Today’s confessional comes to you from a sales manager in her mid-40s from Pennsylvania’s state capital. Unlike the CCs we published recently, this one does not excite with controversy, but rather delivers a wholesome account from someone who overcame great personal tragedy, gets inspired by other PurseForum community members and generally keeps her life, spending and priorities well balanced.
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Gender Identity: Female
Location: Harrisburg, PA
Occupation: Sales Manager
Household Income: $250,000
Are you a PurseForum member? Yes
How many bags do you own? 30+
What bags are in your collection?
- Balenciaga Giant Day
- Balenciaga Giant Pom Pom
- Balenciaga Work
- Balenciaga Matelasse
- Bottega Veneta Cervo Hobo
- Bottega Veneta Intrecciato Loop
- Celine Edge
- Celine Trapeze
- Chanel 2.55 Reissue 226 Flap
- Chloe Paddington
- Hermes Birkin 35
- Hermes Kelly 35
- Hermes Evelyne 29
- Hermes Garden Party 36
- Louis Vuitton Alma
- Louis Vuitton Speedy 30
- Louis Vuitton Artsy
- Louis Vuitton Epi Noe
- Mansur Gavriel Mini Bucket Bag
- Proenza Schouler PS1 Keepall
- Valentino My Rockstud Satchel
- YSL Classic Duffle
- Various Coach and Furla bags (mainly heritage)
- Various Longchamp totes (amazing for travel)
- Various other smaller brands (Belen Echandia, Marco Tagliaferri, Liebskind, Gerard Darel, Aspinal of London, Polene)
How much is your collection worth? $45,000
What is your most expensive bag? My Hermes Birkin 35 — I almost hyperventilated when I handed over my credit card. I normally use my bags as soon as I buy them, but it took me almost 2 weeks to use my Birkin. Part of me couldn’t believe I actually spent that much money on a bag, and the other part was petrified of ruining it. Now it’s one of my favorites and I follow Jane Birkin’s philosophy that bags are meant to be used, no matter what.
What are the most important brands or pieces in your collection? I spent my younger years chasing “it” bags. It took me a while to figure out my style and what works with my lifestyle, and I will never be the person on the cutting edge of fashion. I sold off or gave away everything that made me feel like I was trying too hard.
Hermes has made me appreciate quality craftsmanship and the process of making a bag that lasts for decades.
A Chanel flap bag was my holy grail, and my black 2.55 Reissue is a staple whether it be an evening out or with jeans as I run to Target.
My Balenciaga Giant Day bag is also a favorite because it’s hands-free and has a zipper which makes it great for travel.
I love my Mansur Gavriel Mini Bucket for concerts and sporting events–it’s like a Mary Poppins’ bag because it holds so much more than you’d think, and it wipes clean if something gets on it.
What age did you get your first designer bag, and what was it? My mother gifted me Coach bags in high school, but I was 25 when I first purchased one with my own money. I bought it to celebrate my first full-time job after grad school. It was a Louis Vuitton Alma and I bought in the Union Square boutique in San Francisco.
Is there a specific bag you are looking to purchase next? I’d like to get a Birkin 30, but I’m fine if it doesn’t happen. I’m incredibly fortunate to have what I have in my current collection (and to be honest, I could probably stand to downsize a bit too).
Any particular bag that holds a special sentimental value? My LV Alma–the first purchase I made with my own money. I couldn’t believe I was spending $575 dollars on one bag (that was essentially one month’s rent at the time), but I had been lusting after it for years.
(I laugh now, because have you seen the price of an Alma today? The increases are ridiculous!)
I still have and carry it often, and I love the patina on the vachetta and the story it tells. It’s in great shape for a 20-year old bag; unfortunately LV’s quality has gone downhill since then. My LV Artsy is also special. It was my gift to myself for surviving the first year after my husband’s death. It reminds me that I can handle anything, especially when I think I can’t.
Do you feel like your bags change people’s perceptions of you or how you’re treated? Yes and no.
I live in an area where LV is common, but other brands aren’t, so when I carry my non-LV bags, most people don’t recognize them. When they do, it’s usually because they’re a like-minded bag lover and it turns into a really nice conversation about our mutual love of a brand or bags in general. When I travel to NYC, LA or other major metropolitan areas, it definitely makes a difference in how I’m treated, especially when I’m shopping at high-end stores. I don’t flaunt my bags, but I don’t hide them either.
I don’t use my recognizable bags at work, for reasons mainly having to do with client and prospect interactions because I don’t want them influencing opinions about me or my company. My friends and family either don’t care or know about bags, or believe that it’s my money to spend as I wish. My sister is like me, and we’re constantly sharing or swapping bags. My bills are paid, I save money, and I have no children so I have disposable income to play with.
How often do you buy new bags? I’ve slowed down considerably, especially as I’ve gone upmarket. Maybe 2-3 times per year at this point. I’ll shop my own closet first.
Which stores do you frequent the most? I shop mainly at Nordstrom and Target for clothes and home goods. I also love the outlets for deals: Nordstrom Rack, Neiman Marcus Last Call, and Saks Off Fifth often have great finds for less than what you’d spend at Macy’s. TJMaxx and Marshalls can be hit or miss and you have to be willing to dig through the racks (which I’m not). My biggest splurge is at the Hermes boutique for scarves and shawls right now.
Do you ever buy second-hand bags? Where do you buy used? Yes! I love the idea of giving pre-loved bags a new home. It cuts down on waste and saves me money. I’m fascinated by vintage bags especially, and the history behind them. I use TheRealReal, Japanese sellers on eBay, Fashionphile, closed Facebook groups, and brick and mortar consignment shops to find deals.
Do you sell old bags to pay for new purchases? Yes, though it’s difficult for me to make that decision. I tend to want to keep what I’ve bought, and I am working hard to break myself of that tendency. Some days are better than others.
I travel a lot for work so I will send my bags off to consignment because it’s convenient. I don’t have the time to sell them on my own, even if I would make more from the sale. That convenience is worth the financial hit to me. I want to spend my time at home with my family and friends, not photographing bags from every angle and monitoring when my eBay auctions end.
Do you ever feel societal pressure to purchase more bags? In the interest of full disclosure, only when I’m on TPF. I suppose it’s less of feeling pressure and more of the feeling of missing out, but members are posting such beautiful bags and amazing finds that I might not have known about otherwise. They are genuinely excited and know more about the brands than a lot of brand representatives do.
I don’t follow influencers on Instagram or Snapchat, and I know the whole point of marketing is to manipulate me into making a purchase. I’ve never made a bag purchase because of an ad, but I have made a purchase because of a TPF member’s experience.
Do you consider your bag purchases investments? My Birkin and Kelly could be considered investments, but I don’t think of them as such in the traditional sense. I never buy a bag based on its expected resale value. I buy because I want the bag and will use it. My retirement is dependent on my monetary investments, not my handbags.
Who influences your buying decisions? Me, primarily.
TPF member reviews are also incredibly helpful. They’ve save me from making costly mistakes with photos and real-world experience. My significant other doesn’t bat an eye as long as our obligations are taken care of. I’ll run purchases past my sister because I know she’ll be honest and call me out if necessary. (I do the same for her. It’s a lot easier to be critical about a purchase when you’re not the one starry-eyed over it.)
Are sales associate relationships instrumental to your shopping? Absolutely!
I used to live in an area with many high-end stores and boutiques. Now that I’ve moved away, they still keep an eye out for the things I like and will track down hard-to-find items. They know what appeals to me, and they know I don’t make them run around on a whim. I’ve been fortunate enough to develop good relationships where I don’t feel pressure to purchase. We’ll text or email on a regular basis to check in, and it makes my life easier so I’m not overwhelmed with choices when I do make it in to the store.
I used to think it was ridiculous to have an SA, because how entitled can you be? But it really does make life easier, especially when the relationship is based on mutual respect and understanding.
Why do you enjoy shopping, beyond just acquiring something new? Honestly, I don’t really enjoy shopping as a stand-alone event. It’s a means to an end for me. I rarely go into a store without some idea of what I’m looking for. Browsing online is a little different. It’s a way to pass the time when I’m waiting for something else. I also browse online to narrow down the list of what I want to look at in the store.
Do I indulge in retail therapy?
Sure I do, but I try to balance that out with other activities that are good for me in a different way: walking or volunteering or talking to a good friend. I never want to get in the habit of needing to buy something to make me feel better.
Have you ever felt like you received inferior service at a store or boutique due to your appearance, ethnicity or gender? Yes.
I’m not model thin and I’m not 6 feet tall, and I don’t dress up to shop. I could be in jeans and sneakers with no makeup or I could be in work clothes with a full face on. I have walked away from SAs that won’t give me the time of day because I don’t fit their preconceived notion of a good client, and will find someone else to work with who knows that good clients come in all shapes and sizes. If that means going to another location, then so be it. Life is too short to deal with disrespectful people.
Who pays for your bags? I do.
Do you set aside a budget for your bag purchases? Not specifically. I set aside discretionary funds that can be used to pay for things that are not necessary. Sometimes it’s concert tickets, sometimes it’s travel, and sometimes it’s a bag. I don’t set aside a specific amount because my compensation can vary based on commissions, but my bills, investments, and emergency fund need to be taken care of before I set aside fun money.
The Taboo Topics
Have you ever purchased a counterfeit because you couldn’t afford a designer item? I did, way back when I was in college, because I didn’t know better. In addition to the copyright infringement issues, counterfeit bags are a source of income for organized crime syndicates. Now, I’ll find a bag in a price range I can afford instead of turning to counterfeits.
Do you ever hide purchases from your significant other? No. Bags and shoes aren’t his thing, but he doesn’t criticize me for it. In fact, he was the one who encouraged me to buy the Birkin when I texted him from the boutique. I am so lucky to have him in my life–this is just one of the reasons why.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve done to afford a bag? I’m boring. I don’t really think I’ve ever done anything crazy for a bag. Unless you count spending the money in the first place!
Do you think your shopping is ever a problem? Have you ever felt like you were struggling with a shopping addiction? No. I’m contemplating a career change, which will cut down on a lot of my discretionary spending, and while I would miss the ability to buy new Hermes or Chanel (if there was something I wanted in the first place), the reduced stress in my life would more than make up for it. I would rather spend time with my significant other and family, which is difficult right now. I’d give up every bag in my closet to guarantee more time with them.
The Rest Of It
Any other expensive hobbies or passions? Travel, and shoes. I love exploring new places and trying new things, and sharing those experiences with the people important to me. I also love a killer pair of heels. (I contain layers…)
Anything else you would like to include?
Use the bag.
Wear the shoes.
Love yourself, so you can love others. Respect everyone, no matter what they do for a living or where they come from.
At the end of the day, it’s all just stuff. It can have sentimental value and it can bring joy, but don’t ever go into debt for it.