I’ve been on a bit of a journey when it comes to buying handbags. From the denim cross-body that I accessorised with badges and pins to my first ever designer splurge at Bicester Village (hello Luella), each bag has summed up a specific phase or life stage. It’s been almost 10 years since I started taking things a little more seriously and I’ve definitely made some mistakes along the way. I’m talking overloading, breaking straps and even letting one go mouldy. Ooops.
I feel like I’m in a bit of a weird position as I love certain designer bags but I also know how they can make other people feel, especially in an age when we share everything on social media. They’re not everyone’s cup of tea and can be pretty pricey, but they can allow you to buy into a brand if those stunning gowns are out of reach. There are also some great bags to be found from High Street and independents alike, that make no less of a statement.
Since Black Friday is coming up (I’m sure you’ve noticed), I thought I’d share some of my tips so you don’t live to regret any purchases you might make (in the style of Backstreet’s Back, of course).
Am I functional?
First things first, the most important thing is to think of your lifestyle and make sure that the bag will be suitable. Will you be using it every day for work and does it actually need to hold items of importance? You need to be realistic about your situation, even if that wallet on a chain is calling. I personally like a bag that is slightly larger than an iPad mini, it’s a good one to take travelling but the size means that I don’t cram it full. I also tend to carry a supplementary tote, because blogging.
There’s also certain elements of the design to consider. Do you need to be constantly reaching for your Oyster card? If so, then an exterior pocket is a must. Is the clasp a bit fiddly? If you’re always reaching for things in a rush, then this can lead to it deteriorating faster. Can you wear the bag in multiple different ways? There’s no use buying a crook-only bag, if your forearm is a little weak.
These days, I would stalk the bag IRL as much as possible. Be on first name terms with the staff and try it on with different outfits if you have to. Check that there’s a decent amount of compartments on the inside (I like to have a secret pocket for period shizzle) and somewhere on the exterior to stash your keys and travelcard.
If you’re looking online, then check out as many views of the bag as possible. Search through forums and tweet your favourite bloggers for honest advice. I still love a few impractical bags (I’m looking at you Mansur Gavriel with your lack of pockets) but it’s best to be aware of these things beforehand.
My mistake – Now, I’m still in denial about this being an error but as much as I love my 3.1 Phillip Lim Pashli bag, I didn’t really do my research. There is no exterior pocket and I find the clasp a bit fiddly, so sometimes I think it’s secure and it’s really not. This led to my iPad flying out and smashing whilst I was running for a train (yes, I’m aware this is a first world problem). I still haven’t forgiven it.
High Street Bags I like
Am I original?
Another thing to try and do is look at the bag objectively. Don’t think of the blogger who’s worn it on Instagram or whether it’ll make you look like a #luxurybitch. Do you look at it and think heart emoji? Does it have a unique closure, retro shape or special stitching that you can’t stop thinking about? Are you looking for a statement colour or something a little more versatile? Do you actually like the bag or do you just want to be perceived in a certain way?
The thing to realise about most designer bags is that they tend to be an idea in it’s purest form. It hasn’t been watered down, with multiple revisions and tweaks for the High Street. The brand also represents values you’d like to align yourself with, such as the androgyny of J.W Anderson or the playfulness of Kate Spade (I like both brands, to confuse things even further). You may even have an emotional connection, say if you’ve always walked wistfully past the Chanel windows and dreamed of owning one yourself. There’s nothing wrong with that.
I did have a bit of a fake bags phase back in 2007 (a trip to the malls of Shenzhen will do that to you), but eventually I realised that I’d rather own the real thing or something completely different. I feel a bit weird about direct copies, so I personally prefer to go for something that’s loosely inspired or just a cool design in itself. On the High Street, I’m loving what & Other Stories and the Cambridge Satchel Company are doing, plus I’ve also found gems in Next. It really depends. Quality is important to me so I tend to stick to leather, though Matt and Nat is a great vegan alternative if that’s your bag (sorry).
My mistake – Remember the Luella bag I mentioned? I actually bought it for the most long-winded reason. After spotting a £99 Giselle during a previous Bicester trip that I never went back to buy, I was determined to buy anything that would fit into my price range. I was in love with the idea of owning a Luella bag rather than the design itself. This meant that I ended up with a huge patent bowling number, a style that I’d never shown much interest in before and probably wouldn’t again. It now sits forgotten in a crate.
In-Betweeny Brands I like
Am I affordable?
Now if you’ve watched any of my fashion videos carefully, you’ll know that I’m obsessed with any kind of discount. It’s worth holding out for a handy 20% and timing things right, especially if you’re planning on spending the big bucks. As much as I’ve tried to befriend people who work at Net A Porter, it’s probably easier to familiarise yourself with the brands that discount and the brands that don’t so you can plan accordingly. For example, through the Selfridges Black Friday discount (use code SELFCCE, there are some exclusions) you can often get 20% off tricky brands once a year. Get to know all the possible retailers that stock brands you like, as there can be slight price differences. If you’re really dedicated, designer outlets like Bicester Village are also worth visiting.
It’s also worth checking your emails. Sometimes when I’ve bought something from pricey sites (in the sale, mind) they’ve sometimes tried to tempt me back with a voucher. Net A Porter once emailed with £50 (no minimum spend), since I hadn’t spent on the site for over a year and occasionally Matches will get in touch with £100 off new season stock. Monnier Freres is also quite generous (albeit slightly stalkerish) and likes to send codes via text.
Of course this method relies on you spending on these sites in the first place, so I wouldn’t want to encourage anything unnecessary. However if you do happen to see an item you like in the sale or beauty sections, it gets you on their radar. Also, there’s nothing to stop you starting a separate email account for newsletters and checking in every so often. Follow brands across social media, including Snapchat and Instagram Stories just in case there’s an exclusive code. Look out for sample sales. Also most magazines tend to have High Street discount vouchers every month, so check Money Saving Expert to see if you’re in luck.
My mistake – Picture this, me walking proudly out of Liberty on my birthday, casually swinging the giant purple carrier bag. I may have been able to get a cheeky discount on my Bayswater thanks to a connection and even though I love it, I’ve now realised that the style isn’t quite right. I fell in love with the idea of the bag since it’s a bit of a ‘I-got-my-first-job-after-five-years-of-studying’ number but I didn’t consider the limited ways it can be worn. I now prefer bags that come with a cross-body strap, so if I’d just waited four more years, I would have been rewarded with an improved design.
Designer Brands I like
Ultimately the whole point is that you don’t need all the bags, but they can add a nice flourish to an outfit and it’s good to make an informed decision. How you spend your income is up to you. I’d like a Proenza Schouler bag but then again I’d also like a Help to Buy ISA. It goes without saying that you should ideally be realistic about your income and not put yourself in a tricky situation financially before buying your dream bag.
Let me know what’s currently on your wishlist, plus I’m happy to answer questions about any of my bags!
2017 Discount Codes That May Help!
ASOS – 20% off with WIN20
Boden – 30% off with N6D5
La Redoute – 40% off with BLACKFRIDAY
H&M – 20% off
Urban Outfitters – 30% off selected items
Mango – 30% off with BLACK17
Oasis – 25% off everything
Warehouse – 25% off everything
Whistles – 25% off
Harvey Nichols – 25% off selected styles
Monnier Freres – 25% off with BLACKFRIDAY
Anthropologie – 20% off with ITSYOURS
Selfridges – 20% off
Luisa Via Roma – 30% off with BF30
Liberty – Up to 20% off
Farfetch – 10% off with 10BF