How much thought have you given your handbag? If you’re like five-years-ago me, the answer is “not much.”
I had used a handbag to haul my high school books, some on-trend, fast-fashion purse from wherever the heck. I’d buy a new one, and it would look nice… for a while.
Until it wouldn’t. The worn-out bag would go off to a landfill, and I would go off to the mall; the “on-to-the-next-one” ethos of American fashion.
Tired of having to continually replace my purses, the internet introduced me to the concept of The Investment Bag.
Disclaimer: “Investment” clothing is not to be confused with, and is by no means a replacement for actual, capital investments. “Investment pieces” are just good-looking, long-lasting pieces of your wardrobe that will look nice, remain in good shape, and remain stylish for years to come.
The Investment Bag
An investment bag is a purse that’s simple, stylish, and well-constructed; it’s a statement piece that will last you many seasons.
What an investment bag is
- Expensive – investment bags generally cost most than you might be used to paying. However, they’re worth it; they’re usually made from a durable material, with good quality stitching. (If you’re buying an expensive, timeless bag… made from a poor quality material, that’s obviously poorly constructed, you’re doing it wrong.) By purchasing a good, long-lasting investment purse, you’re avoiding the need to buy a new, lower-quality bag every six months or a year, and you’re saving a bunch of used, worn-out handbags from ending up in a landfill.
- Timeless – the best investment bags are timeless. They often come in a neutral color such as black, tan, or brown, and don’t have an abundance of features (like buckles, spikes, or obvious, in-your-face labels) that will tie the piece to a particular season. You know the mid-2000s Louis Vuitton “Monograph” bags (insert StyleCaster link)? Yeah. Not those.
- Appropriate for most occasions – think of all of the places you go on a regular basis… college, your internship, auditions, brunch, the office… an investment bag will generally be appropriate for all of them. It’s a great multi-purpose handbag that will save space in your closet, and save you from having to switch purses throughout the week.
What an investment bag isn’t
- Cheap – while you may acquire one for not very much money (thank you thrift shops, consignment stores (insert link to best thrift shops in LA), and Ebay), an investment bag is never cheap(ly made). If you’re spending a good sum of money on a purse, why would you buy something that will fall apart in a few months?
- Trendy – everyone knows the handbag of the moment. That one must-have purse that everyone who is anyone seems to be carrying. But think about it. You know how you sometimes cringe when you see old pictures of yourself? Remember: what’s “so in” right now will, eventually, look “so ten years ago.”
- A single-situation style – so you have found a purse that’s well-constructed, made of a good material, and within your budget. Great! …except it’s a briefcase that you’ll bring only to the office. Or a tiny clutch you’ll only use when going out. Or a bag that’s perfect for the beach. Yes, it can be nice to have those items in your closet. But no, they’re not investment bags.
If you hit Google in search of “the best investment bags,” you’ll likely come across classic handbags such as:
- the Louis Vuitton “Phenix”
- the Chanel “Flap Bag”
- the Hermès “Victoria II”
And don’t get me wrong — Thread Detectives love those too! But we’re willing to wager you won’t be upgrading directly from that pocketbook you bought at H&M to a purse that costs $4,000.
Neither would we. So we set off in search of an in-between. Something in the middle. A cute work bag that’s an affordable alternative to designer handbags. A professional purse that won’t break the bank. And here is what we found:
The Top 3 Brands for Affordable Designer Handbags
Coach – Coach is a great pick for budget-friendly, stylish classics. My current favorite? The Soft Borough Bag.
While I don’t own this bag, if I were to buy a new one, this is the one I would probably go with. At $234, it’s about the cost of four lower-cost, fast-fashion bags (something that I wish I had understood sooner). On top of that, it’s simple, black, and well-crafted, with a nice shoulder strap
because I have a bad habit of carrying too many heavy things. Yes please.
Michael by Michael Kors – Michael by Michael Kors – the next (slightly more expensive) stop on our tour is Michael by Michael Kors. Like Coach, they’re simple, stylish, and good for a variety of occasions. If I were to go MMK, I’d go with the “Mae East West Tote.”
Village Tannery – Village Tannery is a leather shop in New York City. While Coach and MMK are solid picks, I’m #teamVillageTannery because:
- they make all of their leather goods in-house (in a workshop in the back of the store) – support local craftspeople!
- their bags are subtle and unbranded
- their bags last absolutely forever — if they ever break, they’ll fix them free of charge (except animal damage; for that, you’re on your own)… not that they will need to; they’re built to outlast a nuclear apocalypse
In short, Village Tannery is a good pick because their purses are of very good quality, very well constructed, and it’s nearly impossible that your friend will have the same bag as you. If they don’t have exactly what you’re looking for, I’ve heard that they do custom orders (for a price).
If you’re living in New York, or traveling there, go, stop by their shop. They’re located at 173 Bleecker St, near the 1 at Houston Street, or the A/C/E and B/D/F/M at West 4th Street.
If you’re nowhere near New York, pick one up on Ebay. The selection is obviously a bit limited, but I’ve found some sub-$100 gems.
How about you, Thread Detectives? What was your first investment bag?