The Balenciaga Motorcycle bag made its debut at Nicolas Ghesquière’s 2001 runway show and a star was born. Over the years, many styles were produced in several different leathers, but for serious collectors the very early Firsts and City bags, made of the luxurious chevre leather, are the most coveted.
With its incredible popularity, Balenciaga has become one of the most copied brands in the world and one of the most complicated to authenticate, with multiple exceptions to most authentication rules.
We have put together this quick guide to help you unravel some of the larger mysteries, but remember to always do your due diligence before buying and purchase secondhand only from a trusted source.
Leather vs Silver Tags
The interior tag on a Balenciaga bag will have either a silver plate attached to a leather tag or solely a leather tag.
With the exception of the City, First, Work (since 2005) and Weekender, all Balenciaga moto bags have leather tags only. These four styles will have silver tags only if they have classic (also known as regular, or RH) hardware. The silver tags were manufactured out of genuine silver until F/W 2008, with the “925” silver stamp in the bottom right corner.
Balenciaga City bag with classic hardware (studs are smooth, no cross hatching)
*Note: Some of the very early Twiggy bags were reported to have silver tags as well.
Letter Codes - Style/Season of Production/Color
The silver tags include both a season/year identifier and a style code. Balenciaga began using an uppercase letter of the alphabet to correspond to the season/year of production in F/W 2003.
The style number on the tag front will always match the style number on the tag back on an authentic bag. The rest of the code numbers are in-house information for Balenciaga and can be disregarded. The general consensus among Balenciaga aficionados is that there are no consistent codes for colors, although black is always 1000.
Authentic S/S 2004 City bag C tag - style code 115748
Fake S/S 2004 City bag C tag
*Note: the C tag is one of the most faked
Here is a list of the letter codes:
A =F/W 2017
B =S/S 2017
C =F/W 2016
D = S/S 2016
E = F/W 2015
F = S/S 2015
G = F/W 2014
H = S/S 2014
I = F/W 2013
J = S/S 2013
K = F/W 2012
L = S/S 2012
M = F/W 2011
N = S/S 2011
O = F/W 2010
P = S/S 2010
Q = F/W 2009
R = S/S 2009
S = F/W 2008
T = S/S 2008
U = F/W 2007
V = S/S 2007
W = F/W 2006
Y = S/S 2006
Z = F/W 2005
A = S/S 2005
B = F/W 2004
C = S/S 2004
D = F/W 2003
Prior to F/W 2003 no letter used
The alphabet has reset for Balenciaga codes, with the letters A through D being used for two different seasons/years. While the D tag can be either F/W 2003 or S/S 2016, for example, the fonts and styles of the tags for both seasons look completely different so it’s easy to tell them apart.
F/W 2003 First bag D tag
S/S 2016 City bag D tag
Some of the newer styles have their own particular tags as well. The metal edge bags have a leather tag with the information embossed in either silver or gold to match the colour of the hardware. The Papier line also has a silver embossed leather tag, again matching the hardware.
For Balenciaga styles with only a leather tag prior to 2012 (when the letter of the alphabet for the season was added to the tag back) identification/authentication is more difficult, and a knowledge of seasonal colors, changes of fonts, introduction and discontinuation of specific styles of bags and hardware is necessary.
A Word About Style Codes
To add to the general confusion when trying to identify a Balenciaga bag is the fact that the hardware on the bag will influence the style code. For instance, a City bag with classic hardware (silver tag) will have a different style code than a City bag with Giant 21 hardware (leather tag). This applies to every style, where each type of hardware within a style will have it’s own code.
Label and Font
Both the fonts and styles of the labels have changed more than once over the life of the moto line. Changes were made in various years. The first few seasons Balenciaga used the serif font on their tags. In F/W 2004 the font changed to sans serif. In 2011, the “made in italy” heat stamp on the leather tag back was changed to the upper case “MADE IN ITALY”. In 2012 the season/year letter was added to the tag back, making season identification much easier. In 2014, the tag front was restyled and “FABRIQUÉ EN ITALIE” was added to the tag back, although this seems to have been removed for the F/W 2017 season.
S/S 2016 City bag D tag
S/S 2014 Work bag with restyled H tag
Authentic Balenciaga handbags have the Lampo logo on the back of all zipper heads. One of the few exceptions was in 2010 when Balenciaga released their rose gold hardware without the Lampo logo. One theory is that Lampo didn’t make rose gold at that time. By 2011 the logo was on rose gold as well. Some replicas also use real Lampo zippers so just because your bag has a Lampo zipper, it does not mean it is authentic. On many of the fakes, the logo and accompanying “lightning bolt” underline is thick and clumsy-looking. On the majority of real Balenciaga bags, an authentic Lampo zipper has the logo embossed as opposed to engraved and Lampo is written in italics and underlined. Some of the very early moto bags; however, did have the engraved logo. In 2014 the Lampo logo was replaced with an uppercase letter B.
The bale (that is the metal hardware at the end of the leather shoulder strap) should have a rounded, organic shape. The shapes have changed somewhat from time to time, but never have any abrupt angles. Fake bags often have bales that look like “coat hangers”. The ends of the twisted piece of the bale should taper to a smooth, flat end.
Until 2005 the rivets on Balenciaga bags were rounded and slightly convex (these rivets were on the early pewter hardware bags). Since 2005 (inconsistently in S/S, but consistently by F/W) the rivets were deeply notched. Many of the fake bags have shallow notches that are either squarish or shallow half moons.
Authentic unnotched rivet
Authentic notched rivet
Inauthentic notched rivet
While these quick tips provide some of the most obvious points to look at, you can see that with all of the variations in hardware, codes, styles etc. authentication can be a challenge! The best advice we can give you is to buy a bag from an authorized seller or a reputable reseller.
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