Looking the part was instrumental to her career advancement
This week we take a look into the bag buying habits of a Senior Manager in the Energy sector who believes that carrying designer bags helps her prove that she belongs in her industry. Many who end up in the designer handbag realm feel similarly – bags give us that extra accessory to stand out – and we know that majority of other women recognize labels. It may not be the most popular aspect of carrying designer bags, but it is one that rings true for most of us in varying degrees.
Location: Scottsdale, AZ
Occupation: Sr. Manager – Digital Development
Household Income: $200,000
Are you a PurseForum member? Yes
How many bags do you own? 10 + 2 SLG
How much is your collection worth? About $11,000
What is your most expensive bag? By the money I spent, my grey Givenchy Infinity Hobo bag, which is one of my favorite bags every created. It’s a bit heavy, but perfect for travel, off-site work.
In terms of retail value, I just bought a well-used Hermes Evelyn that will be going to Purse Rehab (NOT the Hermes spa per the TPF drama). I am very drawn to finding well-loved bags that can be rehabbed for my purposes.
What are the most important brands or pieces in your collection? The Givenchy was pretty special because it was a gift to myself for completing my MBA and getting the “big job” in pretty close succession.
In general, 3.1 Phillip Lim seems to keep creating bags that I want to buy and I own the Pashli in 3 different colors, which is something that I thought that I would never do. I mean, I don’t buy jeans in multiples let alone luxury goods! But I have a black, a green (impulse purchase) and the red.
I haven’t been a bag buyer for long, so I am still working through what brands reflect my personal style, which could probably be described as “Cali girl turned prep”. I like bags that have some edge, but aren’t necessarily “edgy”.
What age did you get your first designer bag, and what was it?
I grew up poor (I know what it’s like to watch my parents be evicted poor) so buying fancy shampoo was a splurge, let alone handbags. When I graduated college (undergrad) and got a job at a Fortune 500 at 28, I bought a Kate Spade during on of their 75% off sale and babied that bag. It was sleek and black and boxy and perfect to me. It was a marker for a time in my life where I moved into being solidly middle class. Within that year, I purchased 2 more Kate Spades on sales and that started my bag love.
I was a watcher of nicer bags for years, but I save fairly heavily for retirement and have student loans to pay back, so moving onto true designer bags wasn’t my priority.
Any particular bag that holds a special sentimental value? I was poor, but grew up in a very well-off area surrounded by luxury I couldn’t attain. Given the fact that material goods were not plentiful growing up, they all hold a special place to me. The Givenchy was the first big D designer that I purchased full price and inside a store (I’m a big online shopper). This purse coincided with the $200K paycheck, which has changed my life in general. I don’t have kids or pets or other expensive hobbies, so I can buy bags without having to worry about still having money in the bank. That’s something I never could have conceived of growing up.
Do you feel like your bags change people’s perceptions of you or how you’re treated? Yes, I do. I live in Scottsdale (sometimes pretty accurately referred to as Snobsdale), so service becomes better, other women notice and my whole office check out each other’s bags at work. Also, I since I’m new to the luxury shopping experience, I tend to feel like I need to prove that I belong there so I will always wear designer to shop designer. It’s just a confidence booster for me.
How often do you buy new bags? This year has been a bit crazy. I have purchased 5 bags in 2018, but of varying prices. I bought a Cole Haan bucket bag (I just can’t spend over $500 on a bag that’s going to sit on the floor of a dive bar or go on a hike), the Givenchy, 2 Phillip Lims (sale) and a Proenza Schouler.
In general, I would expect that 2-3 a year would be my cadence with one full price “must have” and a couple of fancy, but on sale. I am a total sucker for a good sale.
Which stores do you frequent the most? I tend to be more of an online shopper. The luxury stores intimidate me and sort of stress me out. Though, I now live by a mall that has YSL, LV, Prada, etc., so maybe that will change.
Do you ever buy second-hand bags? Where do you buy used? I definitely buy second hand bags. For 2 reasons, 1: I chose to go to an elite MBA school (worth it) and I am paying for it myself, so – Hello Student Loans! Secondly, I like to buy bags that are in fair to good condition and then send them to rehab. I save money and still get a nice bag.
Much of what I owned when I was young was hand-me-down, so I’m not turned off by someone having used it before. In fact, I really like the idea that some of my bags had a life before me and some may have a life after me.
Do you sell old bags to pay for new purchases? I haven’t yet, but I’m really new to the game. Maybe I will, maybe I’ll stick to passing them to my sister who now has two of my Kate Spades.
Do you ever feel societal pressure to purchase more bags? Societal… probably not. But I like knowing that I can afford them and I like showing off to others that I can. I think it’s a huge personality flaw, but I know that it stems a lot from seeing luxury growing up and finally feeling like I belong in those circles.
Do you consider your bag purchases investments? I do not. I don’t think I buy bags with a wealth growth strategy in mind.
Who influences your buying decisions? Wendy Rhodes on Billions? I kid, but that was actually where I saw the Phillip Lim Pashli first and I just fell in love. I don’t follow anyone on Instagram too closely, but I do follow Clare Waight Keller and know I’m likely to be a Givenchy devotee while she is with the brand.
Are sales associate relationships instrumental to your shopping? Not for now. Since I’ve mostly been an online purchaser, I don’t use them. However, I would like to get to a point where I’m dedicated enough to a couple of brands that an SA would help. For now, the whole thing is really intimidating!
Why do you enjoy shopping, beyond just acquiring something new? I love the process of finding a new bag. Looking at all of the lookbooks during each season and then culling it down to a few options. I like the thrill of knowing that I just spent hundreds and I am still on track for all of my other goals. I really love finding a deal. I was raised by an Arab father who thinks paying retail is a sin, so that definitely influences my shopping habits! It’s very common in my family to see each other and immediately be “you like these pants? 75% off!”. I then married a man of Jewish descent whose mother is the exact same way. We egg each other on in the savings department.
Have you ever felt like you received inferior service at a store or boutique due to your appearance, ethnicity or gender? No. I think I look like the average stereotype of a luxury customer. However, I did notice a difference recently when I lost 40 pounds. I had visited the local LV to get a feel for the brand and then returned after I lost the weight. Even though I didn’t buy anything either time, I was treated better as a thinner women.
Who pays for your bags? I pay for all of them.
Do you set aside a budget for your bag purchases? Not really. I normally will buy the bag and then pay it off in the proceeding 1-3 months depending on the spend. I have a pretty low interest rate and a good rewards card, so I don’t feel bad about carrying a portion of the purchase a bit. Especially if I saved a lot upfront.
I will say, If I did decide to buy brand new Chanel or Hermes, my answer would become much different! Anything over $3,000 would demand some structured savings.
The Taboo Topics
Have you ever purchased a counterfeit because you couldn’t afford a designer item? Sort of?
When I was 17, I bought a bag at a purse party that I just thought was really cute having no idea that the the G styling on it was meant to evoke the Gucci logo. Needless to say, I was mortified later to find out that I had purchased a knockoff. I was just really unaware of branding like that. Amusingly enough, I became an advertising major in college and now know way too many brands by heart!
Do you ever hide purchases from your significant other? Nope. He gets his BMW convertible and I get my purses. He always jokes that I should get a Birkin so he can get a motorcycle. Both would be similarly fun, but unnecessary. :)
I do hide it from my mother. While both my parents are far better off than when I was a kid, she is still quite frugal and would likely die if I told her how I spend my money.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve done to afford a bag? I haven’t had to do anything crazy to afford a bag. But I do spend waaaaaay to long online to find the right bag at the right price. Deal hunting is my hobby.
Do you think your shopping is ever a problem? Have you ever felt like you were struggling with a shopping addiction? No. Fortunately, I have a pretty good handle on spending now. I went through a phase when I was younger where I shopped a lot and didn’t save at all, but I got that out of my system when spending a lot meant a $50 purse and splurging $200 at a time on H&M. It was under control well before anyone was going to give me a big enough credit limit to get too much into the whole.
The Rest Of It
Any other expensive hobbies or passions? I like nice wine, but try to shop sales on that as well. I also like to travel, but use a service called Airtreks that reduces the cost of flights by $1,000’s.
I live in a very expensive luxury apartment with tons of amenities. The gym even has a free smoothie machine. That’s my other big indulgence.
Anything else you would like to include? I think that there can be a lot of people who see designer bags as only wealth signaling and then judge those who spend their money on these goods. But, first there is nothing wrong with wealth signaling, especially because the truth is that money begets money and building a network of successful (sometimes money-biased) people helps tremendously to climb the income ladder. I know that it helped me.
Wearing designer has helped me “look the part” and also created a sense that I am like the people at the top. I have found that when I wear designer, drink good scotch and talk about refined hobbies, it makes those at the executive level feel that we have a simpatico. People like having people who are like them around and many of today’s leaders come from or have developed a sense of financial privilege. When someone likes you, they tend to attribute other positive qualities to you. So you’re seen as more competent and get more opportunity. Fashion, in a way, gave me an in my background could not.
That may change as the workforce changes, but for now I’m taking advantage!
Also, I think that fashion is the most exquisite kind of art that is constantly reflecting life, the zeitgeist of the time, global style, etc and those who purchase designer are the patrons of that art.
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