Lena’s Top 5: How to Buy the Perfect Designer Bag for You

Date: 02/04/2021

In any conversation, I’ll be the first to admit (as many of you already know) that I’m absolutely obsessed with handbags. Like a true collector, my collection is never complete, not a day goes by that I don’t see another great find to add to my collection. Bright or neutral, shoulder or clutch, those sleek lines, silver and gold buckles, and crafted stitches have always had their own special draw!

What many don’t know, however, is that when I do go about purchasing a new handbag, I’m not just thinking about fashion, or style, or look: I’m thinking about making a purchase into a high-quality item that will last me for years. And who’s to say that down the road, I won’t be able to resell that item to a young collector, or to hand it down with pride to my sister-in-law or friend who will continue to cherish it?  My sister-in-law calls it them “hand me ups” which always makes me smile. 

Every handbag I’ve bought over the years has carried much more significance than just being “that” accessory. Each purse, in my mind, continues to stand as a daily reminder that I’m willing to invest in a product that I will literally carry with me everywhere, through each chapter of my life.  And it is with that, that I offer this piece of advice – buy every bag like it’ll be your last. Imagine, say, a world where your next purchase would have to last you the next 20 years, and notice how your perspective on purchasing an off-the-rack sale bag compares up to investing in a well-loved piece of artwork that’s meant to stand the test of time.

Don’t you suddenly find yourself wanting something a little more than just ‘the latest trend’?

If so, then I’m here for you. Whether you’re buying a designer handbag for your first time (or your last!), I want to make sure that your next handbag investment is one that you’ll end up loving for the long term!

Here are 5 things to look for when buying the perfect designer handbag:

1. The Right Designer

Finding the right designer for you can be a challenge, but it is an act of purchasing power that you’re making, and you’re right to want to find a designer whose values and business model match your own personal values—whether that be craftsmanship, quality, or simply knowing that your handbag was made by an artisan who has been well-taken care of.

This is one of the reasons I value the handbags from Hermès, Chanel, and Dior so much. These are brands which place a ton of emphasis on quality, and who, as I found out first-hand when I visited the Hermès Pantin Factory outside of Paris (read more on that  ), are willing to go the extra mile in producing top of the line products that don’t forfeit quality or customer care.

On that note, I will sometimes remind my close friends to check out the return and repair policies of the designers they’re looking to purchase from, and you should, too! The best ones will often have great return policies that don’t leave you empty-handed, so to speak.  They will certainly have outstanding repair options at a fraction of the cost of buying a new bag entirely. Hermès, for instance, offers their handbag ‘spa’ for quick and quality repairs!

I also believe strongly in supporting our local communities, and so I would suggest purchasing from an up-and-coming artisan who is totally unique, and who you can build a close relationship with. It’s authentic connections like those that can make all the difference when finding the right designer! You could even go a step further and learn about where different makers stand on fair trade, craftsmanship, and cruelty-free product delivery—especially where leather is concerned.

2. The Right Fabric

There is something to be said for every great fabric out there, but in my time as a handbag owner, I can say for sure that there are some fabrics that were made for years of handbag use, and others that just weren’t.

Imagine setting your bag down after only a year and watching it flop over on its side like a sad rabbit!

That’s why, as a rule for myself, I stay away from material-based finishes and fabrics like cotton, canvas, nylon, as they’re bound to get dirty over time, and will ultimately lose their shape. Instead, I’ll opt for leather or leather-adjacent creations with fine-lined interiors and exteriors that are sturdy, but still easy to clean. I love more being able to grab a bag straight from the closet looking bold and brand new – make sure to keep that on the top of your mind when you start ‘feeling’ around for which fabric is right for you. And though you may want to take my advice at face value, I did find  this great comparative article for handbag fabrics that might help cement your decision. 

I have of course been guilty of letting color guide me more often than fabric finish (just look at my Instagram and I think you’ll see what I mean), but when you begin looking at how this purchase is going to become part of your wider collection of high-quality goods, there’s a real advantage to figuring out the right fabric and colour for you!

3. Suits Your Lifestyle

When it comes to shopping for purses, I do  hear stories of buyer’s remorse. They’ll laugh and say they got caught up trying to find the right ‘look’, forgetting all about the reasons they had gone in search of a new bag in the first place.

The truth is, purses and handbags are as individual and unique as the persons who wear them. It is important that, when shopping for a bag that suits your lifestyle, we hold onto a set of standards that we can use to gauge whether a bag is well-suited to us.

For instance, maybe your search started because your purse started wearing thin, it’s too darn heavy, or because it just doesn’t ‘sit’ the same after a years of use. In those cases, you’re going to want to find extremely durable fabrics that ‘settle’ into your daily use as opposed to those that seek to control how much you carry. You’ll want light-weight options that help you stay organized, from day-job to weekend getaway, but which happily carry everything you need to take with you on the go.

If you’re still feeling a little dizzy with options, here are some of the key questions to consider before making a final decision:

Do I want a handbag, or a shoulder bag? (Hint: There are some that can convert to both!)

 How heavy is the bag on its own, when there’s nothing in it? You wouldn’t want to go around lugging a bag that gives you back and shoulder issues—make sure it’s a weight you can handle for longer periods of time, especially if you’re prone to travel!

 Do I set my bag down on the floor a lot? If so, find a bag with grommets or ‘purse feet’ on the bottom to keep the underside of your bag as new as the rest of it!

 How big is the bag in proportion to my body? Some fashion experts will tell you to keep a bag in proportion to the size of your frame. Don’t make your whole self all about your bag! If you’re carrying too much, it’s time to minimize.

 What am I looking for in terms of zippers, clasps, or compartments? Organization is key! Whether you’re a student running to class, an artist at the top of their game, a busy mom, or the executive CEO of a new company, you’re going to want to make sure everything stays exactly where you left it.

BUYERS TIP: Explore your options! Look at different kinds of bags from a few different brands before you invest in the one for you. Sometimes you’ll end up discovering a new and versatile product that changes the design game on what you thought you wanted out of your next purchase. And in this age of online shopping, it’s easy to do so from the comfort of home, with a nice hot cup of tea in hand.

4. Matches Your Aesthetic

Now that you’ve done some of the groundwork, it’s time for the fun part; the YOU part! We all have that inner color-correspondent who knows just what colors we like and which ones we don’t, we know what shapes attract us, and which fabrics give us the chills when we run our fingers over them. For lack of better phrasing: we know exactly what kinds of accessories make us the happiest!

And if you’re anything like me, you’ve likely saved a few possible purchases in an online cart here or there, or perhaps there’s a bag that’s in the window of your local boutique that you can’t quite take your eyes away from. My advice is to start there and see what is common between the different choices you’ve made.

For myself, that has always been the brightest and most unique selection in each line. I do find myself drawn more to those shocking brights and dramatic bolds than I do to the otherwise toned-down pastels that nevertheless glow in the hand’s others.  Handbags and clutches are of course my go-to, but you’ll sometimes see me with an over-the-shoulder piece when a positive energy strikes – when I know the day is going to send me places.

So I ask you – what styles out there speak to your aesthetic? If you can answer that, then it will be much easier to narrow down your selection and make that purchase, confident that you won’t get tired of its “look” too soon after purchasing.

5. Gives You That Feeling

As I mentioned before, I’ve had the privilege of being on the purchasing end of quite a few handbags! And at the end of the day, even after all my research and consideration, I’ve always ended up happiest when I go with my gut, purchasing the one purse, handbag, or clutch that seems to be calling to me from behind the screen or windowpane.

So, if you find yourself coming back to the same bag, even though it doesn’t fit all of your boxes, then I would advise that you listen to your heart on the matter and put that bag in your shopping cart. Chances are, it won’t be a one-time feeling that disappears once you have the bag in your hands. And if you’ve done your diligence and keep on trusting your instincts, you’ll end up with a great and timeless purchase that will keep giving you that feeling of ‘I finally found it’ over and over and over again.

Buying Every Bag Like It’s Your Last

When there’s so much in the world to worry about, the last thing any of us wants on our minds is where and when we’ll find the time to replace yet another worn out purse or handbag. That’s why I think it’s time for you to take the leap and invest in a designer handbag that you can really come to rely on, any day of the week. By purchasing a handbag while imagining it will be the last you ever buy, you’re sure to avoid buyers regret.

Just remember to choose the right designer for you, find a fabric and stick by it, buy according to your lifestyle, make your selection based on your aesthetic, listen to your heart, and you’ll be on your way out the door with a brand new handbag you can take pride in, wherever you decide to wear it.

With that then, I do wish you the absolute loveliest as you shop around for a new handbag, shoulder-bag, or clutch.   I would be delighted to see what you choose! And if you’re just not sure where to start, I graciously welcome you to visit my Instagram page for some added inspiration on what kinds of purses are out there!

Be sure to leave a comment, and I can’t wait to talk to you next.

Wishing you the best in all your 2021 style extraordinariness,

With love,