In today’s installment of Closet Confessionals we meet a self-proclaimed Philophile who is incredibly real and down to earth about her purchases. Her collection is streamlined and includes classic pieces from various eras, but her all-time favorite is a Phoebe Philo-era tote. Though she admits to being a bit of a material person who loves beautiful things, she also knows that big purchases won’t make her any happier in life. Beyond acquiring something new, shopping makes her happy as she enjoys the act of admiring things that are aesthetically pleasing—designer or not. This confessor’s purchases are thought out and budgeted for, and shopping within her means is a big part of her attitude towards bags. Unfortunately, she has experienced the negative aspect of shopping luxury and has received inferior service at boutiques in Europe. Though on the flip side, one of her favorite bag buying moments was when a sales associate tracked her down after locating her dream bag deep in the stockroom. Read the full confessional below and be sure to submit your own!

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The Basics

Age: 35
Gender Identity: Female
Location: Singapore
Occupation: Producer
Industry: Media
Salary: $60,000
Household Income: $60,000

The Bags

Are you a PurseForum member? No

How many bags do you own? 9

What bags are in your collection?

Celine Sangle Seau tote (Phoebe Philo era)
Celine Trio purse (Phoebe Philo era)
Chanel 2.55 reissue (from 2006 or 2007, bought secondhand in 2011)
Issey Miyake Baobao tote
Saint Laurent Duffle 6 (Hedi Slimane era)
YSL Tribute tote (Stefano Pilati era)
Mulberry Bayswater
APC Sac June purse
Steven Alan Lilly purse

Vast collection of canvas totes from everywhere, usually free, sometimes purchased.

How much is your collection worth? Around US$9,000, if you only count the designer ones.

What is your most expensive bag? The Chanel 2.55 reissue edges out the Celine Sangle Seau just a little, by a few hundred bucks. If I remember correctly, I paid under US$2,500 for the Chanel, which is a steal compared to buying one new.

I bought it off a reputable forum and I spent quite a bit of time researching and consulting third party authenticators. I also took it once to Chanel to ask for advice for cleaning and they never bat an eyelid, so I’m assuming it’s real, lol. In any case, it’s been so many years and it looks and feels amazing, so even if it’s fake, it’s certainly solid. The reissues, at least from 2007 and earlier, are built like little luxurious tanks — gorgeous to touch and feel but they weigh a tonne, and the leather is very robust. The sheer weight means I don’t often use it but I love owning it.

What are the most important brands or pieces in your collection? I think the Celine Sangle Seau is very special – obviously luxe but very discreet and not an obvious choice..it’s not as recognisable as the Luggage tote, or the Belt bag. The Phoebe Philo era at Celine had some great understated pieces – one bag I wished I bought was the Twisted Cabas, but it was a very tall bag and I suspect it might have been a wee bit annoying to use, but it has such a great shape and vibe. I think the Trio is rather overpriced for what it is, but the three-pocket design is so clean and practical and I use a lot – on holidays it goes from sight-seeing to nice dinners and I like the graphical lines. People who don’t know anything (or care) about luxury brands and designers always compliment me on these two bags.

The Chanel reissue was also significant…I really loved the Coco Chanel mythology at the time and I think a lot of her ideas about clothing are timeless (I’m rather less taken with her anti-Semitism and the glow has vanished since I learnt more about that). Aside from that, I think the bag came from a time when luxury brands were more consistent in quality, and it’s a reminder how how much out there now is just gloss, compared to something so well-made.

The YSL Tribute is one of my fave bags ever, though it’s rather heavy compared to the Sangle Seau, and I don’t use it as often anymore. But I really love Stefano Pilati’s work at YSL – there was a lot of personality! The boutiques used to be this gorgeous opium red, now they’re a bit cookie-cutter “luxury brand”.

What age did you get your first designer bag, and what was it? My first designer bag was the Mulberry Bayswater, which I regret, unfortunately. It’s a very beautiful mirrored bronze leather, and it looks amazing but it is so impractical. The gloss is quite high maintenance and looks terrible when scratched or creased…and my life is quite an active, unfancy one so I really prefer bags that age well in the elements. Also, it’s quite a boxy design and after that I realise that I really don’t like bags that have such a rigid structure, and prefer bags that move with my body. I also dislike the clasp, which made it a pain to get things in and out.

I still have it, because it’s not in good enough condition to fetch any kind of decent price resale, and it’s kind of a reminder to “know thyself” before you spend good money on a designer bag. It doesn’t matter how popular it is…everyone is different and it’s really about your lifestyle and habits. Also, I bought it on steep discount and I realise now it is a mistake to buy something simply because it’s on sale and a “steal”.

Is there a specific bag you are looking to purchase next? Not particularly. I think the glow of designer bags has worn off for me, and I’m much more cynical about the marketing of luxury conglomerates. Also, once you’ve handled enough quality bags (old Chanel, Hermes), you become very unimpressed with most of what is out there. I don’t make much and while I don’t mind splurging, I don’t want to be suckered by branding and pay thousands for something that isn’t special.

Also, my current job as a producer is very casual, and I deal with a lot of non-profits, so swinging around conspicuously expensive bags isn’t appropriate. I’m happy with what I have and I don’t want to buy new bags that will just sit on the shelf.

My last designer bag was a Baobao – one of those Prism bags, with a pretty metallic splashed paint effect. It looks like a little painting. I love that it is lightweight but strong, and it looks cool. It’s a statement but it’s practical and works for my life.

Any particular bag that holds a special sentimental value? Nope. I love my bags but I’m not sentimental about them. I took a break from work a couple years ago, and in that time I travelled on a budget, and designer bags were really far away from my mind. I think that changed the way I viewed them; something that seemed so important when I bought it, suddenly had no place in my life. I was happy to come back and start using my bags again when I started working, but I didn’t miss them.

Do you feel like your bags change people’s perceptions of you or how you’re treated? Yes, I sometimes feel self-conscious when I carry something a bit more recognisable. I’m used to it now but I used to wonder if I’m seen as materialistic and status conscious. Even friends made comments like, “I didn’t know you’re the kind of person who spend a few thousand dollars on a handbag.” You do get used to it. Everyone judges when people spend large sums of money, and so long as I was spending responsibly, I don’t feel like I need to explain or apologise for it.

Once, in one of my previous jobs, a co-worker recognised I was carrying a Saint Laurent bag, and grilled me endlessly about it. I was pretty annoyed, not because I’m ashamed of my spending but because she was just being nosy and looking for something to cast judgement over. I remember countering: “Are you trying to find out how much I make? Do you think that’s appropriate?”

That shut her up. But it did make me realise that people do look very closely at what you use/carry/wear, and you always have to be ready for this sort of nonsense or else it could turn into something needlessly dramatic.

On the flip side, I love meeting a fellow Philophile. There’s something special about encountering someone who understands that little emotional reaction to certain objects. And this is not like, a Mean Girls, “who’s in and who’s out” mentality. It’s like meeting someone who likes the same movie, or book.

The Shopping

How often do you buy new bags? Every two years, it feels like. I keep saying, no more bags! I bought the Baobao in 2018, and I hope that’s the last of it for a while. I’ve become more interested in ethical production for fashion and that helps – I really want to know how things are made and that the process wasn’t harmful to people or the environment. Very few luxury brands have that kind of transparency.

Which stores do you frequent the most? I like to see what’s happening at Loewe. I like Jonathan Anderson’s work and his bags are quirky and cool. I don’t feel like I have the lifestyle for them but visually, it’s fun. I also like shops like On Pedder, which carry a range of designers and it’s cool to see what emerging brands or designers are doing.

Do you ever buy second-hand bags? Where do you buy used? My only secondhand bag is the Chanel reissue, and unfortunately I can’t remember the name of the resale forum I got it from. I actually did a tonne of research on TPF back in 2011 and it was dead helpful in terms of figuring what questions I should be asking sellers. I enjoy looking on TRR but honestly, I won’t pull the trigger unless it’s something you know no one can be arsed to copy. The big names and styles are too pricey and risky for me to roll the dice, no matter what TRR says about their authentication process.

Do you sell old bags to pay for new purchases? Nope! I’m not precious about my belongings and most of what I have is probably too battered to be worth the hassle of selling. Plus, I like my collection and have no desire to part with them.

Do you ever feel societal pressure to purchase more bags? Nope. I have two sisters and sometimes they buy a beautiful bag that makes me a bit wistful, but mostly, I know my habits well by now and I know having more things doesn’t make me happy. Also, bags are not like t-shirts – you can’t really only use so many at once, and leather bags really don’t do well if they just sit in a room collecting dust. The leather deteriorates in condition and then it just becomes something you have to maintain and fuss over. Where’s the joy in that?

Do you consider your bag purchases investments? Nope, I buy for keeps, and I am not my hedging my retirement on handbags. How many of them appreciate in value? People say that about Birkins and Kellys, but you know, there are so many on the resale market, you wonder how many of them really sell, considering how much they go for new these days.

Who influences your buying decisions? I do follow a few influencers on Instagram, but I’m inspired mainly by their vibe rather than to buy specific items. I think Instagram clues me onto which brands are giving away bags, because you suddenly see them everywhere, and that makes me not want something, lol.

Are sales associate relationships instrumental to your shopping? I’m not a big enough buyer to have this type of relationship. But I do have a funny story about the YSL Tribute. I remember passing by the boutique and spotting it. I went in, tried it, loved it, but felt it was too much money for me to spend, even though it was 40% off. So I left. I went back the next day, and the same sales associate, who was very sweet, told me it had sold, and it was the last one. Five, six hours later, I passed the boutique again because I had dinner nearby, and I heard someone calling “Miss! Miss” behind me. I turned around, and it was the same sales associate, who ran after me when she saw me pass the shop, because she had found one last bag in the stockroom! She was like, “I was so upset I didn’t take your details down, and I spent the whole day looking out for you.” Needless to say, I bought the bag. It was a nice moment.

Why do you enjoy shopping, beyond just acquiring something new? I love beautiful things and good design. I guess I am a very material person! I find it quite emotionally soothing to have things that are aesthetically pleasing, whether it’s a simple stool from Ikea or a bag from Celine. It can be hard to resist things I find beautiful but I’ve learnt to admire from a distance. I can shop for hours and not buy something but I find it quite fun just to admire stuff and maybe learn a little about it. This is why I don’t like shopping online – the tactile aspect of shopping is missing when you can’t examine and feel it.

Have you ever felt like you received inferior service at a store or boutique due to your appearance, ethnicity or gender? Nothing too awful, but I think in Europe, in the bigger luxury stores that see a lot of Asians, the sales associates sometimes give me the vibe that they’re just tolerating me for the commission. I remember a sales associate yawning while I examined a watch and I said, “I’ll leave now so you can go to bed.” She actually rolled her eyes and shrugged her shoulders, and said “You can leave any time.” It’s not the first time I’ve been on the receiving end of racism, and you can always tell. This was definitely one of those times.

The Money

Who pays for your bags? I do.

Do you set aside a budget for your bag purchases? No. I set aside savings and I pay all my bills on time, and that’s about it. So long as I think it doesn’t affect my overall budget for the month, I’m good.

The Taboo Topics

Have you ever purchased a counterfeit because you couldn’t afford a designer item? Nope. I think it’s because I don’t really buy stuff for the status. Also, you never know what you are funding when you buy counterfeit, sometimes it’s linked to criminal gangs!

Do you ever hide purchases from your significant other? Nope. My partner is quite shocked by the prices, and that I find it acceptable but I think it’s good to not hide these things. If I feel shame about spending what I spend, maybe I shouldn’t do it! I want my purchases to be associated with happiness, not self-consciousness.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve done to afford a bag? Nothing crazy! It sounds boring but I always stay within my means.

Do you think your shopping is ever a problem? Have you ever felt like you were struggling with a shopping addiction? I definitely emotional shop! When I’m stressed at work, shopping is a big distraction and I chase the momentary high. I don’t think it has reached addiction levels but the compulsion to buy something is really strong sometimes, and I feel like I have to fight it. Over time, the guilt of impulse buying has helped to diminish the temptation.

The Rest Of It

Any other expensive hobbies or passions? Travel and food! I’m frugal 95% of the time and then 5% of the time I’m like, yeah, bring on the $500-a-head dinner. Or, yes, let’s go scuba diving in the Galapagos.

Anything else you would like to include? Designer bags are not about what other people have, and what something is “worth” is 100% subjective and personal. A 900 Euro Celine Trio makes me happier than a 3000 Euro Chanel purse, and is worth more to me. Is that logical? No. But it’s 100% a decision I’m happy to own, and that’s the most important thing.

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