Many of us have handbag stories that are near and dear to our hearts. This week’s confessional has an emotional story about her grandmother that she’s always reminded of by the bag she purchased the day before her grandmother passed away. On top of that, she collects a bag we have yet to cover: the Margiela 5ac bag. There are so many different takes on bags and shopping and this week we get a glimpse into the life of a 28 year-old designer living in Canada and fueling her passion for fashion, bags, and shopping with a very thought-provoking confessional.

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The Basics

Age: 28
Gender Identity: Transgender
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Occupation: Designer
Industry: Clothing
Salary: $50,000
Household Income: $100,000

The Bags

Are you a PurseForum member? No

How many bags do you own? 25+

How much is your collection worth? $25,000

What is your most expensive bag? A Celine Multicolor Striped Canvas Small Trapeze Bag, bought in Hong Kong’s Lane Crawford in 2015-2016.

What are the most important brands or pieces in your collection? I collect Margiela 5ac bags. It’s a bag not a lot of people talk about or know about. In fact, I believe it’s one of the only 2500+ bags you haven’t profiled or covered. It was the first bag Galliano designed for the house of Margiela. I think it’s really interesting because historically it sort of mocks the whole designer bag industry. The bottom of the bag has four bases that are all different shapes. The zipper is made out of a key. It comes with a strap that can be put at two different locations on the bag, and the lining is removable in order to extend the size of the bag. Also, the bag comes in three different sizes and was made popular by George Clooney’s wife whose stylist is Galliano’s partner. I also love that the bag is not flashy and I would say is the Birkin of the minimal, logo less “subtle” bag trend or style. It’s a very underrated bag I feel, the brand is also very underrated for its fame in deconstruction of fashion.

What age did you get your first designer bag, and what was it? My first bag was a Burberry backpack that I purchased for myself at Burberry kids on 5th Avenue in New York when I was probably 12. We went to NYC for a family Christmas vacation. I vividly remember my mom telling me that the great thing about designer kids clothing is that there isn’t tax on it. I don’t know if that is still the case today in 2018. But my first “real” bag probably was a Louis Vuitton Speedy Nano. I bought that LV when I was 19-20 right when I just started dress making and designing.

Any particular bag that holds a special sentimental value? It would probably be this Celine I have. The same week I bought this bag, was the last time I was in Hong Kong and the last time I saw my only grandmother alive. This is sort of a crazy story, but I went to visit my grandmother because she was very sick, and that year I went back to Hong Kong three times because she passed away that year. I had made some of my first big corporate contract money as a designer a year before and dreamed of going to Hong Kong and going to a store and buying any bag I wanted. I stayed with my grandmother, I would leave for the day to explore HK and by the night I would come home and eat dinner with her.

On the last day of my trip I figured out which bag I wanted to get and earlier that afternoon my grandmother said to come home in time to eat cause she would be sleeping early. I didn’t think much of it at the time but after I purchased the bag I came home and she was already asleep. I thought I had come on time. That night, I was awaken by my grandmother calling my name so I went to her room but my house keeper said “it’s fine she went back to sleep it’s nothing you can go back to sleep”. Early in the morning, I went back to Toronto that next day before she woke up.

A week later we had found out she passed. My dad and sister had went to HK before me to see her, then me, then a few other cousins, we all went back to HK at separate occasions. I think she knew it was going to be the last time we would speak her. I think she wanted to tell me something before I left, maybe she knew I was different than the rest of the family. I think of her every time I use that bag, even though maybe it was the reason we never said goodbye.

Do you feel like your bags change people’s perceptions of you or how you’re treated? Absolutely.

I don’t even think it’s purely a product of womanhood, I think bags have become the icons of culture within society. Bags are like people, they have their own gender identity, gender expression, origins or history, and even life of it’s own. I don’t think about bags the same way I think about clothes though. I think bags hold a specific function, I don’t think bags are an extension of the body. That’s what clothes are. Bags are tools to me, but also icons or signifiers of history.

I don’t agree with the concept of luxury though, I was raised by a very elite minded Hong Kong family. I think bags need to be a signifier of class, but they are a signifier of the many different kinds of cultures that exists. Subcultures exist as well through different points in time. I also have a column on Huffington Post and I love writing about the correlations between fashion, gender and technology. I have cited Eric Sommier a lot in my work because he talks about how fashion is not just linear or hierarchy, it’s a Cartesian Plane.

Please see my paper on “The Fashion Model and Non-Binary Pedagogy“. People associate the way bags are made and connect them with what they understand culture to be, and to me isn’t not about looking or being the best or the sexiest… it’s about displaying what you parts you value in reality.

But that’s just me!

The Shopping

How often do you buy new bags? I want to say I buy a bag every month, but I don’t. I probably buy clothing every other month, but I definitely buy a nice bag once a year, and a couple small bags couple times a year.

Which stores do you frequent the most? Ssense, MATCHESFASHION, Saks, Thebay, Barneys, Barney’s Warehouse

Do you ever buy second-hand bags? Where do you buy used? Absolutely. VSP Consignment, Hauteclassics, Fashionably Yours, ConsignToronto.

Do you sell old bags to pay for new purchases? That year I went to Hong Kong, I actually bought two Celine bags. The Trapeze and also a Nano Luggage. I sold the Luggage a long time ago to get a few new bags but I regret it now cause it was maybe the best colour way I could find. It was tri-color, beige handles, black details, and canvas. I would sell them at VSP, or anywhere that offers payouts.

Do you ever feel societal pressure to purchase more bags? Not really, I do a lot of research before purchasing a new bag. I mean serious research. I’m more interested in historical significance rather than mainstream appeal. I bought a vintage Zucca Fendi Baguette for like $200 literally the month before Fendi relaunched their Forever Fendi line with the F’s that are now super popular. Now it’s like impossible to find that bag.

Do you consider your bag purchases investments? It’s so funny cause it’s not like I haven’t been able to afford a Birkin, but again I’m way more interested in how certain bag prices keep going up based on its historical value. I actually would talk more about this with PurseBlog. I’m not just talking about what makes a bag “classic” or not how certain It bags make an impact on society, but why certain people carry certain kinds of bags. Why Kylie Jenner collects certain bags versus why Sotheby’s puts certain bags up for auction. That correlation to me is super interesting, mainstream versus subcultures versus elite culture and all the intersections.

Who influences your buying decisions? I really look at people who are making huge impacts on society at the current moment, but I also look at people that mainstream society cares nothing about and why they like certain things. I’m also really into Hypebeast culture and why some people who know nothing about fashion gravitate towards certain kinds of bags, looks, or styles. I am a millennial but a lot of my friends are younger than me, Gen Z is super interesting to me because what young people really like sometimes is wildly different but fascinatingly different compared to much older people like Boomers. I also love following models that no one knows but still do huge campaigns. Underdogs of the fashion world, looking at the things they like and how I can relate with them.

Are sales associate relationships instrumental to your shopping? Yes and no. I’m more interested in finding sale associates that don’t shame you for bargain hunting. I like sales associates that are and act like regular people too. They aren’t pretending to be elite, but also have a passion for design and fashion. It’s rare, but it makes an impact.

Why do you enjoy shopping, beyond just acquiring something new? I don’t enjoy shopping, I enjoy collecting.

Have you ever felt like you received inferior service at a store or boutique due to your appearance, ethnicity or gender? Yes when I was younger maybe, as a Chinese born Canadian. But as I get older, I look and sound like a really normal Japanese girl and if often gets mistaken for some girl from Beijing with a lot of money that doesn’t speak English. Until I open my mouth, and hear that I speak perfect English… I think it can get confusing for some people. So I think because of how the economy has shifted, and the Crazy Rich Asian complex, I think I have a lot more privileges now looking the way I do. People are super nice to me now.

The Money

Who pays for your bags? My work, my family, savings.

Do you set aside a budget for your bag purchases? Always.

The Taboo Topics

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

Do you ever hide purchases from your significant other? Nope.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve done to afford a bag? LOL. The craziest thing I have ever done to afford a bag is max out an entire card to purchase a Louis Vuitton KEEPALL BANDOULIÈRE 45 for Christmas.

Do you think your shopping is ever a problem? Have you ever felt like you were struggling with a shopping addiction? I do and I don’t. I think I still live within my means, and I really do think a lot about buying things on sale versus full price. You would be surprised how much of a difference it is. I think it’s important to think about fashion as medium not an expression. Fashion for me is creating, designing, styling and collecting. Collecting can be seen as buying but that is just one part of it.

I also think it’s important to recognize when it does become a problem such as buying something knowing that because of this purchase you’re going to struggle next month or worst next week. It’s important to budget and be realistic with what you can afford. To me anyone can afford anything if you save up enough money. I say I can’t afford a Birkin only because I choose not to save that much money at one time and I choose not to ruin my current lifestyle for this one bag, OR I just say I can’t afford one because it’s true I can’t afford one. Right now. Purchasing is about timing, love is about timing. It doesn’t matter how amazing the chemistry is between you and this guy…if the timing isn’t right, the timing isn’t right.

The Rest Of It

Any other expensive hobbies or passions? SHOES, oh and jackets. That’s another conversation lol. I also sort of like collecting art, that’s definitely another conversation.

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