We hope our readers had a safe and relaxing July 4th celebration. Today we selected the confessional of a young NYC lawyer whose relative in her homeland offers insights into conditions of a factory that produces counterfeit bags. One obviously needs to tread carefully not to be dismissive of the troubling implications of many such factories, but her relative’s testimonial may just offer an alternative narrative to consider. If you’d like to tell your own story and experience, hit the link below and fill out our confessionals questionnaire. Have a nice weekend, all!
Gender Identity: Female
Location: New York, NY
Household Income: $225,000
Are you a PurseForum member? No
How many bags do you own? 12
What bags are in your collection?
2 Celine bags – 1 Cabas tote, 1 Luggage bag
2 Chanel flaps
1 Chloe backpack
1 Givenchy Antigona
1 Lady Dior
1 Louis Vuitton Neverfulls
2 Louis Vuitton Speedys / Speedies (?)
1 Prada tote
1 YSL WOC
How much is your collection worth? About $26,000, give or take
What is your most expensive bag? My Lady Dior. I fell in love with the Toile de Jouy cruise collection and could not tear my eyes away from the small Lady Dior embroidered with fantastical creatures and small shiny beads. It never fails to attract compliments when I take it out for dinner or special events.
What are the most important brands or pieces in your collection? A Limited Edition Speedy from a collection that was released over ten years ago. I was still an awkward sophomore in high school when the collection was released and I was not even aware of the brand “Louis Vuitton” at the time. By the time I fell in love with the collection, the Speedy was being sold on resale sites for over $2,000! I finally bit the bullet after stalking eBay for months and realizing that the prices were just going to get higher and higher.
What age did you get your first designer bag, and what was it? I was 24. It was a few months into my first year at my law firm and I needed a work bag to replace my ratty backpack (which I had used all throughout college and law school. To this day, I am ashamed that I brought that backpack to my law firm. It was a tacky purple color and there was a stain on the side pocket that couldn’t be removed).
I went to Fifth Avenue after work to window-shop for a new bag and was so impressed with a sales associate at LV that I ended up talking to her for half an hour. She just had so much passion and knowledge about the brand. I walked away with a Neverfull and a newfound love of luxury design houses and their histories.
By the way, that sales associate apparently did so well that she had been promoted to the corporate office by the time I went back to visit her.
Any particular bag that holds a special sentimental value? My first Chanel flap holds a special place in my heart, but I honestly think that it’s probably due to Chanel’s marketing. Growing up, I had this vision of the Chanel flap as the ultimate bag, the one accessory that every classy lady should own, a bag that you could pass down to your children. However, once I purchased my own flap, I realized that it was just a bag, albeit an expensive one.
That’s not to say that I’m disillusioned with the brand or anything (I would later purchase a second flap bag in another size). But I no longer put Chanel on such a pedestal. Also, I don’t think I would ever pay full price for a Chanel bag (aren’t these price increases are mind-blowing?). I’m happy to get my Chanel bags secondhand, and I actually like the fact that my flaps have a bit of history behind them. Sometimes, I even daydream about how my bags’ previous owners went about their lives.
Do you feel like your bags change people’s perceptions of you or how you’re treated? Definitely. I am short and I look very young, so I’ve struggled with people taking me seriously in the past. I find that I get better service at restaurants and stores when I am wearing a designer bag. My friends, who are mostly attorneys, accountants, or engineers, like to tease me about my bags, but I tease them right back about how much they spend on watches or computer games.
How often do you buy new bags? As you can probably deduce from 1) my age when I bought my first bag and 2) the number of bags I own now, I purchase bags very frequently. However, I budget carefully and I review my budget every Sunday night, so I never feel like I’m spending beyond my means.
Which stores do you frequent the most? I like to window-shop at Chanel, Dior, and LV because there’s always something new to look at when you visit. What do I mean? Well, if you go to YSL, you’ll see the same “Kate” clutches and WOC’s, whereas LV has released several different bag styles in the last two seasons alone (e.g., On the Go tote, “egg” bag, mini luggage bag, Cannes bag, and that “flying saucer” bag).
Do you ever buy second-hand bags? Where do you buy used? I don’t mind purchasing secondhand, and I actually prefer purchasing secondhand when I get to meet/chat with the previous owner of the bag (since I’m a sucker for that romantic idea that the bag had a wonderful journey before it fell into my hands).
I’ve purchased from Tradesy and eBay. I find that the Japanese resellers on eBay price their bags very fairly and they often overstate the extent of wear and tear on their products, which means a “B+” bag on their grading scale translates to an “A” bag in my eyes.
Do you sell old bags to pay for new purchases? I haven’t had to sell any bags yet, but if I had to, I would probably sell on Tradesy or Fashionphile.
Do you ever feel societal pressure to purchase more bags? No, in fact I feel quite the opposite: for instance, I love the craftsmanship and the story behind the Hermes name, but I don’t think I could pull off a Birkin at my age.
Do you consider your bag purchases investments? I am familiar with the resale market so I can’t lie to myself and claim that these bags will hold much value. But in terms of whether the bags are an investment in myself, I definitely consider them wardrobe investments.
Who influences your buying decisions? Myself — and to a large extent, the SAs that I talk to. I love hearing about the inspiration behind new collections and a thoughtful conversation with an SA will be the deciding factor as to whether or not I purchase from a brand. I’ve avoided buying from Gucci for this very reason. Perhaps the Fifth Avenue location is just an outlier.
Are sales associate relationships instrumental to your shopping? Yes, see above.
Why do you enjoy shopping, beyond just acquiring something new? I don’t have a lot of variety in my work wardrobe so bags are one way that I can express my personality.
Have you ever felt like you received inferior service at a store or boutique due to your appearance, ethnicity or gender? I suspect that I do sometimes receive inferior service based on my ethnicity, but luckily I don’t think this has happened at a luxury bag boutique (some of the fancy restaurants in New York are a totally different story. I have a unique name so I often abbreviate my name when I make reservations on the phone, as I’ve found that I receive preferential seating or treatment when I anglicize my name).
Who pays for your bags? Myself.
Do you set aside a budget for your bag purchases? I keep a fairly strict budget and I review my purchases and accounts at the end of every week on Sunday night. There’s no set amount that I set aside for my “bag budget”; I usually contribute what I feel like after I’ve contributed to rent, student loan payments, and my IRA. There was a stretch where I failed to fall in love with any bags and I opened a brokerage account with some of my “bag” money.
The Taboo Topics
Have you ever purchased a counterfeit because you couldn’t afford a designer item? I purchased a Neverfull from a Facebook group out of curiosity, to compare with my authentic Neverfull bag. I was slightly impressed with the fake Neverfull; it was nothing like the sloppy fake bags you find on the sidewalk in Times Square. I would say the fake was pretty close to the real thing, maybe 85% passable. I still have the fake bag in my closet but I don’t consider it as part of my collection.
If I was any other person — someone who isn’t intrigued by the story of the brand or the story of a bag’s previous owner — I might consider buying these “super-fakes.” The fake bags are quite good nowadays. But they lack the personal connection that I get from chatting about the bag with SAs or my purse-loving friends.
I know PurseForum doesn’t encourage the purchase of fake bags, and I can’t say that I’m 100% okay with them either since “super-fakes” affect the resale value or perceived value of the bags that I’ve worked very hard to purchase.
However, I can’t bring myself to judge fake bag buyers or sellers. My aunt, who is still in my homeland, actually worked in a factory that manufactured fake bags. She dropped out of high school to take care of her siblings, and her limited education meant that she could only find work as a janitor or factory worker. She told me that the fake bag factories look just like any other factory that makes leggings or microchips. The factories even use the same machinery used by real bag factories to manufacture chains and hardware.
So I roll my eyes when I lurk on a PurseForum thread and someone claims that fake bag factories are causing terrorism or child labor. Often, the the factories making fake bags are owned by the same people who own the factories making legitimate goods for U.S. companies. And the people working in those factories aren’t enslaved or abused — they just have limited options and factory work is a good job for many of them.
By the way, my aunt thought it was hilarious that I could have purchased a fake bag that she may have helped to create.
Do you ever hide purchases from your significant other? No. My boyfriend knows about my love of bags but he couldn’t tell you how many I have or what brands they are from. The only one he can recognize is the “robot bag” (the Celine luggage bag).
What’s the craziest thing you’ve done to afford a bag? I can’t think of anything crazy, so I guess I’ll offer the next-best example I can think of.
My Chloe backpack was an impulse secondhand purchase. At the end of the week, during my Sunday budget review session, I found that I forgot to account for the cost of upcoming dental work and a recurring payment. Although I wasn’t in financial danger or anything, it annoyed me that these costs had slipped my mind. Over the next month, I asked around for more work so I had an excuse to stay late and work on the weekend. At my law firm, the client will pay for your Seamless order and your Uber home if you work overtime. The money that I saved that month on food, transportation, and “fun” costs (since I was too busy to go out for meals or events) more than made up for my Chloe purchase.
That being said, I would never do that again, because the grueling hours have taken their toll on me. Nowadays, I can’t wait to get home as early as possible and pay for my own Seamless order from the comfort of my bed.
Do you think your shopping is ever a problem? Have you ever felt like you were struggling with a shopping addiction? I don’t think so. I realize, however, that my shopping rate might seem alarming to an outsider, or even to some of my Facebook acquaintances. But as long as I know that I’m keeping my budget tight, I try not to let random Facebook comments bother me (comments like “is that a new bag?” “when did you buy that bag?”). I simply refrain from sharing too much about my purchases on social media.
The Rest Of It
Any other expensive hobbies or passions? It sounds really sad when I say it out loud, but my working hours leave very little time for any time-consuming hobbies. I do place a priority on seeing my friends on the weekends and planning cross-country trips for my old college crew. But I don’t usually need to start saving for those trips until the month before.