The Search for the "Investment Bag" – The It Bag Debate
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We refer to them by name: Birkin, City, 2.55, Speedy. We covet their pony hair, their quilting, their soft, buttery leather. We present them as status symbols, as marks of success, as an emblem of the fashion-conscious working woman. And, so very often, when one label or style in particular is having its fifteen minutes, we see them on the street in droves… and on every style blog hours later.
This is the It bag, and it’s not just a symbol of style-savvy—it’s proof that you’re willing to invest a hefty down payment in the name of a particular design. Most luxury purses are well over $1,000—and some, like a certain coveted item by Hermès, run much, much higher (after you’ve gotten off the waiting list, of course).
But even if you’re not particularly susceptible to the latest must-have tote trend, there is something to be said for a beautifully made bag. It does, after all, carry everything you need to function on a daily basis. It’s your life, with a handle. And if you treat it with care (and pick the right one), it’ll last forever.
That’s a lot of pressure. And when you throw in the steep price tag that generally accompanies these bags…well, it’s a big decision. Remember that episode of Sex and the City when Carrie has to choose between her co-op down payment or $40,000 worth of shoes?
It’s a dramatic pop cultural reference (and a vaguely infuriating one, at that), but since, as an adult new to the workforce, I’m currently in the market to make my own first bag-related investment, it feels oddly relevant. I’ve been weighing my options, and have concluded that if I’m going to lay down a large amount of cash, it better be on something classic, not trendy. The Chloé Marcie and Céline Luggage might be what all the cool kids are carrying, but I’d rather settle for something with a bit more staying power. In a perfect world with a much deeper savings pool, I might spring for Céline’s two-toned Edge, but realistically, I’m leaning towards the 3.1 Phillip Lim Ryder. I have a thing for texture, and the calf-haired version elevates the basic black satchel without dating it.
But before committing completely canada goose sale , I remembered that I work in an office full of fashion diehards who would be all too willing to give their own two cents (ah, perks). I have yet to swipe my credit card. Why? Because their tales of their own first purse purchases were ultimately more cautionary than I would have thought. Read on to see why some ELLE editors, if given the opportunity to go back in time, might not have dropped so many dollars for the sake of toting a designer name.
My first investment bag wasn’t much of an investment in retrospect—I think it cost around 50 euros—but it felt like one at the time. And it looked like one. It was substantial. Definitely a grown up’s bag. It was a vintage Coach duffle bag that I found at a thrift store in Paris during my semester abroad there. My friend convinced me to buy it. She had more prescience about how much I’d use it then I did at the time. It had a hole in the bottom so I learned the words I’d need to take the bag to a cobbler (Mon sac en cuir a un trou!) and got it fixed and promptly wore it everywhere. Coach revived the bag recently but I’m partial to my original. The brown leather has taken on the color and worn-in-ness that can only come with years and years of use.
My first investment bag was a cream-colored Marc by Marc Jacobs bag I purchased my senior year of high school. It had a nautical-inspired striped navy and cream canvas strap, and I had saved up about two months worth of pay from my retail job to purchase it. I remember my mother thinking I was absolutely crazy for spending that much money on a white bag.
I actually don’t believe in “investment bags.” I think for the normal girl it’s difficult to navigate the market, decide what to buy and have the time to enjoy it since they have about two weeks before a Kardashian is caught carrying it and ruins it for everyone. For reference, please see what they have done to the Céline Luggage tote.
In high school, I harassed my parents into getting me small, loud and logo centric bags from Coach and Louis Vuitton. By the time I got to college, I was properly sophisticated and while all my friends were going nuts over the Chloé Paddington, I (naturally) wanted to be different. I saved all my dollars and cents and coerced (nay: tricked) the rest of the money from my parents to buy it. I carried it every day to class, abusively so. I basically destroyed that bag and now, I kind of hate it. In retrospect, I inherited a Louis Vuitton Grande Noe from my grandmother that was FREE and I still carry it around, which is more than I can say for that Muse, which has been collecting dust in my parent’s house since 2008. The lesson here: vintage quality over a trend impulse is the best investment.
The first designer bag I ever owned was a logo-adorned Fendi Baguette, which I bought while studying abroad in Buenos Aires in college. Actually, my mom bought it for me, and I think my eyes were as round as saucers as they wrapped it up in tissue. It, to me, was the ultimate possession: clearly Fendi, totally Carrie Bradshaw, and inconspicuous enough for daily wear. After graduation, I started to carry around more than just lip gloss and a fake ID so it became less of a staple, but imagine my surprise when, last month, the New York Post announced the style’s triumphant return. Schwing!
The first big bag purchase I ever made was right when I first graduated college and moved to New York. I had a friend who was newly hired as a buyer at Fendi, and I got to use her discount at their friends and family sample sale. I grew up watching my mom plan her shopping attacks out of New York Magazine’s “Sales & Bargains” newsletter, back when it was an actual paper booklet that got mailed to your house (the phrase “never pay retail” is embedded somewhere in my DNA); this was the first time I’d actually gone to one by myself. Graduation money in hand, I grabbed a giant black canvas Fendi Selleria satchel for $400; the original price was around $1,500. I still carry it during the summer—it’s huge and has a lot of room to carry around extra shoes (as seen here)—but my everyday bag cost a lot less. I think I was very attached to the idea of having an investment bag as part of being an adult, but like most 21-year-olds, I spent the next couple of years in places where my bag was pretty likely to have beer spilled all over it rkliedtke , so it didn’t end up being as central to my life as I thought it would.
My first fancy bag was a Mulberry Bayswater that I bought because my best friend’s older sister—then a fashion editor at Town & Country—said it was cool. This was about 8 or 9 years ago, when Mulberry was still fairly under the radar, and I sort of wondered if I’d regret choosing something from this seemingly random British brand. (I know, I know.) Still, I tossed all other contenders out the window and bought the Bayswater anyway because I just thought that girl was so cool. She could’ve been all, “Buy this rainbow fur Fendi backpack, it’s so subtle!” and I would’ve done it. But, thankfully, the bag she recommended is one that’s classic and quiet. Even though Mulberry has completely blown up now and everyone knows it, the Bayswater still feels understated in a non-braggy, non It-bag way that I love.
When I was fresh to the New York editorial world and fresh to the freebies that come with that, a $600 Maxx New York Nobu tote bag was gifted to me. I was blown away. It’s not a dream brand, but I had never owned anything that cost that much, and certainly never owned a “fancy” bag. Being partial to vintage purses, it wasn’t even my style (and all my friends commented on such). But I learned to love it, and carried it with me to work every day until the straps finally broke five years later.
My mother has been pestering me about “investment pieces” for years now. I am a year away from 30 and still haven’t splurged on “THE bag”. But, back in college, she gave me a brown leather Coach satchel she had since the early ’80s, and I have to admit: It’s standing the test of time.
The Search for the "Investment Bag" – The It Bag Debate
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