Broken: my brand new bag

Expensive luxury items are often an investment buy. So it's all the more frustrating if they start to fall apart after a few weeks...

EVERYBODY has experienced the frustration of having an item of clothing fail them in some way: hems coming down, buttons perilously hanging by a thread, trouser seams straying across the thigh. Personally, despite harbouring a mildly obsessive streak, I have come to accept such disappointments as facts of life. When clothes come cheap, they usually break easily, so you either bin them or fix them. It's the rules. But when things are expensive, I expect more.

A few months ago, I was treated to a beautiful brown leather bag by a very generous and extravagant friend. I felt unworthy and spoiled. Still, I managed to uncover its full provenance so that I could enjoy my gift all the more. It was a Bill Amberg medium sized "Escalator" bag, in brown calf-skin with a bright blue inside (so I could find my bits easily), costing pounds 195. For a few weeks I minced happily around with my bag, in the face of suggestions that it might be a touch large for everyday portage. It was, I thought, the best bag in the world.

Disappointment was to follow. The week before my holidays, the puller bit on the zip broke clean off. I felt a little upset, but thought that perhaps my rough hands were to blame. I returned it to the shop, where Bill's assistants were apologetic and agreed that, yes, it was disappointing and should be fixed post haste. I explained that it was not the entire zip that was faulty, just the bit you drag it fast with. When I trekked to Bill's shop to collect it, the zip was, seemingly, fixed and waxed, but frustratingly, the whole zip had been replaced and was rather cheaper looking (no nice leather puller this time, just a nasty, shiny gold coloured one). Bill's nice assistants offered to let me take the bag on holiday and then afterwards they would replace the zip a second time (again free of charge) on my return. I agreed, but with a sigh. It's so niggling when things aren't quite right.

Whilst on holiday, the new zip failed me: this time the teeth refused to bite each other, leaving my bag with a permanant yawn. Now, I was annoyed. I had felt a little picky saying that I wanted a third zip put in, but now it was necessary and not fair.

Now, Mr Amberg, I'm not faulting your service (which was conducted with the utmost politesse), nor your lovely designs, but it is so frustrating when such expensive treasures break so easily. Ditto, many, many buttons falling off beautiful, expensive clothes. Now, I know that no matter how costly something is, there is just no getting away from the fact that it has been, at some stage in its genesis, touched by fallible human hands (unless it was made by the Pope, of course). In fact, the more expensive something is, the more likely it is to have been hand made.

But this shouldn't be an excuse for breakages. When something is expensive, it's not enough that it is a fantastic design, we have the right to expect some careful workmanship as well.

My bag is returned at last. The zip is mended but, unfortunately, with the inferior puller. My gift is tarnished. I am resigned to it. In light of the fact that you never get your original item back anyway, I asked my resourceful colleague Annie (whom I am rather in awe of) for advice on zip-menders. She recommended Michael's Shoe Care, 10/12 Procter Street, Holborn, London WC1 (tel: 0171 405 7436) where zips and repairs can be done for a flat fee of pounds 19.95.

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