Closet Confessionals

CC 189: The Collector Whose Self-Reflection Changed Everything

"It made me re-evaluate why it was so important that a simple tote had to be "Prada" for me to feel good carrying it."

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In today’s new CC, we meet a collector who has loved bags since she was young. Growing up in a family where money was tight, CC 189 has been through quite a collecting journey. From carrying a fake Coach bag from Canal Street as a teen to being able to afford the real thing, CC 189 truly appreciates everything she has. CC 189 is able to self-reflect on her collecting journey and why she likes bags in the first place, which has been integral to nipping the shopping addiction she struggled with earlier in her collecting journey.

These days, CC 189 only buys what she can truly afford and believes that if you’re not able to save the same amount of money you’d spend on a bag, you shouldn’t be buying it. Her collection consists of bags strictly from the secondary market, which is truly admirable. Read the full CC below, and don’t forget to submit your own!

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Basic Bio

Your Age? 30
Your Gender Identity? She/Her
Where do you live? San Francisco, CA and New York, NY
What is your occupation? Researcher
What industry do you work in? Artificial Intelligence
Your annual salary? $600,000
Total Household Income? $600,000
Are you a PurseForum member? Yes

Onto The Bags

How many bags do you own? 13

What bags are in your collection?

CC 189 Collection 6
CC 189 Collection 9

How much is your collection worth? $3,915

What is your most expensive bag? My Valentino Nuage, which was $600 secondhand on Bonanzle (does anyone still remember that site?). It’s actually the second designer bag I’ve EVER purchased at 16, and still the most expensive! I saw it on a mom’s shoulder during a tennis match and fell in love with it. I had to save up money cleaning houses to buy it. The big bow perfectly encapsulates my teens. I still love it even though I hardly use it anymore due to its size and inconvenience.

Do you ever regret any of your bag purchases? If so, which ones and why? If a bag isn’t meant to be, I sell it and consider it a lesson learned rather than a regret.

What age did you get your first designer bag, and what was it? I was 15 when I purchased my Coach Carly Demi bag. The Carly retailed for $238 (I still have the price tag), which was just an unfathomable amount of money to me back then. It was the bag that truly kickstarted my love for handbags and fashion, and every time I catch a glimpse of it, I still feel the flutters in my stomach like I’m 15 again.

I didn’t have a job at the time, but thankfully my parents were putting a little bit of money into my savings account each month for college. I used those funds to buy this bag secondhand for $80 on eBay. I had to lie to my mom and say that my rich friend gave it to me as a gift because she would never have understood!

Is there a specific bag you are looking to purchase next? I’m not looking to buy anything right now. I have enough bags for every occasion, and they are all such good quality pieces that I can see them lasting many decades. But I do adore the Loewe Mini Puzzle and the Celine Small 16, so let me know if you see any good deals!! I saw the Celine in the color I wanted recently for $2900, but that’s 5x as much as any other bag I own and more than I want to pay for a handbag.

Do you have a ‘holy grail’ dream bag you’ve always wanted to own? I wouldn’t say no to a free Hermès Kelly Sellier in Craie. It’s classic and beautiful and THE inspiration for so many bags I love. I can’t see myself paying resale prices or playing the Hermès game, so I don’t think this bag will ever be a reality for me.

Any particular bag that holds a special sentimental value? Can I just say I am so grateful to have each and every bag in my collection? I’ve been super lucky to be able to afford luxury handbags from a very young age, and every single bag I own I am still madly in love with. Otherwise, I would have fed it to the big eBay monster by now. From the feminine braided straps of my mini Histoire, to the raw unlined leather of vintage Coach, to the indestructible Sam, brainchild of the legendary Kate Spade (rest in peace)…every time I wear a handbag, I can’t help but admire the creativity and labor that went into each one.

CC 189 Collection 3

If I had to pick, my favorite bag of all time is my Coach Derby in bone. The design, color, how much it holds for its size…just perfect. I never baby it, and even when it gets dirt or color transfer, a few minutes with the leather cleaner and conditioner makes it look good as new. My most sentimental bag is my Coach Carly. I used to wear it tucked under my arm in classic Y2K Paris Hilton style. I hate carrying bags with short strap drops nowadays, so I hacked together a matching crossbody strap (from other used Carlys), and now I love my new crossbody Carly.

Do you feel like your bags change people’s perceptions of you or how you’re treated? No, people around me don’t care about fashion. My social circle definitely spends money, but there’s more of an emphasis on experiences and self-improvement than material possessions. One of my housemates makes $1 million+/year and drives a Honda Accord. But then he’ll drop $10k for a week at Burning Man. I think people in the tech sphere judge “unnecessary” materialism, so very few people wear conspicuous labels. I put “unnecessary” in quotes because I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way to spend your money, unless it’s unethical, and this view that female-coded interests like fashion are superficial or materialistic is tied to longstanding sexism in a male-dominated industry.

How do you take care of your bags? I like to wear the daylight out of my bags until they look very loved. I take my nicest bags mountain biking, boating, you name it. The Olsen twins and their beat-up Birkins are my inspiration. I also take the time to regularly condition and clean them with leather products. Once in a while I send them to Rago Brothers to be spruced up or fixed if anything breaks.

CC 189 Collection 7

On Shopping

How often do you buy new bags? Maybe once or twice a year. If I buy any more often, I don’t get the chance to enjoy each one as much as I can.

Do you prefer shopping for bags online or in-store? Why? Online, because I like to shop secondhand and compare deals between websites. Sometimes I’ll visit the bag in-store but then go home and buy it online. Other times, I’ll just take the plunge if the website has a good return policy.

Which stores do you frequent the most? The RealReal, Poshmark, eBay, Vestiaire Collective, Mercari, Fashionphile, and Etsy.

Have you ever returned a bag after purchasing it? Why did you make that decision? I buy secondhand bags, so I do return bags if they’re fake (rare) or not as described.

Do you ever buy second-hand bags? Where do you buy used? All of my purchases are secondhand. My go-to sites are the same ones listed above.

Do you sell old bags to pay for new purchases? I sell bags if I don’t love them anymore but not explicitly to pay for new purchases. I often ask myself how I would feel if I “lost” a bag. If the answer isn’t “I would walk through scorched earth to get it back,” mayyybe it’s time to let it go. I sell on eBay and Poshmark.

Do you ever donate or gift your old bags? If so, to whom? I recently gifted a few bags to a friend who was transitioning genders. I’ve also gifted them to family members. I don’t donate my bags very often because they are usually designer bags that have resale value.

Do you ever feel societal pressure to purchase more bags? No, only my own love of pretty things! I feel more of an anti-pressure because I’m in a male-dominated industry, and material goods are seen as shallow and unintellectual. Unfortunately, like I said before, it’s a form of sexism because fashion is seen as feminine.

Do you consider your bag purchases investments? Not at all! I’ve made money reselling a bag like…once? I got really lucky with a discontinued style that went viral.

Do you follow the latest fashion trends when deciding on your next purchase, or do you prefer classic styles? I buy whatever I can see myself wearing for 10+ years. Sometimes a trend resonates with me so I gladly jump on it. I loved the bows of the 2000s and still wear those bags proudly. But it does take me some soul-searching to differentiate between a casual crush and a true love.

Are sales associate relationships instrumental to your shopping? Not in the traditional sense, no. When I used to shop at Goodwill a lot, the employees there would sometimes set aside stuff for me that they knew I’d like.

Do you enjoy shopping beyond just acquiring something new? I definitely have an addiction to the thrill of buying and opening packages. I do consider myself a semi-recovered shopaholic. It’s the rush of adrenaline that keeps me shopping, even though the limerence usually dies down after I receive the item. I try to use the tactic of waiting a few days before hitting the trigger. It cools me down from making impulse purchases.

Have you ever felt you received inferior service at a store or boutique due to your appearance, ethnicity or gender? SAs usually ignore me. I have noticed that when I’m with a guy, we get more attention. Maybe because they think the guy is more likely to buy something for me?

CC 189 Collection 2
CC 189 Collection

What are some factors that may dissuade you from buying a bag, even if you like it? Hmm…I’ve been taking a step back and looking at the way luxury companies interact with class structures lately, and I do think it has put me off shopping retail. There’s this concept of the “investment” handbag that will “last a lifetime.” I bought into that when I was young: teenager me used to dream about being able to shop at LV or Chanel with mimosa glass in hand and friendly SAs circling me. The women I saw walking down 5th Avenue carrying a full day’s worth of shopping bags looked like mythical goddesses to me. Now, the concept of an “investment” piece feels more about pushing the boundaries of what women feel comfortable paying for handbags than true, intrinsic value. $1000 used to be a splurge, and then it was $2000, and now people are dropping $4000+ for similar bags from the same brands. Meanwhile, it’s safe to say that companies aren’t improving their product quality or increasing their worker pay at the same rate. It feels like we are living the analogy of the frog in the boiling pot.

On a more personal level, I know that buying a premier luxury item gives me the feeling of having achieved some sort of pinnacle. Like, I can afford this Prada bag that celebrities are also carrying, so I must be in the same league as them. I’ve *made* it. It’s only recently that I’ve seen how misguided my thinking was; in particular, I have a friend who recently took his startup public and is now obviously as successful financially as almost anyone can be. He still shops at Old Navy, Kohl’s, etc. Knowing this friend helped divorce the relationship between labels and success in my mind. It made me re-evaluate why it was so important that a simple tote had to be “Prada” for me to feel good carrying it. These are all personal observations from my own self-reflection. I know that people buy designer items for a myriad of reasons. I still buy and love handbags to death, but I try to be more self-aware when I do.

Is there a brand you outright refuse to buy? Why? Not on principle, but I can’t see myself buying the “big 3” (Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Hermés) because they are just too expensive. I understand that these three fashion houses have stratospheric levels of prestige, which is why they charge so much. While I could technically “afford” it with credit cards or taking out a chunk of my savings, I think there are other brands that aren’t nearly as expensive that I love more!

CC 189 Collection 11
CC 189 Collection 5

On Budgeting & Perceptions

Who pays for your bags? Me.

Do you set aside a budget for your bag purchases? No, I buy whatever I want if it feels worth it.

Have you ever purchased a counterfeit because you couldn’t afford a designer item? Yes! This was back in the 2000s when designer labels were far less common than they are today. I lived close to Canal St, so my first encounter with designer bags of any kind was with fakes. When I was 12, I purchased a fake Coach Demi for $20 on Canal St. It wasn’t even from a store, just a guy on the side of the road with purses laid out on a blanket. I absolutely ADORED how cute and pink this fake bag was. Once, a girl at school (who occasionally wore her mother’s real Coach bags) called mine out for being pleather. That was embarrassing!

Some other time in middle school, my father brought home a fake Coach braided flap bag that he purchased for $25. At the time we were somehow convinced that it “fell off the back of a truck.” I even sent in photos to an “authentication service” — it came back as authentic! I know now it was just a good fake and not authentic at all.

I don’t buy fakes anymore because if I REALLY want it, I can afford the real thing.

Do you ever hide purchases from your significant other? No. I’m not married, and my partner and I don’t share finances or live together, so there’s nothing to hide.

Have your friends or family ever criticized your bag-buying habits? If so, how did you respond? Even though I can afford everything I buy today, my parents have financial trauma (they both grew up in poverty) and still don’t believe in discretionary spending. They often inadvertently make me feel guilty for buying non-necessities. I just don’t tell them what I buy. I signed up for my own credit cards and bank accounts as soon as I was old enough.

Have you ever made a significant sacrifice to afford a bag? If so, what was it? Sort of. In college I was spending almost all my small amount of money on bags and shopping, to the point where I was using the PayPal “Pay Later” option. I was so bad with money at this point in my life because I was JUST learning to be financially independent. I never had money growing up, and suddenly I had credit cards and was figuring out how to use them. Once, a then-boyfriend had to give me $5,000 to pay off my debt.

Do you think your shopping is ever a problem? Have you ever felt like you were struggling with a shopping addiction? In the past, yes. Nowadays, I’ve learned a few lessons. The first lesson is…just because I love it, doesn’t mean I need to own it. I love the Hermés Kelly, but I’m planning on admiring it from afar. Second, just because I can click “buy,” doesn’t mean I can afford it. I use this trick where I can only buy something if I put the same amount into savings and donate the same amount to a local housing or animal charity. If I don’t want to spend 3x the price for something, I can’t afford it.

CC 189 Collection 8

Let’s get personal…

Any other expensive hobbies or passions? I like to spend money on jewelry, clothing, anti-aging, and skincare. I also like photography and figure skating.

What is your greatest fear? Being trapped in place by forces outside of my control. And heights.

Which living person do you most admire? Yuzuru Hanyu, my favorite figure skater. I could write an entire essay, but I love how true to himself he is and how he never compromises on his principles.

What or who is the greatest love of your life? My family, partner, and friends. I’m grateful every day that people choose to spend their time with me. I didn’t really have friends growing up, so whenever someone does want to be my friend now, I appreciate it a little extra. Also, Yuzuru Hanyu’s skating: pure performance and athletic art.

What is your favorite journey you have taken so far? My life and career! Looking back, I feel like I was stumbling half-blind through life to get to where I am today. When I was in college, my boyfriend at the time insisted that I take computer science classes. I refused because I’ve never coded before, and my family was also telling me that I wouldn’t be good at it. But he insisted, so I took CS 101, and I found it so difficult that I cried every week. But after that class, somehow I signed up for the next one, and the next one…I eventually found it magical to study CS and ended up with a degree. After college, someone else I was dating insisted that I get into machine learning, which I also refused at first because I didn’t know anything about it. But we collaborated on some research projects, I won a few research awards, and I ended up loving it a lot. Now I do that for a career!

Any parting words you would like to share with our readers? Buy only what you really love, and buy second-hand! It’s better for the environment.

Also, I loved filling out this confessional! It really took me down handbag memory lane. Thank you!

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Victoria
Victoria
11 months ago

Really appreciated the self-reflection. Very insightful and thought provoking. Thank you for this confessional. one of my faves.

Ess Are
Ess Are
11 months ago

I loved learning about your story- both past and today! This CC was the rare one that rang more relatable/applicable to my own thoughts and attitudes. Enjoyed it!

Missdagane
Missdagane
11 months ago

Loved this!

Eos
Eos
11 months ago

This truly was an amazing CC. I would love to be your friend too !

SlurmLoco
SlurmLoco
11 months ago

I love the different perspective on life. And the idea of putting the same amount in savings and as a donation when purchasing something so it’s 3X is a clever idea. I think I’ll use that tip moving forward.

Ash
Ash
11 months ago

I love your Coach bags and Mini Musubi! The musubi is next on my list, and I have and love the mini puzzle.

You’d asked to be on the lookout for good deals. While not a discount per see, both Loewe and Celine qualify for Neiman Marcus and Saks promos, you’d receive at least a few hundred back, highest I’ve seen is $750.

Thanks for sharing!

Ana
Ana
11 months ago

Such a refreshing confessional. Thank you.

Olivia Penzey
Olivia Penzey
11 months ago

This has got to be my favorite CC of all time. Such thoughtful responses to all of the questions and a great collection with some really choices. The creative photo shoot was fun.

Bex
Bex
11 months ago

I like Hanyu too! Although my all time favourite is Alexei Yagudin. I can watch his olympic programs from 2002 over and over again. It is pure magic. Ahh…

daveloeweyou
daveloeweyou
11 months ago

Loewe mini Puzzle is waiting for you!!👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻

Steffi
Steffi
11 months ago

I have the same Balenciaga Le Dix bag (got it for the amazing price of 400€ a couple of years ago) and love it, it is nice to see less common bags featured, thank you!

susmita gupta
susmita gupta
11 months ago

One of my favourite CC