Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Interesting article: The Cult of the designer bag

Posted by Double Y at 11:13 AM
Inquirer Lifestyle / Lifestyle

The cult of the designer bag

By Ingrid Chua-Go
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Posted date: April 10, 2008

MANILA, Philippines—Vickie (not her real name) harbored a secret addiction not so long ago. In six months, she accumulated over 30 luxury designer bags. But she carried only four or five of them.

“I just got addicted to that feeling of a ‘high’ that a new designer-bag purchase gave me. I didn’t care if I had to live a hand-to-mouth existence just to afford buying the bags, because it just felt so good to reward myself with such luxury. I didn’t realize, or maybe I was in denial, that those purchases would catch up with my finances one day,” she said.

Her secret unraveled only when she had to sell off most of her yet-unused bags at a loss to pay for her debts.

Vickie is not alone. Many women today have been seduced by the aspirational message behind owning designer bags—that they can afford “luxury.”

For P34,200, you can walk away with Louis Vuitton’s iconic Speedy. That money can perhaps get you only a small pair of earrings in 14K gold with some pavé diamonds. Which has more “bang for the buck”—an instantly recognizable bag or a barely-there pair of earrings?

Premier designer bags like the classic Louis Vuitton Speedy have become “investment” pieces. Bags are now somehow positioned a notch below jewelry in the investment tier. Some women see owning designer bags as a long-term investment. They see themselves as custodians of these bags, with plans to pass them down to the next generation.

Others admit that owning a designer bag or being seen with one makes them feel good and powerful. They walk with more confidence and even get better service from sales associates in stores.

Carrying a Louis Vuitton bag (or for the more jaded, a Chanel 2.55 or a Goyard croisiere, either of which have no official brand presence in the Philippines) is also an affirmation that they can indulge in and afford to live a certain lifestyle—even if they have to pay by installment for the bag.

Beware, however. Buying a bag on credit-card installment carries risks. Buyers will be charged interest on top of the premium fee for something they can’t really afford to pay for. The interest is charged to allow buyers to pay in 3, 6 or even 12-month terms.

Such payment scheme, of course, is not commonplace in luxury houses—again, the illusion of “affordable luxury.”

Those who get sucked into this “luxury-is-a-necessity” vortex by accumulating the latest Chanels and Vuittons while paying for more and more interest on top of the premium see their finances eventually going kaput.

There are even stories of women who go to the extreme lengths of borrowing money just to buy themselves a designer bag or two.

While indulging in designer bags is no sin, going bankrupt for them is reckless and irresponsible.

That said, since “investing” in a designer bag requires a sizeable sum, it’s important to know what’s behind the brand and how to pick a really good piece.

If you must buy a designer bag, consider a brand that has been around for a long time, and in a style that’s tried and tested. A bag that has been in the brand’s lineup for a very long time only means one thing—it has transcended trends and will remain ageless, which makes it a classic and a true investment piece.

INGRID CHUA-GO is blogger, freelance journalist and certified bag hag.

Best-selling bag at Louis Vuitton: Monogram Speedy 30
Fastest-selling bag at Hermes: Birkin
Best-selling bag at Goyard: St. Louis PM tote
Average price for a new Hermes 35cm Birkin in regular leather
from a Hermes boutique: P390,000
Average price for a new Louis Vuitton Neverfull MM or Speedy 30
at the LV boutique in Greenbelt: P35,000
Average price for a Goyard St. Louis PM from a Goyard boutique: P45,000
Average price for a new medium Chanel classic 2.55 from a Chanel
boutique: P120,000
Espied number of Chanel bags within an hour on a weekend at Rockwell: 11
Espied number of Louis Vuitton bags within an hour on a weekend
at Rockwell: 38
Number of Hermes Birkins in Manila: 202
Number of premier luxury bag brands available in stores/ boutiques
in Manila: Over 15

How to invest in a designer bag

While diamonds are always considered “investments,” small pavé diamonds on rings or earrings won’t always command a high resale price. That said, P40,000 will get you only a small pair of solitaire diamond earrings (definitely under 1 carat).

A good, well-constructed designer bag is bigger, and has more function than a pair of earrings. It can carry your wallet, and your other important personal belongings.

You can average down the cost of the designer bag by using it often. But, like a true investor, always do your research.

Brand. Ideally, go with a brand that’s been around for a long time. Chances are, that brand has excellent after-sales service for cleaning and even refurbishing your bag. There are also newer brands that offer after-sales service for their bags, so always make sure to ask these questions before your first bag purchase.

Style. Unless you have unlimited funds to buy designer bags, always go with the classic styles first. The doctor’s bag (think Louis Vuitton speedy), and the bugatti bag (think Hermes Bolide, which was the very first bag to use the zipper) are definite classics in the style category. You can never go wrong with them. And they can be passed on to your daughters and nieces one day.

Functionality. Don’t buy a small designer bag because that’s the only size you can afford. Save up for a larger bag instead. The idea that a smaller piece is cheaper and more affordable should not be your criteria, especially if you do not really carry small bags. Do not compromise, or you might end up regretting it.

Quality. You spend P5,000 on a nondescript, non-designer bag that you may toss out after three months of heavy use. You may have over 30 non-designer bags, but add up the total purchase value and you would’ve been able to buy one bag from a good designer label. Always choose quality over quantity.

Material. The bag you like comes in two different leathers: pebbled pigskin or suede nubuck. Think: Manila is a very humid city. If you don’t store your bags well, they will almost immediately succumb to molds. So between those two types of leather, go with pigskin since it’s more durable and easier to clean. Do research on the available leathers before your purchase. Ingrid Chua-Go

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