Are Designer Bags Worth The Price?


A Grey Area


Until Michael Kors came into my life, I was a designer virgin. Sure, I had a Chanel eye shadow and a Dior powder compact rattling around in my makeup bag, but I’d never gone all the way; I’d never owned so much as a designer keychain. Then, everything changed. It was the morning after a long night of various shenanigans when my fiance and I wandered into the Hotel Nikko’s Starbucks in search of a coffee fix, eyes bleary and heads throbbing. That’s when I saw it. The Hamilton tote. A shining beacon of beautifully sculpted leather, dangling from the elbow of some lucky, lucky girl.

A few weeks later I was browsing eBay when I found the very same one in a gorgeous pearl grey color and about a hundred bucks less. I bought it on the spot, thereby blowing my clothing budget until 2014 while simultaneously releasing about two solid tablespoons of endorphins. I haven’t regretted my purchase since.

To me, it’s less of an accessory and more of an investment. But what makes an item an essential instead of a frivolity? A staple instead of a bauble? Up until this point, I’ve never owned a single item of clothing worth more than $250; I consider myself quite experienced in the world of low- and mid-range fashion. I know flash sale return policies like the back of my hand, I’ve spent more than six cumulative hours in Forever 21, and I am a big believer in the power of eBay. So what made me cross over into the land of hand-stitched leather and ubiquitous logos? Let me enlighten you. Without further ado, here are the four ways in which my first designer purse has proved its worth (and justified its price tag) to me.

1. Structural integrity. While there are obviously high-end bags with relaxed, slouchy silhouettes, mine happens to sport a very angular, square-like shape. Unlike my last purse, however, this one has actually retained its form no matter how much stress I put on it. Whereas previous purses’ angles began to turn into curves the second I threw a single book in them, this one has carried textbooks, folders, changes of clothes, and my ridiculously heavy makeup bag (all at the same time!) without losing a single inch of its original shape.

2. Quality materials. The Hamilton is made from a type of leather called Saffiano leather. Used by such legendary labels as Prada, Coach and Salvatore Ferragamo, it’s created by stamping normal leather with a rough texture. This gives the leather a crosshatched appearance and, most importantly, a strong resistance to scratches and scuffs. Every bit of dirt, dust and grime that I’ve gotten on my purse thus far has brushed off without a trace. That’s not to say that I’m not still obsessively protective of my new baby, but it’s nice to know that it can hold its own against the elements.

3. Sturdiness. Before the Hamilton, I went through three purses in the span of two years. Granted, none of them fell apart in any major way, but they did start to deteriorate in small, irritating ways that all added up. Ripped seams, weak stitching, peeling leather, the works. Although I’ve only had my new bag for about a month, I can already tell that it won’t be plagued by those (or any other) issues for a long, long, time. We’re talking years here. Every part of it is crafted with care and precision, and is truly built to last.

4. Wow factor. No matter how much attention is put into an item’s functionality, longevity and fine details, I still want it to have sex appeal. You know, the sartorial equivalent of Marilyn Monroe standing over a steam grate. For me, the Hamilton, with its dove’s feather-grey hue, chain-bedecked shoulder strap, and working padlock and key is all that and more. I’ve received more compliments on this bag than I have on any other accessory, and its appeal seems to be universal. Even the super-nice lady ringing up my order at Chipotle expressed her admiration for my bag. In fact, I think I caught her suggestively winking at it behind my back. In short, if I’m going to spend a hefty chunk of change on something, I want it to have brains and beauty.

When pondering all of this, keep in mind that I’m a college student who regularly packs her purse with five pounds of textbooks. If all you carry around is lipstick, your smartphone, and maybe a pack of oil blotting papers (perpetually shiny babes unite), then you’ll most likely be able to get away with buying a gorgeous purse with a much lower price tag. Regardless of the size of the load you’re carrying, though, a handbag is an important and most likely constant component of your everyday look. Investing in a real gem has the potential to make a difference, just like it did for me. If you’re still hesitant to spend a pretty penny, though, I’ve hunted down four other beautiful handbags that have the same ethereal hue as my beloved Hamilton, minus the sticker shock. Whatever your monetary preference is, there’s something for you.