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A guide to buying a designer handbag


Burberry’s Orchard or Louis Vuitton’s classic Speedy? Or both? Here’s our definitive guide to buying the designer handbag of your dreams, whatever your style or budget

Isabel Dexter,

In the past 10 years the designer bag has reached the dizzy heights of icon status, thanks in part to the celebrity obsession with ever-changing arm candy and also to a plethora of quilted, patent, fabric, studded, woven, leather, alligator, leopard-print and sequin-encrusted delights from the major fashion houses, determined to tempt us into investing in an undeniably stylish piece of their brand. If you’re about to update your handbag collection or are thinking of investing in a designer bag for the first time it’s worth considering whether to play the trend game or go with a classic shape that has heirloom appeal. ‘Whether to stick to a brand’s classic or signature style or opt for this season’s latest “It” hit is more about personal taste than anything else,’ advises Paris-based stylist Sophie de la Fou. ‘Think about what qualities appeal to you and look at style icons you admire – would you rather be thought of as an on-trend front-row-esque fashionista or someone with a timeless sense of classic style?’

Do some research: wise advice if you’re investing in property or splurging on some shares and equally so if you’re investing in a designer bag. We’ve all had those love at first sight moments when faced with, perhaps, the elegant Chloé Alice tote, or Marni’s cool doctor bag in red velvet, or Yves Saint Laurent’s to-die-for Belle de Jour clutches in this season’s luxurious patent leather. Should we ignore these almost carnal urges in a bid to make a sensible decision when choosing a bag? Yes and no, says Sophie de la Fou. ‘A bag is an emotional choice. Perhaps even more so than a piece of clothing or footwear,’ she explains. ‘It has a talismanic quality, like magic, conferring on the wearer qualities that she is craving, whether these be free-spiritedness, timeless allure, classic elegance or that trend-fix sugar-like addiction – the thrill of carrying this season’s hottest purchase on your arm like a trophy.’ Indeed, the heart-racing moment where your Anya Hindmarch, sequin-encrusted Ebenezer is wrapped in layers of tissue at the counter should be akin to that heady first flush of love. Whether this is a major first designer bag-buying purchase or a regular multi-seasonal occurrence, if you’re not at least a little dizzy at the thought of carrying your must-have bag then it’s better to walk away.

That’s not to say that you should only follow your heart. ‘Take some time before you go shopping to think about what it is you actually want and require from a bag,’ suggests Sophie de la Fou. ‘Is this a bag you want to use every day and, if so, what size do you require it to be?’ Some women can squeeze their daily essentials into a miniature Sonia Rykiel Grenelle clutch in python but for others the Hermès Birkin would be on the petite end of the size schedule. It’s also worth considering colour. Black is an obvious choice – but think honestly about how much black you actually wear. For many women, a deep brown, rich caramel or even a mulberry shade works better with their clothes and has an everyday allure that can be dressed up or down. This is particularly important if you’re a one-bag woman, either because of budget or for simplicity’s sake. The Yves Saint Laurent Cabas Chyc is a case in point. An iconic tote shape in simple leather, the forest green version is a modern classic that works with pretty much any outfit.

If you really want to treat yourself, Louis Vuitton has just launched Haute Maroquinerie, a new service which allows you to create your own customised handbag for a truly bespoke experience that allows nearly 80,000 variations. The bag is then handcrafted for a distinctive finish that is utterly unique – enough to make any commitment-phobe consider bag monogamy.

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