In our latest installment of closet confessionals, we meet a hard-working lawyer turned stay-at-home-mom who has been through quite the bag journey over her nearly 20 years of collecting. Her love of bags began with a Coach bag she received for her high school graduation. The gift came from her Aunt at a time when Coach was in its heyday, and she cherished the bag so much that she even slept with it next to her at night! Eventually this young mom moved on to Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Balenciaga, though she now prefers mostly the luxury classics like Hermès, Goyard and Chanel. She has kept a few finds that are slightly less classic but meet a certain look or function. As her outfits sway to be on the more eclectic side, this confessor prefers that her bags be more understated.
With an enviable collection of Hermès bags and a pretty hefty number of Chanel bags as well, this confessor feels that her collection is almost complete and has slowed down her spending in favor of time spent with loved ones. Like the rest of us, our confessor can sometimes be influenced by social media or trends, but she reminds herself to pause and assess if it’s something she really wants or needs. She believes her bags are meant to be used, and if they’re not working anymore for her lifestyle, our confessor will sell them off. Though she loves luxury bags like the rest of us and has a very extensive designer bag collection, her approach to bags and the reasoning behind them seems down-to-earth and relatable. Read the full CC below and don’t forget to submit your own!
Gender Identity: Female
Location: Washington, D.C.
Occupation: Lawyer (currently SAHM while job/soul searching)
Household Income: $300,000.00
Are you a PurseForum member? Yes
How many bags do you own? 24
What bags are in your collection?
Hermes Birkin 35cm Orange GHW Togo
Hermes Birkin 35cm Rouge Tomate GHW Togo
Hermes HAC 36cm Noir GHW Clemence
Hermes Sellier Kelly 32cm SO Raisin/Gris Tourterelle Chevre/Togo
Hermes Medor 29cm Noir GHW Box
Hermes Constance 18cm Gold GHW Chevre
Hermes Constance 23cm Noir GHW Box
Hermes Lindy 34cm Gold SHW Clemence
Hermes Garden party 36cm Etoupe Negonda
Chanel Classic Double Flap Maxi Black Caviar GHW
Chanel Classic Double Flap Small Black Caviar GHW
Chanel Jumbo Single Flap Moonlight on Water Black Sequins
Chanel Quilted XL GST Caviar GHW
Chanel Metallic Multicolor “Mermaid” Pouch
Gucci Bamboo Shopper Pink
Gucci Soho Leather Disco Red
Lady Dior Black Lambskin Large
Goyard St Louis Blue GM, Voltaire Gray, Artois Black MM, petit flot
Moynat Cabotin Taupe SHW
Balenciaga Metallic Edge City Medium GHW
Louis Vuitton Sofia Coppola Bag GM Navy GHW
How much is your collection worth? ~$70k?
What is your most expensive bag? Birkin 35 Rouge Tomate–it was the first time I was offered a Birkin! My husband and I were in Paris on vacation and had to wait in line for an appointment at FSH (before they started the online appointment system). We were the LAST PEOPLE to get an appointment that day, and I didn’t have high hopes since our appointment was 20 minutes before closing time. We showed up a little early, checked in, and then wandered around the jewelry section. I bought a watch strap for my watch and then met our leather SA. She took down what I was looking for (an SA at H Sevres had given us tips to be prepared and to ask for specific colors that were more readily available at the time) and moved us to a different room–which is always a GOOD SIGN! She brought out the bag and obviously I couldn’t say no–and funnily enough, my husband got really into the hunt and was equally thrilled that we were able to get the bag I wanted.
What are the most important brands or pieces in your collection? After a decade or so of loving luxury bags, I’ve come to realize I gravitate toward classic pieces when it comes to handbags. I love clothes that are structural/modern and like to incorporate humorous or ironic details, so I usually rely on my handbags to be the classic element in my outfits and to prevent my outfits from looking too “out there”. I’ve basically sold off anything that isn’t Hermes/Chanel/Goyard, with a few bags that I just love for function (Gucci Soho Disco, LV Sofia Coppola SC) or looks (Balenciaga City, Moynat Cabotin).
What age did you get your first designer bag, and what was it? My aunt bought me a Coach monogram hobo for my high school graduation, and I slept with it next to me for a month. It was a dream come true! This was when Coach still made everything in the US–it was so well made and the most expensive bag I had ever owned at that point. I didn’t know anyone who had a Coach bag so it felt so special.
Is there a specific bag you are looking to purchase next? I really wanted a Chanel WOC in the “mermaid” metallic (I know, a deviation from my “classics”, but hey–rules are meant to be broken), and my husband called around to try and get one for me for our anniversary (he’s the real gem in all these handbag stories). He couldn’t locate one so ended up getting me the pouch instead–which is lovely, and I’m happy to just have a piece in that fabulous color. But I do think it would be nice to have a WOC for functional purposes, so that’s kind of on my list. I say “kind of” because I’m also really intrigued by the mini lindy (I know–not in the same $$ ballpark at all!!). I am thinking about selling my Chanel Maxi and getting a Jumbo instead because the Maxi seems larger than what I need, but prices are crazy even secondhand so it isn’t looking likely. We had a preemie baby last year so I quit my job to stay home for a bit, and my husband took a paycut for a less demanding job in order to be home more, which means we’ve halved our household income this year. It has been tough to change our spending mindset, but in light of those changes and all the uncertainty in the world, it doesn’t seem like a wise decision to make any more large purchases at the moment (but that quarantine shopping urge is REAL).
Any particular bag that holds a special sentimental value? My one and only special order from Hermes is a 28cm Kelly Sellier–Raisin Chevre outside with Gris Tourterelle inside and GHW. My SA (the one who helped me get my first Birkin) offered me a special order when we visited her on another trip to Paris. It was on this trip that we found out we were pregnant! So the bag will always remind me of that wonderful (and let’s be honest, super scary) time when we realized we were having a baby!
Do you feel like your bags change people’s perceptions of you or how you’re treated? I have had some outsized responses to my bags, but I don’t know that I frequently go to places where it changes someone’s behavior toward me. We lived in NYC for a long time, and in my experience the guys at the Halal Guys cart don’t really care if you’re carrying a Birkin; and if we’re in a fancy restaurant, the staff are warm and polite to you no matter what bag you carry. It might make a bigger difference in nice department stores or flagship luxury stores, but I don’t spend a lot of time in those stores in NYC because I usually save big purchases for trips abroad (and I use a Longchamp or something utilitarian for a handbag when I travel). My favorite moments are when a random person tells me they like the bag I’m carrying–not because they know the brand, but because they just think it is beautiful. I once had someone tell me she loved my bag (orange Birkin) and asked if it was Kate Spade–I found that just delightful!
How often do you buy new bags? I actually feel like my collection is pretty complete–except for my earlier point about a Chanel WOC and maybe a differently-sized Chanel classic double flap. This year I’ve purchased one bag for myself (and sold three!) and my husband bought me a new bag (Goyard petit flot) and a Chanel pouch for our anniversary. That will probably be it for the year.
Which stores do you frequent the most? I like COS, Tibi, Marni, Khaite, Acne Studios and the Japanese consignment stores in St. Marks (NYC) for interesting clothing. I really only do department stores like Saks/Neiman Marcus for shoes, and I try to go to boutiques for bags.
Do you ever buy second-hand bags? Where do you buy used? I do buy second hand, but I am very cautious (after years of being on TPF!) even of the big second-hand dealers like RealReal or Fashionphile. I think all of my second-hand bags have been from Yoogis. I’ve been around long enough to remember when eBay was the go-to for second-hand and have spent hours on TPF trying to authenticate eBay finds. I think these big secondhand dealers have now driven up and mostly standardized prices as the middlemen, so there are fewer deals to be had. They do provide services (authentication, wider audience, shipping/returns), so I can’t fault them for taking their piece of the pie, but I do miss the old days!
Do you sell old bags to pay for new purchases? Yes, I use Yoogis, Fashionphile, RealReal or eBay. Not specifically to pay for new purchases, but we’ve moved frequently and that always triggers my inner, very very latent, Marie Kondo urges. I never thought I would part with Chanels, but in my last purge I sold a metallic teal reissue (hard to match), black timeless clutch (I use my H Medor more often), and a mini vanity (it didn’t fit my phone). Bags are for me to use–so if they aren’t useful, they have to go! I will say my ONE LIFELONG REGRET (which still keeps me up at night) is that I sold a black box leather Hermes Constance with guilloche hardware (!!!!!!) because I was so focused on wanting GHW. H fans, don’t @ me about this because I cry on the inside every time I think about it. Seriously, I can’t believe I actually have to live with myself after this terrible decision.
Do you ever feel societal pressure to purchase more bags? No, I think society would probably tell me I have a lot already (lol). I do fall into the trap of wanting something trendy because I see it on social media or ad campaigns (I was kind of contemplating the Chanel 19 recently), but then I remind myself that there is a really good chance I will get over it relatively quickly. And if I don’t, eventually I might be able to get it on the secondary market for less. Ex. I thought I really wanted a Chanel boy for several years, and now I don’t really feel like it is a bag I need, AND if I did want one, the resell market has dropped since it seems like other styles (classic flap/19s/coco handles) might be more popular at the moment.
Do you consider your bag purchases investments? No, especially with selling it yourself being not a great option anymore (RIP eBay) and consignment stores charging high commissions, there’s not really much of a chance you get it back unless you spend the time to sell it yourself and wait for a buyer to come in at the price you want.
Who influences your buying decisions? I usually buy what I see myself wearing. I don’t usually see social media influencers or celebrities and think, “oh that’s an outfit I want to wear”–I tend to like a piece here or there, but sometimes it feels like there is an “influencer” style emerging that isn’t very unique or exciting. My friends don’t have the same taste as me in bags or clothes, so I might ask them but end up not listening! I do ask my husband for his opinion (even though it doesn’t override my own), since he knows my wardrobe and is often a voice of reason.
Are sales associate relationships instrumental to your shopping? Only my Hermes SA at FSH has a place in my heart. We even had our babies at around the same time!! She helped me purchase my first Birkin, and then every time we’ve been in Paris after that, we would stop by and see her. She also helped me with my first SO, which was another unforgettable experience. I would be so devastated if she ever left!
Why do you enjoy shopping, beyond just acquiring something new? My mom worked full time when I was younger, and shopping was our way of spending time together on the weekends. I always had really strong opinions about what I wanted to wear, even I was very young. Sometimes money was a little tight, but if she knew I really wanted a specific article of clothing, she would go out of her way to purchase it for me–and believe me, I would wear the heck out of it (and then pass it on to my younger sister)! I think that informs my attitude toward shopping now, buy what you really love and wear the heck out of it (and then pass it on to your sister–because I still do)! Maybe it sounds a little silly, but I also really love admiring the artistry in some of these beautiful things I see when shopping. I took a fashion history class in college, and it really shaped the way I look at clothes and accessories, so when I’m shopping I often think back to how what we see as modern/current really references the past.
Have you ever felt like you received inferior service at a store or boutique due to your appearance, ethnicity or gender? I don’t think I’ve received inferior service, but I think some assumptions are made because I am Asian–some luxury brands tend to send the Asian SAs to speak Mandarin to me even though I speak English. I do feel self-conscious standing in lines for some of the stores in Paris because there are a lot of Asian tourists, and I’m aware there are negative stereotypes about Asians and luxury goods.
Who pays for your bags? I usually pay for my own bags. My husband and I were too lazy to combine accounts when we got married, so we just continued to keep separate accounts and credit cards. I did end up linking my credit card to his bank account after I quit my job post-baby, but I would cover the cost of any bags I bought with my own funds (either with personal savings or proceeds from other bag sales), with the balance of the bill being paid by his account. This is to avoid big spikes in my cc bill (lol), and it just seemed fair since I was selling my own things to fund new purchases while I’m not working.
Do you set aside a budget for your bag purchases? No, there were periods of time when I definitely spent a lot of my discretionary income, especially when I was younger, but I was careful never to have credit card debt and did make sure I was saving (including for retirement). I also didn’t graduate with any undergrad or grad student loans thanks to scholarships and my own savings from my first job (my parents weren’t able to financially help with my schooling), so that also gave me a little more cushion for discretionary spending after graduation. However, I have made a lot of job decisions based on economic security instead of my creative interests, probably due to my immigrant upbringing, and while it gave me the financial ability to buy nice things, now I’m rethinking what I would like to do “when I grow up”.
The Taboo Topics
Have you ever purchased a counterfeit because you couldn’t afford a designer item? No, I would feel uncomfortable carrying a counterfeit and feels a little dishonest to me.
Do you ever hide purchases from your significant other? Yes. I have the most understanding and supportive husband who is happy to buy me bags as gifts, but even he has his limits! I have done the old, “What, this old thing? I’ve had it for ages”. Less of that happening these days since we are literally locked up at home together 24/7, and I’m not buying much. I would say 95% of the time I tell him what I bought.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve done to afford a bag? Work at an investment bank for 100+ hours a week? Go to law school and work at a law firm? Take your pick. I did buy my first Chanel bag (small black caviar double flap GHW) about 4 months into my first job, which pretty much wiped out my savings. It was probably not prudent since I should have kept an emergency fund, BUT considering now the bag has gone up thousands of dollars–maybe it wasn’t so bad in hindsight (as least that’s what I tell myself)? I still advocate for having an emergency fund first, but I don’t hold it against my younger self since I love my classic flap and would never part with it!
Do you think your shopping is ever a problem? Have you ever felt like you were struggling with a shopping addiction? I definitely know that shopping is an emotional experience for me, and I have faced regret and/or guilt as a result of shopping decisions. I admit in difficult or stressful times in my life, I’ve dealt with it by spending on a nice item to feel better. But I’ve learned that the feeling never really lasts, and if I’m shopping for the endorphin hit, I usually end up feeling guilty AND the items tend to be mistakes because I was buying for the wrong reasons. I actually do feel happy–for years after–when I think about the purchases I’ve made for good reasons (ex. bags that fit my style and life and budget at the time). I really hate feeling like I wasted my money, so I’ve self-regulated for the most part by focusing on (1) whether something really fits into my style long term, (2) making sure I’m not buying for emotional reasons, and (3) purging often so I’m reminded of the consequences of any bad decisions! I recently purged a lot of brand new, never worn high heels, so now my husband and I joke that any heel purchases have to pass a “strict scrutiny” test (while flats and other shoes only have to pass “intermediate scrutiny”)–yes, law jokes from a two-lawyer household.
The Rest Of It
Any other expensive hobbies or passions? Other than purses and shoes, I also love watches, but I am pretty content with the watches I have because I think they cover all my fashion needs–an Omega speedmaster with diamond bezel (for when you need a little sparkle), a steel Rolex datejust (clean look), a vintage boy-size gold Rolex (the cool factor because it’s from the 60s) and an Hermes double tour cape cod with barenia strap (casual). My other expensive hobby is a child to feed, clothe and educate.
Anything else you would like to include? With all that is happening in the world, just writing these thoughts down has made me more grateful for what I have. I have often felt tension between spending my discretionary income on luxury items and feeling judgment from myself/others about how that money can be “better spent” (for example, giving to social causes), and at times it has been easier to just bury those feelings and justify my economic choices to myself. I’ve learned that life isn’t always so black/white, so I give myself some space to do as I like with my resources without judging myself or accepting the judgment of others, and I set monthly reminders to commit some of my personal resources in terms of time and money to the causes I care about. And if there is a cause or a non-profit that catches our attention, my husband and I give something immediately, even if the amount is relatively small ($10/$20), and that helps us stay engaged in the immediate needs around us as we become aware of them. It might be controversial to say (and maybe odd for a site about purses?), but I think income inequality has become a huge problem in our current society, and if we don’t engage with how economic injustice affects our society on a regular basis, we as a society really risk losing our ability to empathize with each other and to come up with creative solutions to correct those injustices.