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Does a Brand Gifting a Bag Turn You Off?

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Nearly twenty years ago, Vlad and I started PurseBlog. Vlad was in Germany working on his Master’s Degree. I was still at The Ohio State University, living in off-campus housing that my roommates and I called the treehouse, having just finished shoulder surgery, leading to the end of my competitive swimming career and starting our site.

We have watched the changes in the online publishing world – being one of the very first to enter the chat. We started when Facebook was only open to specific colleges and students with dot edu email addresses before Instagram even existed and when the notion of a blogger or influencer was not only a fledging idea but also highly looked down upon.

The Start of a New Industry

I’ve witnessed an industry be born, and with that comes changes. I’ve watched bloggers go from being shunned to sitting in the front row, watched the first influencer-focused agency be born, witnessed major brand deals and collaborations happen, and continue to see the biggest names in fashion pay for influencers to fly to and from its shows while being gifted entire looks and paid to be seen at the show.

Chanel Kelly Bag and SLG Kelly
Brands like Chanel will send samples that are then sent back after reviwing

Our little slice of the internet differs from your traditional publisher while not fitting into the mold of being an influencer in the new sense of the word. Sure, I help many of you think about purchases, but so does the entire PurseForum community, your handbag, and fashion-loving peers. This community feel is tied in with my passion for bags and our sharing of what brands are releasing.

How we work with brands has been evolving for nearly twenty years now. Some of the brands I dreamed of one day owning a single bag are now advertising on our site, and these advertising campaigns appear differently with each activation.

An article Kaitlin wrote earlier this week involved a review of a bag she was gifted by Gucci, and some comments were calling out a lack of transparency with the gifting but really focusing on the review not being perceived as realistic or believable since the bag was gifted.

I have been told the same comments when I shared a gifted bag.

Purchasing vs Loaning vs Gifting

So that got me thinking: does a bag being gifted change your perception of it?

The truth is that most of my collection has been purchased by me. Thousands of dollars were spent building my collection of bags, from my first designer purchase to my first Birkin (which subsequently led to a panic attack) to anything I really loved and wanted. At one point when we lived in NYC, I amassed five (old) Celine bags in a couple of months.

Gucci 1955 Horsebit Review 4 of 8 1
Larger partners, like Gucci, offer us a mix of loans and gifting

Our relationships with brands are a perk of working in this industry for this long. These are brands that I have given two decades of coverage to, many times with nothing tangible – bag or monetary – to show for it. While many of the biggest brands in the fashion world are active advertisers on our site, some still are not.

With different relationships come perks; we get gifts from the brands occasionally. As you may know, I am not on the same scheduled gifting as most influencers. In fact, many new releases of bags that we cover are with samples sent to us that we photograph, video, review, and return.

These same bags are being gifted to other influencers or paid to be shown while we work organically with the brand for coverage.

But other times, a bag is gifted to us as part of our coverage for a negotiated package with a brand. We will always be authentic and transparent when speaking about the bag, but the question arises: Does our review not hold the same value if we don’t spend the money ourselves?

Gucci GG Small Raffia Marmont Bag Review 3 of 5 1

The Goal of Transparency

I want to mention a few additional things: 1) A gift does not guarantee coverage. In fact, We’ve been gifted many bags that have never been covered on-site. Sometimes, it is a bag I genuinely love, and with that, I share my thoughts and excitement on our social channel and on-site.

2) Anything sponsored we mark as sponsored. We will offer a better, more transparent way of sharing that something has also been gifted. 3) Many of the bags you see us photograph and share are loaned samples from the brand. These are sent to us to see in person, and then we return them to the brand.

Louis Vuitton Capucines By The Pool 4 of 7
Louis Vuitton works with us seasonally to loan bags that are new and noteworthy

My goal has always been transparency. I started this site not with a business in mind but because I genuinely had a passion for bags and fashion. This has become our full-time business with a team of people I love to work with, which is serendipitous and unexpectedly gratifying.

Our business isn’t traditional, but it is one where we can share luxury fashion with you. And with that comes perks for me, one being that some of the brands I dreamed of owning now work with us to share their wares and sometimes gift us. I will continue to be transparent about when we collaborate and how along with sharing bags from designers you love and are interested in.


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