The ‘it’ bag – to invest or not?

handbag proenza schouler ps11 satchel
handbag celine cabas tote gusset
handbag lulu guinness lipstick box clutch
handbag YSL purse eleanor pendleton streetstyle MBFWA

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the road that led to my very first designer handbag purchase. It was five years ago now, and I’d spent two years utterly and completely obsessed with Proenza Schouler’s PS11 satchel, which at the time, sold out almost as quickly as it landed on the shelves. I’ve told this story a few times now, but I dragged my bestie to about 11 department stores across the US in search of this bag, only to fall short each and every time. In the end, I bought it from the only place I could find it; La Garconne, and I haven’t stopped using it since.

Since then, I’ve bought (and subsequently sold) the YSL patent leather Y-Mail clutch, a beautiful Celine cabas tote with gusset, my lavender blue Celine trio, and the bucket bag from Mansur Gavriel, which has had me thinking a lot about designer ‘it’ bags, and whether they truly are worth the investment and the hype.

I think it’s fair to say that the investment bag isn’t for everyone. Saving to spend upwards of $1,000 let alone $500 on a handbag seems crazy to some; that’s a lot of pretty pennies going towards one purchase. I’ve been pretty trigger-happy with my designer bag purchases in the last couple of years, so I wanted to talk a little bit about what I’ve learned when it comes to splurging on a designer handbag, starting with…

The one designer handbag that I’ve kept a hold of all these years has been my PS11 satchel from Proenza Schouler. Granted, this was my first designer bag purchase, so I’m unlikely to ever let it go, but it spoke volumes to me about choosing the bag for you and not because it’s the hottest thing on the market right now.

Assess your lifestyle: how often will you use it? Does the colour work with your wardrobe colour scheme? Is it practical? Is it hardwearing or will the leather scratch easily? Regardless of whether it’s something you are saving hard for or not, it’s important to take all these factors into consideration – it’ll help you to determine whether you’ll actually get any use out of the bag in question.

This is a trap that I think is all too easy to fall into. Remember the Fendi spy bag, the Chloe paddington bag or the 3.1 by Phillip Lim edie bow bag? Popular trend-driven bags tend to date, and not well, might I add. When you’re dropping a couple months’ rent on a handbag, it should be the type of purchase that’s going to last you more than just a (fashion) season or two.

If you’re a little unsure which route to take, as in, which designer to go for, the safest bet is to stick with the classics – Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Prada and Dior. Chanel in particular is case in point for the argument that a classic style just doesn’t date; their vintage is just as coveted as a bag straight from the shelves today. Of the four, Louis Vuitton tends to start in at a more *affordable* price point and has a range of styles that are miles apart from their iconic monogrammed handbags. Prada’s saffiano lux tote is s-t-u-n-n-i-n-g as an everyday work tote (big enough for all those A4 documents!), and Dior’s lady bag is timelessly elegant and an iconic tribute to Princess Diana.

This is quite possibly the biggest tip that I can give. If you aren’t sure, go for a more affordable ‘inspired’ look handbag that will give you a taste of the style without hurting your bank balance. It gives you an opportunity to decide whether the style is what you were after, if it suits your overall look, and assess whether it’s practical for your lifestyle. This is something that I’ve done a lot in the past and I’ve found that it’s the deciding factor in whether or not to actually splurge on that designer handbag.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, is how important it is to take the time to really think about your purchase, rather than buying on impulse. Impulse purchases are fueled by so many things; emotion, what’s currently trending, and flash sales being the main culprits, and often, these end up being the pieces that find their way to the back of the closet, never to resurface. I thought about and planned to purchase my Proenza Schouler PS11 for two years before I pulled the trigger, and it’s been one of the best investments that I’ve made. Same can be said for your wardrobe – planning and consideration are k-e-y.

There’s something to be said for the quality, craftsmanship and design that comes with a high price tag. But, it’s not without acknowledging that you can often purchase a high quality leather handbag for a fraction of the price; a part of what you are paying for is the prestige of the brand, and the status that comes along with owning it. This isn’t the case with every designer handbag purchase, of course, but it’s well worth keeping in mind.

And lastly, how precious are you going to be with the bag? Will it never leave the dustbag for fear or scratches or general wear and tear? Be realistic about this; scratches and general wear to the bag will happen, and while it might feel like a kick in the stomach, it happens to all of us!

On my current wishlist is the Chanel boy bag (in the small size), which I’ve been mulling over for some time now. It ticks a lot of the right boxes, but the (ever-increasing) price is quite a tough pill to swallow. Rather than taking a chance, I’m planning to borrow a friend’s boy bag (in the medium size, if memory serves me correctly), just to give it a test run and see if it’s really for me. Although, if there’s anything you can take a gamble on, it’s Chanel.


  1. Carmen April 10, 2016 / 6:54 pm

    I really like this post! A designer bag is something you have to think about very well. I love your tips 🙂 They are great!
    xx, Carmen –

  2. Ashley April 10, 2016 / 9:07 pm

    Great tips! Gucci is another great brand that stands the test of time. I have a couple of bags (totes, satchels, and clutch) that I’ve had for 10+years. Unique and timeless. The quality is superb.

    • jamie-lee April 12, 2016 / 9:42 pm

      Gucci really seems to be having a moment with their Dionysus bag – which I love, but probably in just the black suede/leather combo? Good to hear that they stand the test of time as I’ve been seriously considering one…

  3. Natalie April 10, 2016 / 9:50 pm

    My first bag was a little Louis Vuitton speedy that I bought from the Champs Elysee store on my first ever trip overseas. I used that handbag every day for five years until I found myself in the Prada store in Tokyo, handing over an eye watering $2200 for a classic black Saffiano tote (yeah, I badly miscalculated the exchange rate). Both purchases were something of a whim but I’d studied them previously and knew they’d suit my lifestyle. The biggest point I make though is this – neither bag has ever spent a great deal of time in its dust bag. They have been used nearly every single day of their life span, making the cost per wear outstanding. I never wanted to buy something that was too precious to use, I wanted it to have value. Both those bags were sound investments for me because I used the LV for five years and the Prada for four (and counting) and bought no other bags in the interim save a couple of Longchamp totes for travel. Your point re choosing classics is spot on – that’s why those bags made me happy for so long without getting fatigued, because they always looked good and were always ‘in’.

    Great post, Jamie.

    • jamie-lee April 12, 2016 / 9:44 pm

      The saffiano lux tote from Prada is one I dreamed about for years, but now that I’m in a more creative industry it doesn’t seem to make as much sense, for the moment anyway.

      I’m a little the same; it’s part of the reason why I decided to give up a few of the other bags I’d purchased in the past as I find it takes a little bit of the enjoyment out of it! So glad that you enjoyed this post and really enjoyed reading about your own luxury bag experience xx

  4. Valeria April 12, 2016 / 12:42 am

    Love this post Jamie. The best tip is to go with classic style and shape. I love handbags…they are my favourite thing to buy and I choose them very carefully. My first really really really expensive bag is the Saint Laurent Betty in the medium size (I bought it two weeks ago) and I have not worn it yet (yes, I am one of those girls that don’t wear the bag for the first weeks after the purchase) but I LOVE IT. I have thought about it for over 6 months and then I bit the bullet. The shape to me is classic, it doesn’t scream Saint Laurent and it’s pretty minimal.
    What do you think about the latest trend of mini bags? I was eyeing the Balenciaga Mini City and the Louis Vuitton Alma BB in the epi leather. Do you think it’s a trend that will stay forever or go away pretty quickly?
    I love the fact that you are pretty minimal with your handbags, I would like to be like that too but I am not at all eheheh.

    • Valeria April 12, 2016 / 5:33 am

      *sorry Jaime! I spelt your name completely wrong!!

    • jamie-lee April 12, 2016 / 9:54 pm

      I’ve never heard of anyone not using their bag straight away after purchasing it although I know whenever I’ve bought mine there’s always the nerves of taking it out for the first time 🙂

      Personally, I prefer the way a small bag looks, however it’s not the most practical if you’re like me and carry your lunch to work every day! In saying that, I try not to be swayed too much by current bag trends, although the Gucci Dionysus is winning me over hard at the moment…

  5. Steph April 12, 2016 / 11:59 am

    I’m truly not that “into” bags. Definitely a shoe girl through & through. That being said, toting a cute bag does finish off a look and I think not paying attention to the bag you’re carrying can, without being to melodramatic, destroy your outfit!! I wonder, though, is it really necessary to buy a bag with a luxury label? Take the Benah bags, especially the Benah x KW bags. These fall in the sub $500 price tag which is significantly cheaper than the bags people are discussing above (more like $2k) and really is the quality much different? Sure, they aren’t Chanel/Prada/LV etc, but I reckon it’s kind of cooler in a way to have something slightly left of field.

    On the contrary, a pair of Acne or Marant boots is around $600-700, and a “good” pair of boots from the shops (e.g. senso etc)would set you back $200-300, so you proportionally spend only 2-3x the cost to get the (arguably) better pair. #shoppinglogic

    (Maybe this is me convincing myself I don’t need a Chanel bag but I can buy all the shoes hahahaha)

    Such a ranty comment, I think shopping psychology and how we are manipulated into spending so much $$ is just an interesting topic!!
    Steph xx

    • jamie-lee April 13, 2016 / 7:59 am

      I’m more of a shoe girl too – I think they add a lot more to an outfit than a handbag can, but I do appreciate a well constructed bag that’s for sure.

      Do you have one of the KW x Benah bags? I’ve got a satchel that I don’t use too often and I don’t think the leather is anywhere near as nice as some of the designer bags out there that I like. Though, it is blush and I don’t get ANY colour transfer at all which is amazing. I think Kate Spade has some really fun designs too and her bags are pretty affordable (within that $500 price range).

      Did you read the article on the Pink Tax on Business of Fashion? Like how women are charged more than men for the exact same item from a brand? Really interesting! x

  6. Jun April 15, 2016 / 7:10 am

    Great tips and ideas: thank you for the post! If you love a bag and use it day in day out, then it is money well spent 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *