on a Balenciaga Motorcycle bag. In 2013, my dreams finally came true.

On a cool November day, I brought home a Balenciaga Black Lambskin Leather Motorcycle City with Giant 12 Silver Hardware. My holy grail. My dream bag. She was MINE.

I gleefully carried her everywhere I went, my heart aflutter anytime I touched her.

The only problem: she didn’t come with a shoulder strap. I worried about resale value and how to carry my dream bag without a shoulder strap. I contacted Balenciaga to find out if I could special order a strap.

The process was fairly simple: I needed to send pictures of the bag, the label, the serial number, and provide my credit card information. I asked for a specific length in order to match the exact length of the standard City strap size… but in hindsight, I should have custom ordered a longer strap to be worn as a crossbody.

The strap took about two months to arrive from Italy. When it finally came, the leather was from a different batch… a shinier black leather, compared to the matte leather of the bag.

This, of course, was to be expected. Balenciaga leather (and leather in general) differs greatly from season to season, and depending on what process they use to treat/dye it.

But I knew no one would ever notice unless I decided to sell it.

I wasn’t going to sell her though.

I carry her for special occasions, for meetings, for interviews, for travel. Each time I reach for her, I felt butterflies. Yeah, like the kind you get when you really like someone. I am a girl in love. This is just how I get with handbags.

Flash forward to 2018.

The Balenciaga Motorcycle bag has been on the market for 17 years—she’s almost old enough to VOTE! After that many years and bag trends later—is the Motorcycle bag a classic or just an it-bag?

Balenciaga releases the Motorcycle style in multiple sizes, colors and leathers every season—people are still buying. That’s nearly two decades of people buying the same bag. It works in any season. It’s timeless.

That said, I don’t believe the Motorcycle bag has the same mystique and lust-worthiness that it had in the early to late 00s. The resale value isn’t high and they aren’t as “sought after” as some bags on the market.

But if I’ve learned anything in the last decade of following the designer handbag industry, it’s that once it-bags will come back into style again… and Balenciaga is ripe for a full-blown resurrection. Their street cred is already pretty high right now as they have successfully taped into the sneaker and streetwear market.

The Balenciaga Motorcycle bag is meant to be collected, with Balenciaga releasing the same style in different leathers, colors, and hardware combinations season after season, meaning no two season releases will ever be alike.

2016’s fall/winter red will look completely different than 2018’s fall/winter red, if they even release red that season at all. Only black is released every season, but the batch of leather may have a different appearance. Limited edition hardware combinations are released around the holidays.

This kind of exclusivity creates a perfect storm for collectors: they want a very specific item from a very specific year, and are willing to pay for it.

Today, I’ve got my eye on a smaller version of the City bag with a long strap, like the Small City bag.

Balenciaga Black City Bag and Hermes CDC bag of the day


Balenciaga Info & Words To Know

if you’re shopping for a Balenciaga bag, especially on the pre-owned market, it can be super-duper confusing. City, Town, Agneau, Chèvre, Giant 12, Blackout?! WHAT!?

This is common in the luxury industry: each brand uses their own vocabulary to create “brand codes” and their own taxonomy. It’s actually pretty cool, but it can be very confusing as a shopper. You need a dictionary to navigate all the words Balenciaga uses!

Most Popular Balenciaga Motorcycle Bag Styles

  • City
  • Small City
  • Mini City
  • Town
  • Work

Balenciaga Leather

  • Arena: Crinkled lambskin leather
  • Agneau: Lambskin leather
  • Chèvre: Goatskin leather

Balenciaga Hardware

  • Classsic: Antique brass hardware (with leather tassels)
  • Giant 12: Small studs
  • Giant 21: Large studs
  • Metallic Edge: Metal trim with smooth hardware

As far as resale value, they don’t necessarily hold their value. If you bought a Balenciaga City bag for $2000, you could probably sell it for about half of that, give or take.

SS18_Balenciaga_Logo.jpg

Balenciaga Black Lambskin Leather Giant 12 Silver Motorcycle City Bag
Balenciaga Giant 12 Silver Motorcycle City Bag

Balenciaga Black Small City Bag
Balenciaga Black on Black Small City Bag

Balenciaga Blackout Small City Bag
Balenciaga Blackout Small City Bag

Balenciaga Metallic Edge Silver Mini City Bag
Balenciaga Metallic Edge Mini City Bag

Balenciaga Rouge Tango Classic Mini City
Balenciaga Rouge Tango Classic Mini City Bag

Becca Risa Luna

Seattle-based fashion writer and personal essayist. Likes designer handbags, glaring openness, and subtle vulgarity.

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