Meet Jenna, the young expat English teacher living in Japan. She is convinced that much of the stories linking counterfeit bag production to supporting terrorism is nothing but propaganda. After reading through her submission a few weeks ago, we actually decided to do some research to which degree this is actually the case. Morality and legality of counterfeits aside, it would be interesting to determine whether the claims are true and to what extent. Look out for an article on this very topic in the coming weeks. Feel free to share your story, thoughts and reflections by filling out the questionnaire below. Enjoy!

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The Basics

Age: 23
Gender Identity: Female
Location: Japan
Social Media: @Jenna_zimm
Occupation: English Teacher
Industry: Education
Salary: $33,000
Household Income: $33,000

The Bags

Are you a PurseForum member? Yes, @jenjen96

How many bags do you own? 9

What bags are in your collection?

YSL Kate Tassel bag
YSL Small LOU LOU
Balenciaga Mini City
LV Neverfull
Vintage LV Montsouris backpack
Vintage Chanel Flap
Chanel Reissue Camera Bag
Vintage Dior Nylon Lady Dior Cannage
Vintage Burberry Duffle Bag

And a few SLG that include wallets and a sunglass case.

How much is your collection worth? ~$15,000

What is your most expensive bag? My Vintage Chanel flap

What are the most important brands or pieces in your collection? Both of my Chanel bags. To me, Chanel is the holy grail!

What age did you get your first designer bag, and what was it? My parents purchased it for me in Paris for my 20th birthday. It was the YSL Kate Tassel bag.

Is there a specific bag you are looking to purchase next? I’m looking for a larger sized bag, but still unsure! Currently, I’m very happy with my collection.

Any particular bag that holds a special sentimental value? My vintage Chanel flap was the first thing I bought with my first real “adult” paycheck, so it is very special to me. This was my dream bag and I made my dream come true!

Do you feel like your bags change people’s perceptions of you or how you’re treated? Most of my bags were purchased with the help of my parents and I know many people aren’t as fortunate as me. Growing up, I was surrounded by people in a similar situation so I didn’t think about it much. Now I work as an expat overseas and my current social circle is much different. I do feel like they do judge me sometimes, because they would never spend so much money on an accessory and they think I’m being frivolous or spoiled. But it doesn’t bother me. I love handbags and I feel better when I wear them.

The Shopping

How often do you buy new bags? Whenever I see one that I really want! I don’t make a rule out of it. Prior to moving overseas, it was whenever I traveled because my city has no luxury boutiques. But now I have the opportunity to go shopping more often.

Which stores do you frequent the most? Living in Japan, which is often thought of as the best place to buy bags pre-loved I often look on Japanese auction websites like Yahoo Auctions or Japanese consignment or thrift shops for deals on pre-loved bags.

Do you ever buy second-hand bags? Where do you buy used? Absolutely! Prior to moving to Japan, all my bags were new. But I watch a lot of handbag videos on YouTube, and I started to get bored of seeing the same bags. I realized that if I wanted something unique, the best thing to do is buy vintage. Not only is the price way better, but you can find pieces no one else will have! I love that. Currently, I have 4 pre-loved bags and they are some of my favourites. I think I got amazing deals on all of them! I would have not been able to grow my collection without the second hand market.

Do you sell old bags to pay for new purchases? I’ve thought about it, but I haven’t yet. I don’t see myself getting rid of any of my babies anytime soon.

Do you ever feel societal pressure to purchase more bags? Nope! Considering most of my friends don’t have any lux bags, I feel as if I’m keeping up with the Joneses well already.

Do you consider your bag purchases investments? I do not, because I don’t think I would get my money back if I sold them. I also don’t ever want to sell them!

Who influences your buying decisions? Price and functionality are two of the biggest things for me! In the past, I’ve bought many smaller sized bags because they were cheaper. But I carry a lot of things! I need a spacious bag that is functional and durable.

Are sales associate relationships instrumental to your shopping? Nope! I recently watched a youtube video where the influencer said she used to prefer to buy bags in Europe because its cheaper. But now she prefers to go to her store because she loves how her SA treats her and things good service is worth the more expensive price. I completely disagree with this! Especially because I know that they are only being nice to me so I can pay their commission. The relationship is superficial and fake. Obviously I’m not trying to buy a Birkin, and many of my bags were bought on my travels in different boutiques. So I don’t care about my relationship with an SA.

Why do you enjoy shopping, beyond just acquiring something new? The thrill of the find is exhilarating. Especially when buying pre-loved. Finding a bag I’ve been wanted for a good price and in good condition, then bidding and winning the auction is a great feeling! I feel accomplished.

Have you ever felt like you received inferior service at a store or boutique due to your appearance, ethnicity or gender? Personally, I haven’t. At least not that I’ve noticed. But I don’t always expect 5 star service when I walk into a boutique, especially if I know i’m not buying that day.

The Money

Who pays for your bags? My father if they are gifts or I purchase them myself.

Do you set aside a budget for your bag purchases? Not particularly, but if I notice I have some extra money in my account I will put that towards a splurge for myself. I don’t just buy a bag to buy a bag, if I see the right bag I will budget my money for that specific bag.

The Taboo Topics

Have you ever purchased a counterfeit because you couldn’t afford a designer item?

When I was a teenager my family took a vacation to Europe. This was before I was into bags. We were in Turkey. It seemed like the thing to do there was buy fakes from the bazaar. My sister was really into the idea, and I went with her to the market. I got a fake LV wallet. It wasn’t a good fake and didn’t look right, even with my non existent knowledge of LV at the time I knew. I never used it and eventually donated it to Goodwill.

Personally, I wouldn’t buy a fake bag now but I am not against them. The cost of designer bags is ridiculously high and keeps going up in price. I know most people can’t afford that. I don’t even believe that I am paying for quality because both of my LV bags have been damaged when they are supposedly “indestructible”. My vintage backpack had the leather crack completely through on the strap after being caught in the rain. I had it replaced. My Neverfull tote has a rip in the canvas which I believe was caused by some sharp plastic. This could not be fixed. So I definitely see the appeal of fake bags.

I also think the rumours of fake bags supporting terrorists networks is propaganda. I am an active member on Reddit and one sub-reddit I have taken interest in is devoted to buying replica designer goods. I lurk that forum to learn how to spot fakes in their quality check posts. But the members of the forum are in direct contact with, or have an agent where they can buy from factories in China that make these replicas. These factories may not have the best conditions by our standards, but they are not sweatshops and are the very same factories that create clothing and accessories for the fast fashion stores at the mall. They produce super fakes and they are not terrorists. There is a lot of work that goes into to making the super fake bags. The attention to detail and craftsmanship mirrors those of their authentic counterparts so obviously this is not something anyone can produce. Copying a design is unethical, but but its difficult to find a bag in any store that doesn’t mirror something from a luxury fashion house. I will not judge someone if they choose to buy a replica. Of course, this is not the same for every fake made and every factory that produces them. But I do not believe terrorist organizations are concerned with producing fake bags or even have to knowledge and tools to make a decent one.

Do you ever hide purchases from your significant other? I have no significant other, so I have not.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve done to afford a bag? Honestly nothing. I budget well and have help from my parents if I ever need it.

Do you think your shopping is ever a problem? Have you ever felt like you were struggling with a shopping addiction? I do feel like I have a shopping addiction. To me, handbags are special and forever so I am careful with those. But clothes are a lot more disposable. I feel like my style changes constantly and changes depending on who I’m with and where I’m going. So I buy too many clothes and I’m still not happy with my wardrobe. I’ve tried taking inspiration from minimalists but ultimately fail. I’m still working on it.

The Rest Of It

Any other expensive hobbies or passions? I love to travel! Traveling eats a big part of my budget. I’d rather cheap out on flights and food and splurge on hotels and entertainment!

Anything else you would like to include? When expanding your collection, don’t rush to buy bag after bag. I think they lose their novelty that way. It feels much better to savour my bag purchases, especially after wanting it for so long and finally finding it in the exact color I want at a good price. I felt that when I bought multiple bags in a short period of time I didn’t wear them as much and they didn’t feel special to me. So I want to avoid this in the future.

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