How to: Buy A Designer Bag

Last year, I took the plunge. After a year of talking about it, planning for it and justifying it, two of my girlfriends got the text we’d all been waiting for. “Chanel. This weekend. 11 AM.”

On that fateful April morning (one year to this day!), I met up with two of my PR girlfriends on Bloor and spent $5,000 on a bag.

We were instant best friends and I haven’t had a moment of regret ever since. Honestly.

If your jaw is still on the floor due to sticker shock, I don’t blame you. You can do a lot with $5,000 (or any large sum of money, really). Regardless, owning a luxury statement bag is something women dream about. If you want to do it, here are my foolproof steps to guilt-free designer bag acquisition.

Want it. Really want it.

I pined, coveted and sighed over my Chanel bag for a year before I bought it. When you can’t stop thinking about it (and everything you’ll wear it with), you know you’re there. If you need a little extra encouragement, share you goal with friends who understand how much you really really want it and invite them to be there when you pull the trigger. There’s nothing like a little 11th-hour enablement.

Don’t go into debt

This is the big one. Picking the bag is only half of the “forget regret” battle. Regardless of the sum, make sure you can put down the money and forget about it. It’s not coming back, ever. The resale of luxury bags goes much the same way the resale of a car would – you lose a huge chunk of the value the second you drive it off the lot.

If your new purchase is staring you in the face each month in the form of interest charges, it’ll quickly become a thorn in your side (no matter how beautiful). The way I did this was to have a set amount in my savings account that I deemed my “Chanel Fund”. I added to it each month over the course of a year until I felt like there was enough in the non-Chanel fund to feel comfortable parting with the designated cash. The idea here is not to resent your bag because you can’t afford the necessities of life. Let’s be smart about it, ladies.

Pick a classic

There are a lot of expensive bags out there, but not every one will be worth the money in 10, 15, 50 years. My closet is filled with things that are more timeless than they are trendy, but it makes it easier to drop cash on an item when you know it won’t go out of style. This is also the time to decide if you want something obviously branded or something a bit more subtle. My preference is always towards things that aren’t overtly branded (think the Damier Louis Vuitton pattern instead of the monogram). Some of my favourite classic bags:

  • Chanel (of course!) classic flap bag in the Large size
  • Prada Saffiano Lux Tote
  • Louis Vuitton Speedy (in the Damier pattern)

When you pick the right bag, “you’ll have it forever” is a valid justification.

Do your homework

Buying the perfect bag is a lot like finding the perfect puppy – you want to make sure it matches with your lifestyle. That includes price. Many brands – Chanel included – have scheduled price increases every year. That doesn’t seem like a big deal until the bag you’ve been planning for increases 5-10% a year. Suddenly your budget doesn’t quite work. Dig around on forums to make sure you’re planning to purchase at a good time.

If a brand new bag isn’t in the budget (or if you’d simply prefer vintage), there are a lot of great options. In Toronto, I’d recommend Haute Classics  – they often have Chanel (and other sought-after brands) in stock and they’re always a few grand less than a brand new bag. Not to be an enabler, but there are quite a few Chanel bags available there right now…

Plan to wear it everywhere & with everything

It’s easy to feel like you should keep a special bag for special occasions, but if you’re like me you’re going to want to get your money’s worth. I chose the size and colour (black, large) of my bag knowing that I’d want to wear it both night and day, casual and formal. For the most part, I’ve been able to wear it with pretty much anything and anywhere. No event is too small for this little bag that could. When in doubt, go with a black bag in a mid size. You can always expand your collection, but you’ll want something that will match with everything. Think about how you’ll wear the bag – half the fun of planning a new purchase is in the outfit daydreaming! (Also: thinking of all the ways you wear it will dramatically reduce the projected Cost Per Wear)

Manage expectations

In the year I saved for my Chanel bag, I let things build up a little. That’s a lie – I built it up a lot. I’m not saying that the bag isn’t special – it is, and I love it dearly – but the experience of purchasing it wasn’t rainbows and unicorns. At the end of the day, you have to be ready to part with a large chunk of your hard-earned money and probably justify your purchase to a few people along the way. If you feel confident in your decision to purchase the bag, it ‘ll hardly matter that the sales people were rude (OK, it still bugs me even a year later) or that someone at a dinner felt it appropriate to rifle through your bag looking for the authenticity tag (true story) or even that people will tell you it was a huge waste of money (it’s not, I promise). All that will matter is that you’ve added an iconic piece to your closet and it made you happy.

Stephanie Fusco - Leopard Is A Neutral - Chanel Bag

Happy shopping!

Which bags are on your luxury lust list?

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  • CrystalGibson1

    Love this!

  • alexkinsella

    This was me – except it was a MacBook Air. Treat yourself!

    • @alexkinsella Couldn’t agree more! Congrats on your Air.

  • donnavitan

    Thanks for sharing the story! I absolutely love how practical and relatable your advice is. I always wondered where fashion blogger ladies find the money to buy these designer bags – save and treat yo self!

    • @donnavitan It’s all about saving up for big purchases! My mantra for the year was “Save for Chanel” – seriously. I’ve adopted that POV for 85% of my wardrobe, too – I’ve been buying really classic pieces that are definitely splurges but will last years and years. Glad you found my tale of true love relatable! xo

      • donnavitan

        @stephaniefusco I definitely want to save for a designer bag… and a new Macbook like @alexkinsella ! Ha!

  • Love this post, Steph!! 🙂

  • stellahklee

    I dig this post.
     
    HERE I COME, CELINE. 
     
    Too bad they’re damn near impossible to find in Canada. So I will need to save $$$ for a trip to France + the bag. You down? 😉

    • @stellahklee YES. I was trying to find a link to a Celine bag for this, but could only find forums. So elusive…. 
       
      I hear the Chanel bags are cheaper in France… I could go for a second 😉

  • Thanks for suggesting such  a valuable points. I really like your article. I just love to buy designer and i after using them i resale them so that i can  take some profit of my purchase.

  • I just purchased my first Chanel WTC in January. The most I ever spent on a bag was $900 for a Gucci so this Chanel was a 1UP! 😀

  • Thanks for this lovely post or also for these suggestion..I really like to collect these type of designer bags…This is so valuable information for me…I like this information….

  • micheroo

    I just dug this post up (you know, from my previous e-stalkings) in hopes I can justify some upcoming purchases…. or husband requests… haha 

    That is all, enabler! 😉

    • micheroo ENABLE!! ENABLE!!! I may or may not have made another “investment bag” purchase last week. Whoops. Come find me at work tomorrow to see the new baby 😉

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  • sincerelysuzanna

    I know this is an old post, but I literally Googled, “how to save for a Chanel bag” and found this. Beautiful, classic, iconic item, Stephanie! I’m starting my “Chanel fund” this year for the same bag with the savings account method you used. Since this will be my first Chanel, and I’ll probably be going to same boutique you went to (Bloor), I have a few questions for you:

    – You got the large flap, is this the same as the medium?
    – Did you get caviar or lambskin leather?
    – Were you on a waiting list for the gold hardware on black, or was it just readily available?
    – How rude were the SAs? Rude enough to ruin your whole shopping experience? Should I consider the Yorkdale location then?

    (Late) congrats on the Chanel!

    Suzanna

  • sincerelysuzanna So glad you found the post! I’m still so happy with it – and trying to justify another. 

    To answer your questions:

    1) The large flap is just a TINY bit larger than the medium. I’m really happy with this size – it fits a small wallet and a bit of makeup, but not much else. I looked at both in store and the medium ultimately seemed too little.

    2) I’m not so delicate with my things, so I got the caviar leather. I do have a wallet in the lambskin and the wear and tear is more obvious. I do feel more comfortable with it in the pebbled leather.

    3) I wasn’t on a waiting list, but I do know that’s pretty common. It’s worth calling ahead! I wanted the pink caviar WOC for my wedding day and couldn’t find it.

    4) Honestly, I was pretty low on the totem pole when I went in. There was a larger group seeing much more expensive bags than what I was looking for, so I was the least of their concerns. I knew what I wanted, so it was a pretty transactional shopping experience anyways. The unboxing was great, though! I love how luxury brands package up their goods – lots of history. Yorkdale, Bloor and Holts on Bloor are all worth checking out. What matters is getting the bag 🙂 

    Happy hunting!! I hope you have a great experience. I’m already fiending for a Jumbo to use during the day… probably vintage, though.