If you have ever indulged in shopping for designer handbags then you know it is an experience unto itself. From being of great functionality to being a gorgeous escort to have around your arm, it serves as a status symbol while taking care of your spare stash of bills. For material reasons and therapeutic ones, for utilitarian aspects or because someone was just nice to you and gifted you one, luxury handbags are indulgences that make some people collectors, some others influencers, some among us advocates and some who will continue to say “I could care less”. There are reasons aplenty for why women buy designer bags. What’s yours and is it worth it?
To find that out, we crowdsourced ideas from 100+ women handbag enthusiasts to understand their rationale behind buying or not buying designer handbags. In the end, we compiled a list of their collective wisdom for an insight into what women really want. So, a BIG thank you to all who contributed towards this post. The list follows...
What is a designer bag?
If you think about it, every bag is designed by someone, so then every bag can be called a designer bag.
But, in a world that we live in, this term is reserved for a chosen few high fashion brands. Examples of high-end luxurious handbag brands include Chanel, Dior, Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Ferragamo, Prada, Balenciaga, Fendi, and Saint Laurent.
The more popular luxury fashion brands in the mid-range category include Coach, Guess, Chloe, Michael Kors, Tory Burch, Jimmy Choo, and Kate Spade.
Then there are handbag brands like Purple Relic, Rofozzi, and Charles & Keith, that design bags around practical use and make an ideal choice if you are looking for affordable handbags with utility at the core.
Designer bags are thoughtfully designed. There’s no two ways about it. Big name luxury fashion houses support and keep out-of-the-box dramatic creativity alive. It is for that reason that you and I think of bags as pieces of art to fall in love with. The Burberry saddle bag above was a “love at first sight” moment personified (okay, bag-o-nified) for me.
Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. True. But, you would agree that some things are generally accepted as beautiful across the board. To name a few, Fendi Peekaboo, LV Alma, Chanel Flap, Dior Saddle, and Loewe Puzzle are all beautiful icons in their own right. When you see one, you want to keep seeing it, and wherever possible, own it too.
Fashion houses put countless man hours, expertise and research to innovate practical materials. It’s of little wonder then that you will be captivated by their style, functionality and panache, no matter the era you are living in!
Louis Vuitton’s coated cotton canvas, which has been around since the 19th century, is sought-after even today. Epi leather, saffiano leather, and many other materials innovated by design houses have been widely used in the luxury handbag industry for decades for their physical benefits such as durability, water-resistance, scratch-resistance, and ease of cleaning.
Bag-making is an art as well as an exact science. The effort and work put into making each handmade piece is remarkable.
As an example, the exquisitely classic Chanel 2.55 handbag takes up to 18 hours of production which involves 180 different procedures and is worked on by up to 15 different people.
Though, not every branded handbag is made by hand from start to finish (example: Michael Kors bags are not handmade), those that are, are worth every penny. The price of the bag should give you an indication of whether or not it was crafted by hand.
Great attention to minute details and high level of neatness is a given with big-ticket designer bags. To some, such finesse is uncompromisable.
Watch the video above to see a masterpiece of fine craftsmanship. Check out how neatly the craftsman applies glue to the leather, and how neatly he ends the stitching. I can’t stop watching it.
Couture or made to order, as the meaning suggests, are bags customized to your personal preference. Couture, though, isn’t a service available widely, owing to the high costs involved.
The simplest form of personalization offered to the majority, though, is the engraving of initials on the bag to set your seal of ownership on it, in no uncertain terms. Who doesn’t like that?
Several of the handbag fanatics surveyed noted the availability of customization services as one of the reasons why they support small-name designer boutiques. At a mid-range price, they offer made-to-measure bags where the buyer can have their handbag made exclusively for them. Isn’t that a great option every time you have the desire and means to change your look?
I can’t put my finger on what exactly it is about Europe, but everyone seems to want a piece of it. It was never taught in school but everyone knows that French fashion stands for romanticism, charm and finesse.
Just think of France and say something like “joie de vivre” and your mood elevates, you are transported to a French castle and you turn into an instant princess. Who wouldn’t like to hold that feeling while holding a piece of French branded luxurious handbag?
Similarly, Italian fashion, which is the epitome of sophistication and fine craftsmanship, exalts you to an infallible classy league. Fancy being there?
The style quotient attached to anything designer is probably the single most important reason why people buy luxury handbags. Designer handbags speak for you. PERIOD. It tells everyone you are aware of the latest trends, how fashion works, that you are a stylish fashionista, and that you are ahead of everyone. Not to mention, with the invention of social media, it gives you an opportunity to influence others and be noticed.
Carrying something from a famous brand adds to your ensemble and is thought to “complete your look”. A handbag may be a small part of your ensemble but it’s a big part of your look, which is enough to make you desire for more. It gives you a stamp of approval from a famous brand and gives you confidence that what you are wearing or carrying is sure to help you make an impression.
There are fads and there are trends. And, then there are certain styles that are timeless. LV’s Damier pattern, for example, has been around since 1888 and doesn’t seem to be going out of fashion any time soon. Women, all across the globe, take pride in sporting their luxury handbags from years ago, simply because those styles are always in.
Though you don’t buy designer bags thinking you would one day pass them down as family heirlooms, some people do think of them as good investments which they can use for a long time owing to their durability, elegance and other physical attributes.
Everyone is familiar with this reasoning. A piece of branded luxury is a subtle (or maybe not-so-subtle) way of saying “Hey! I’m rich enough to afford it.” It affirms your identity as a high-heeled lady granting you entry into the preferred circles.
With a luxury bag, you are not investing in just a piece of article, there’s much more to it. You are likely to draw much more value from it than the amount you paid simply from the brand recognition that follows. We perceive the products of well-known brands as better than those of lesser-known brands.
With a flood of handbags out there to choose from, choosing a branded bag over others just simplifies it for you and provides peace of mind.
When a famous brand says that the bag is made from real alligator skin or that it is made in France or that it is made by hand, we have no problem blindly trusting their authenticity. Well-known brands don’t cut corners in their manufacturing process. So, for those of us who have trust issues, the more popularly known brands are a reliable option.
We all know at least someone who draws excitement from retail therapy, who has to immediately buy that thing she sees, regardless of whether or not she has an immediate need for it. It’s all the more easier with designer handbags, their attractive designs and monthly instalment plans, convenient availability online or in a store near you, and access to that credit card with high credit limit, 0-dollar annual fee, unlimited cash back, and 0% APR.
Loving a certain brand is a way of expressing oneself. Brands speak to you and for you. They stand for something. Becoming part of their movement is an expression of who you are. They help define your self-image and they become part of your self-identity. In doing so, they offer others a subtle glimpse into your self-worth, not of who they think you are but who you think you are, and guides others how they should see you.
In the same vein, branded bags are thought to boost confidence.
Of all the perceived values attached to a branded item, the boost in confidence that it provides ranks at the top. For boss ladies in particular, it gives you an image of power, makes you look bold, and elevates your mood. And then whether it fits your lifestyle or your lifestyle fits into it, is immaterial.
Many of our buying decisions are influenced by what others are doing. We like buying what other people are buying. We like being in sync with people around us. It isn’t just the fear of missing out but also because we value other people’s judgement more than ours.
Now I don’t know if Speedy Bandouliere is an attractive-looking bag or not, but everyone around me seems to own a piece, or a few pieces in a few different sizes. Did it get popular because everyone owns it or everyone owns it because it’s so popular? For me personally, it’s a follow the crowd situation. Nonetheless, it remains highly sought-after.
Famous marketer, Seth Godin, said, “People like us do things like this.” That’s the message brands convey to you. Every brand - designer or not - has a voice and their hope is to find a cult that would connect with their message. Whether or not you consciously take that into account, but you always have options and when you decide to buy a Dior or a Guess, a large part of that choice is driven by your connection to that brand. Their message resonates with you and makes you want to be a part of their tribe. It makes you feel belonged.
We all like relating to history. Brands with deep historical roots are considered to have a legacy, and are seen as aristocratic. The stories they tell about themselves influence our buying decisions. For example: The association of Chanel with the World War eras, elegance and women empowerment.
A lot of us have the impression that designer bags are exclusive. The definition of “exclusive”, however, is fairly loose. It might mean that the designs are uncommon or that the quantity produced is limited, which in other words means that they are not mass-produced.
Contrary to that notion, we see in the market that designers copy designs from each other or even from the mass market (trickle-up fashion). Plus, the fact that they are made on assembly lines in factories in developing countries. That may not be true about all products that the designer brand manufactures but the “exclusivity” factor should be taken with a pinch of salt.
Fair enough. You earn so you can spend. That’s a good enough reason for me! How about you?
Imagine unboxing a present. Regardless of how old you are, I have yet to meet a person who doesn’t get excited about opening a beautiful box of surprise.
Presentation. It’s all about presentation. Even if you bought the bag yourself, when you bring it home and unbox it, there is a kind of amazing experience you get out of it, which makes it worth the entire exercise of indulgence.
Memorable milestones call for memorable gifts. Important events in your life or your loved one’s lives like graduation, promotion, wedding, 25th birthday are all better remembered with beautiful and impressive gifts of love.
You may support a charity being supported by the brand and that is reason alone to draw you towards it.
Sometimes our buying decisions are influenced by our favorite Hollywood stars or sports icons who are endorsing those brands. Isn’t that why brands have brand ambassadors?
In Singapore, where our company is based, a great amount of value is placed on designer handbags. But, Singapore has a culture of constantly changing one’s look. Women get a new hair color every two months and buy a new designer bag even more often.
So, what do you do with the old one you had just invested in a couple of weeks ago? Well, you simply sell it on the second-hand market. Its value diminishes a little for sure but you have achieved what you had wanted to with it. So, sell it to offset your purchase of the next piece of greatness and move on.
So, did we cover your reason for buying a luxury or designer bag? Write a comment and let us know if we missed it.