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?