Still can’t get that YSL Lou camera bag out of your head? I know just what you mean…

Those of you who have read my post about the Saint Laurent Loulou Toy bag a few months ago, would know that I had my doubts about YSL Lou camera bags for quite some time. While I always liked the overall appearance of the bags, ultimately it was the design flaws – extensively covered by many bloggers – that have put me off buying the Lou.  And this is why, when it came to pulling the trigger between Loulou Toy and the YSL Lou camera bag, I chose Loulou Toy.

But as it often happens, that was not meant to be the end of the story. During a recent visit to the Saint Laurent boutique on New Bond Street in London, I spotted the Lou crossbody bag in Dove Grey and absolutely fell in love with the colour. That was it, really. Even though I knew the style had its imperfections, I was so in awe of the stunning shade of grey that I forgot all about them in an instant. And so the YSL camera bag ended up coming home with me. Another completely unintended purchase!

Is the YSL camera bag worth it? In this post, I will be looking at the usual pros and cons of the purchase to give you an idea whether I found the Lou to be a sound investment. I will also show how it compares to Saint Laurent Loulou Toy, as well as Gucci Marmont and the Louis Vuitton New Wave camera bag. I hope you find this post useful.

YSL Lou camera bag

Appearance

The YSL camera bag shown in this review is the quilted version of the Lou. The decorative chevron pattern covers the front and the back of the bag, while the sides, top and bottom are made of smooth calfskin leather. The Lou is also available in suede, patent and grained leather varieties. Personally, I like the matelassé look the most because it nicely contrasts with the YSL logo positioned at the centre. It also creates a much firmer exterior which should prevent the bag from losing its shape over time.

The bag is decorated with the iconic YSL symbol, which measures approximately 6.5cm in height and 3cm in width. The one seen in this post has an aged silver finish with a distressed surface. I was particularly drawn to this finish because I felt it complimented the colour of the bag really well and was reasonably discreet.

YSL Lou camera bag
The exterior of the YSL Lou camera bag.
Close-up of the antique steel YSL logo
A close-up on the aged-silver finish of the YSL logo.

Aside from the aged silver, the hardware of YSL Lou camera bags is also available in plain silver, bronze gold and black variants. Thus, if the antique look is not your cup of tea, you can pick something else. Those objecting to any prominent brand signs might even choose a version where the logo is simply embossed in the leather (i.e. the plain leather version of the Lou). One thing to note is that if you go for the metallic logo, it is relatively large when compared to the overall size of the bag so it will surely stand out, especially if the finish is plain silver or gold.

The bag has a rectangular shape with dimensions of 26cm x 16cm x 6cm (that is the width, height and depth). In terms of size, it is slightly larger than most designer camera bags on the market.  It has a fixed shoulder strap with a drop of approximately 60cm, which can be regulated to further extend or shorten its length. The strap is quite thin, measuring 1.2cm in width, and is attached to the trunk by way of two small metal rings. The bag has a standard top zip closure with a double leather pull matching the colour of the exterior. The interior is lined with canvas and there is only one internal slip pocket.

One of the most striking features of the YSL Lou camera bag is the oversized tassel. The tassel measures 14cm in length and is finished with a round metal grip with the words “Saint Laurent Paris” engraved around it. It is linked to the strap by means of a leather loop and can be slid from one end of the bag to the other, to be positioned wherever convenient. Unlike it is the case with the Gucci Soho Disco bag, the tassel is not a permanent feature of the design and can be detached if it becomes too much of a nuisance (a good option to have, in my view 😊). [Back to Menu]

Saint Laurent bag in grey hanging on the shoulder

Fit test

If you love petite bags but cannot live without certain daily essentials, the YSL Lou camera bag may be the ideal choice for you.  For a small design, it has an exceptionally good capacity, which won me over from the start.

The below photos show a fit test and how the generous inner space of the Lou could be utilised:

Saint Laurent Lou bag fit test
This photo shows the flatlay of all personal items which can fit into the YSL Lou camera bag
Saint Laurent bag fit test
YSL Lou camera bag fit test - inside view

As you can see from the above examples, the bag could contain a Chanel “Egg” hand cream, a small Tangle Tweezer brush, a small wallet (12cm x 8cm), 30mil bottle of Hermes Twilly perfumes, mints, a hand sanitizer, a compact face powder, two lip glosses, tissues and iPhone 11. For the purpose of these photos, I deliberately used bulky objects such as a purse and a full-size hand cream, to give you an idea of the ample inner space.

Although this is not shown here, normally I would have a bag organiser inside of my Lou. To maximize the space, I tend to carry smaller versions of essentials with me, such as a mini bottle of perfume, a folding comb rather than a brush, and a card holder instead of a wallet. These take up less room, but also (unfortunately) have a tendency to get “lost” inside of bags with no inner structure, like the Lou. So a bag organiser is much needed to manage the inevitable clutter. I will look into this point some more in the “Cons” section. [Back to Menu]

YSL Lou camera bag

Pros of the YSL Lou camera bag

One of the biggest pros of the quilted YSL Lou camera bag is, in my view, its exterior. While the design itself is relatively simple and classic, what sets it apart from other camera bags is the lovely leather which has a distinctly smooth, rich and glossy finish. The leather, accentuated by a padded pattern, instantly catches attention. It is also relatively scratch resistant, which is an additional bonus.  As far as texture goes, it is one of the nicest finishes I have seen in camera bags. Just by looking at the quilted YSL Lou, it is instantly obvious we are dealing with a high-quality item, which should retain its shape and beautiful appearance for many years to come.

Another feature of the YSL Lou camera bag, which I find really attractive, is its size. It is fair to say, it will appeal to those who love to carry many daily essentials but usually struggle to fit them into a small bag. This has always been a personal battle of mine, as there are certain items I just cannot function without. YSL Lou’s dimensions make it a rather spacious “small bag”. As you could see in the Fit Test section, above, the bag can accommodate quite a remarkable number of items. It never ceases to surprise me how much I can actually fit inside of my Lou (messy as it might be, but about that later…!). The combination of a modest size and generous interiors makes it the ideal AM to PM bag. Equally, those who do not like the dimensions can opt for an even smaller version, i.e. the Lou Mini bag, which measures 19cm x 11cm x 5cm.

What I also like about the design is the length of the shoulder strap. It allows to carry the bag cross-body without appearing awkward or too short, but it also looks good hanging on the shoulder. The drop can be regulated very easily thanks to 7 holes in the strap and a simple buckle. This is not necessarily the case in many other camera bags, notably Gucci Marmont (I will explore this in the Marmont vs the Lou comparison, below). So whether you are tall or short, there should be enough length options to choose from without the hassle of having to shorten the strap or punching additional holes in it. [Back to Menu]

Saint Laurent bag photographed next to the Queen Victoria statue

Cons of the YSL Lou camera bag

Now for the cons… Admittedly, there are a few so I will take it in turns.

The first and the most notorious one is the bulging zipper. The zipper was the reason why it took me so long to buy the YSL Lou camera bag. I have read so many negative comments about it, and how it spoiled the look of the Lou, that I saw no point investing in the bag. Still, I managed to get it somehow…😊

Is the bulging zipper a problem? Yes and no. It is definitely a flaw of the design which causes the zipper to protrude upwards rather than lie flat on top of the bag. It is also pretty much there from the beginning. At the Saint Laurent boutique, I had a look at a few Lou bags and all of them seemed to be affected by this issue to some extent. Hence, if you are thinking of investing in this YSL camera bag, you should ask yourself if you can live with this small imperfection or is it a total deal breaker?

To me, the zipper was not a deal breaker. I was so mesmerised by the colour of the bag that the only thing that could stop me from buying it at that point would be a scratch, a rip, or some other major fault. In fact, it looks much worse when the bag is in a resting position or when it is viewed from above. Once the bag is in use, the zipper is barely noticeable. It is just one of those things… you can only see it if you know it is there.

The Lou bag and the bulging zip top view
The bulging zip is more apparent when the bag is stationary. In this photo, which is a view from above, you can see the "indent" effect created by the zip pulling the sides of the bag inwards.
The Lou bag and the bulging zip side view
Here, you can see how the zip protrudes upwards, creating a small hump.

Prior to purchasing my Lou, I asked the sales assistant for some ideas on how to solve this issue. She suggested keeping the bag filled with some paper to flatten the “hump”. I have tried that and kept my bag filled to the brim but, to be honest, it did not make that much difference. So rather than stressing out, I decided to just forget about it and enjoy this beautiful bag. Hump or no hump.

Another downside of the quilted YSL Lou camera bag, which I find particularly testing, is its shape. As much as the overall size of the Lou is good, the design is quite deep and relatively narrow (width-wise), and thus not entirely practical. While stuffing small daily essentials into a deep, dark hole may sound like an easy task, finding anything inside is not equally straightforward. On top of that, the bag has only one inner slip pocket and no outer pockets, so maintaining any kind of structure and order is quite a challenge. To put it plainly, you have no choice but to pile items on top of each other which will, inadvertently, create a bit of a mess. It seems like whoever designed the bag has not thought that aspect through properly.

Realistically, if you want to enjoy the Lou without losing your mind, you will need a bag organiser. It will maximise the use of space and add the much-needed inner compartments. I ended up re-purposing the one from my Louis Vuitton Pochette Metis (review here) because it fits neatly inside of the Lou, and this has made a huge difference. It is so much easier to use the bag with the liner. Honestly, I cannot recommend it enough! If you are thinking of buying the YSL Lou camera bag, get an organiser as soon as you can to save yourself heaps of unnecessary frustration.

A further aspect of the design, which I do not particularly like, is the shoulder strap. Earlier, I mentioned that the length of the shoulder strap was a notably good feature but here I mean its actual appearance. Those of you who have read my review of Saint Laurent Loulou Toy would know that I was equally unimpressed by the strap of that style too. The YSL Lou camera bag mirrors a lot of the same issues, in that the shoulder strap is similarly thin and basic. There are no chain or substantial metallic elements which could make it more exiting. The trunk of the camera bag is also larger than that of Loulou Toy so the contrast between the lovely exterior of the bag and the unimpressive shoulder strap is quite stark. On top of that, the uninspiring strap cannot be detached to be replaced by something more alluring. If I had the power to make some style changes to the camera bag, I would definitely start with that aspect. Perhaps Saint Laurent could think of making it slightly thicker so it does not look so flimsy?

One final point. I have a love – hate relationship with the tassel.  I know… it is stylish and adds a nice visual accent to, what is otherwise, a reasonably plain design. What is my gripe? The very first time I took the bag out – and it was hanging on my shoulder – I had a very strange feeling that something (or someone?!) was touching the back of my leg as I walked. The slightly creepy sensation turned out to be the tassel brushing against my thigh. I tried to slide it to the front of the bag but that was not much joy either. The tassel is relatively large and tends to bounce around, which takes some getting used to. If you do not want it to be too bothersome, the best way to carry the Lou is as a cross-body bag. That way, you can rarely feel it and will soon forget it is there.

Having said all of that, I do not think that the tassel is a major sticking point. It is not even a drawback but more of an individual preference. Personally, I would rather it was smaller, so it was less noticeable. The good thing is that those who find it intolerable can simply remove it, as it is easily detachable. However, the truth is that the tassel is the signature of the bag and the Lou looks much better with it attached. So if you can live with it, it is worth keeping as it enhances the design, even though it can become somewhat annoying at times. [Back to Menu]

YSL Lou camera bag

YSL Lou camera bag or Loulou Toy?

In a way, it is quite hard to do a side-by-side comparison of the quilted YSL Lou camera bag and the Loulou Toy bag because they are quite different. Even though they share some common elements such as the chevron stitching, the decorative YSL metal logo and the thin shoulder strap, this is where the similarities really end.

The YSL Lou camera bag is more of a statement piece than Loulou Toy. While I would not often describe camera bags as particularly standing out, the Lou is different in that respect. It may be something to do with its larger dimensions, the shiny matelassé leather, the bold YSL logo and the oversized tassel that attract attention. Every time I walk past someone who carries the Lou camera bag, I cannot help but think, oh that’s a lovely bag!

Saint Laurent Loulou Toy is smaller and far less imposing. As mentioned in the earlier review, Loulou Toy is a relatively plain bag which compliments an outfit but is otherwise invisible. It is classy – but also quite inconspicuous – so it will not be competing for attention with any other accessories or clothes. The metal logo is visible, but notably smaller than the one of the Lou bag, so it is less distracting.

Saint Laurent Loulou Toy and the Lou comparison
A side-by-side comparison of the YSL Lou camera bag and Saint Laurent Loulou Toy, showing differences in size, shape and the overall appearance of the bags.

The main attribute which, in my opinion, gives Loulou Toy the edge over the YSL Lou camera bag is its practicality. Due to its square-ish shape, accessing personal belongings is exceptionally easy. What also helps is the multitude of internal pockets, so the contents can be well organised. The Lou offers more space but its profile, which is deep and narrow, makes finding anything inside quite a challenge. Especially, if like me, you like to overfill your bags. Before I started using the earlier mentioned organiser, there were a couple of occasions when I literally had to tip the bag over, throwing everything on the floor, to locate my keys. That would never happen with the Loulou Toy bag.

There are some other design aspects which make Loulou Toy the more attractive choice. The fact that the bag has a detachable strap cannot go amiss. The fastening system is also marginally better, as there is no zip to fiddle with and, instead, the bag has a clip closure. Further, the bag’s top flap makes it more secure. With the Lou, oftentimes I find myself keeping it open so I can easily retrieve items such as a hand sanitiser or a face mask, which creates the obvious safety risks. Unfortunately, the bag has no external pockets to pop them in. With Loulou Toy, even if you leave the bag unclipped, it would be very hard for anyone to access your belongings unnoticed because the top flap offers extra protection. With zip top bags, it is a different story.

Overall, with only a small price difference between these two styles i.e. £925 for the Lou and £880 for Loulou Toy (prices in the UK as of 2020), the deciding factor should be how each bag is going to be used. If you value space over organisation and like statement pieces, then the YSL Lou camera bag will be the one for you. However, if you are a practical person with a preference for lower key designs, you may find Loulou Toy the more appealing option. Alternatively, if you sit somewhere in between, you may as well settle for both 😉. Each of them is elegant and beautifully made, so you should not go wrong with either. [Back to Menu]

Saint Laurent bag photo outside the Buckingham Palace

YSL Lou camera bag vs Gucci Marmont and Louis Vuitton New Wave

Love camera bags but cannot decide between Gucci Marmont, Louis Vuitton New Wave and the quilted YSL Lou? In that case, you may find the below tips useful. I own all three styles so I will happily share my thoughts on how they compare and what makes each of them special.

In terms of functionality, Gucci Marmont deserves five stars for its shape and size. The interiors are roomy, and the width makes it is easy to take items out and put them back in. I never struggle to find anything inside, even without a bag organiser (as it is the case with the Lou). Because of this aspect, I tend to use the bag the most.

The Louis Vuitton New Wave bag is a close second. One of its best features is, in my opinion, the external slip pocket, which is highly usable. The pocket is a fantastic addition and I cannot praise it enough. The width of the New Wave is comparable to that of the YSL Lou camera bag, but the design is not as “tall”, so accessing belongings is still reasonably easy. Personally, I find the Lou to be the least practical of the three, even though it is the largest.

Louis Vuitton New Wave camera bag vs YSL Lou camera bag comparison
YSL Lou camera bag vs Louis Vuitton New Wave camera bag.
Gucci Marmont vs YSL Lou camera bag comparison
YSL Lou camera bag vs Gucci Marmont

As for aesthetics, if you are looking for a striking but also a classic design, the YSL Lou camera bag seems like the most obvious choice. The finish is beautiful and the quality of leather is excellent. The oversized tassel gives the Lou an edgy look, but it can also be removed to transition the bag into a more demure and elegant piece. In that respect, it is the most versatile of the three.

The Marmont and the New Wave bags are stunning too, but not as sleek as the Lou. With the bold chain element and the matching metal logo affixed to the front, they are more on the trendy, rather than the sophisticated, side. This is further emphasised by the bright and imposing golden hardware (although palladium-toned alternative can be found in the 2020 Gucci Pre-fall collection). If that was not enough, LV New Wave also suffers from a rather unfortunate, oversized zip pull, which dilutes its refined appearance.

For my part, I feel the most comfortable using my LV New Wave and Gucci Marmont for evenings out or daywear. With the Lou, I would not hesitate to carry it with a suit, because its chic appearance makes it fitting even for the smart occasions. Of course, how you are going to use the bag is down to individual preference and style so you may feel differently about it 😉.

There is also the question of the strap. If you are particularly tall or petite, and are concerned about the flexibility of the strap, the YSL Lou camera bag may be a good option to go for. The length is generous and adjustable by means of a simple buckle, so adding extra holes should be effortless enough (although, I would leave this to an expert!). Should you need to regulate the strap of your Gucci Marmont, this is also doable but slightly more awkward. Here, the length is adjusted by a stud fitted into one of five pre-cut holes, which are rather tight. Moving the stud is a little tricky and, if you need extra holes, it is definitely a job for a specialist. Still, the length of the strap is quite reasonable and can be modified.

The strap of the Louis Vuitton New Wave bag is the shortest of the three, and also fixed-length. As such, a taller person might find it tight when carried cross-body. In fact, I am 5’5” and the length feels just about right, but it is notably shorter than the strap of the Marmont or the Lou. Naturally, the bag can still be carried on the shoulder and looks really nice presented that way. Still, if you are tall, thinking about getting the New Wave and like to carry your bags cross-body, the strap should be something to take into account as it might be a factor affecting the comfort of its use .

The final point is longevity. Looking at the leather finish of each piece, my impression is that the Louis Vuitton New Wave bag will hold its shape and original condition the longest. The quilted calf leather has a matte texture, is quite sturdy and seemingly scratch resistant. I have been using my New Wave quite a lot during the summer and it looks as good as new. The YSL Lou camera bag is a close runner up. Although the quilted calfskin leather is much softer and has a glossy appearance, it is not particularly malleable. I do not expect it to develop many creases as a sign of continuous use. Gucci Marmont has the softest leather of the three and is amazingly supple. However, this makes it prone to wrinkles and marks, as it is quite squashy. As such, of the three bags it is the least likely to maintain that fresh-out-of-the-box look for long.

Arguably, the issue of potential longevity of each design is reflected in the price. Louis Vuitton New Wave is the most expensive of the three. At the time of posting of this review, the New Wave bag will set you back £1,370 in the UK. The good news is that it is possible to get them at a 20% discount at the Heathrow Airport, which brings the price down quite substantially. In fact, I have seen them in the Louis Vuitton Terminal 5 boutique a number of times.

By comparison, Gucci Marmont and the quilted YSL Lou camera bag cost £970 and £925 respectively (again, UK prices as of 2020). However, if you are looking for a bargain, there are usually plenty of Marmont bags at the Gucci Heathrow Airport store where, again, you can save 20% off the original price. Unfortunately, I have not come across any places (online or else) where you can pick up a discounted, new YSL Lou, but I will update you if I spot them somewhere.

If you would like to read more about the Gucci Marmont camera bag or the Louis Vuitton New Wave bag, I have reviewed them in detail on my blog and you can find the posts by clicking here (for Gucci Marmont) and here (for Louis Vuitton New Wave). [Back to Menu]

Saint Laurent bag photo in a park

Good investment?

Honestly, when I bought the YSL Lou camera bag I had so many preconceptions about the style that I did not expect to like it at all. However, the bag has really grown on me and turned out to be surprisingly enjoyable.

Looking at it objectively, the quilted YSL Lou camera bag is a beautiful, modern, and elegant design. The quality of finish is superb and there is no doubt that we are dealing with a high-end accessory that will last a long time. The selection of hardware makes it particularly appealing as it allows to pick a colour that fits individual taste. The Lou is also reasonably priced for a luxury handbag, although by no means cheap. What certainly makes it a good investment is its versatility, and more precisely, the fact that it can smoothly transition from a daytime into an evening bag. If you are thinking of a starter, all-round top-tier bag, the YSL Lou camera bag ticks a lot of boxes. It is no surprise that it has become one of the most popular Saint Laurent bag designs out there.

Admittedly, there are some issues, but most can be overlooked or managed. You tend to forget about the bulging zipper once you start using the bag. In reality, no one has ever pointed it out to me or asked me about it. The awkward shape issue can also be addressed with a good bag organiser, so it is not so irritating anymore. There is not much that can be done about the strap, but maybe Saint Laurent will increase its visual appeal in the future.

Is YSL Lou my favourite camera bag? Hmmm… I think my main go-to camera bag is still Gucci Marmont. However, I have noticed as the time moves on, I have been gravitating towards the YSL Lou camera bag more and more. Maybe in the time ahead it will even replace the Marmont as my preferred camera bag of choice… anything is possible! Overall verdict: A perfect luxury starter bag. [Back to Menu]

YSL LOU CAMERA BAG
Buy From: LUISAVIAROMA.COM
Price: $1,290 / £1,00

Photos by Irene Pedrosa (https://asturgirl.wixsite.com/irenepedrosa) and Unwrapped.Fashion

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