I’m turning 25 this summer, and that’s a big deal for me. I always think birthdays are a big deal, but 25 is a big one. There are a few reasons why, but for this particular birthday, I was supposed to be getting a piece of jewellery that belonged to my mom with a lot of sentimental value. Sadly this was stolen from our home a few months ago.
My parents told me I could choose something else instead, a pretty daunting prospect, so after my visit to Chanel last week my mom asked me if maybe I wanted one of those bags? I told her no, if I was going to get any bag, I’d much rather have a classic one, because really, there’s nothing as classic than a classic Chanel. And it would forever be The Bag I Got For My 25th Birthday. Amazing, no?
That got me thinking about the other bags I already have, and all of them have some kind of story behind them. And whether it’s shoes, bags, jewellery or dresses, I bet every girl (and boy) has a collection of something which carry her life’s story in some way or another. I don’t have many, but the designer bags I do have, all tell a great personal story, which I’m sharing with you now, from my very first designer bag to being an addicted collector.
Denim and leather Prada, Aged 16, Berlin
One of my brothers was studying in Berlin for a few months so my family went to visit him. I was still a newbie when it came to fashion and designers, I wore a strict uniform to school and jeans was pretty much my uniform of the weekend – I didn’t care much for Fashion with a capital F. I think we bought it at KaDeWe, a mall, not even the actual Prada shop. This Prada bag seemed the perfect mix of cool, denim and leather – I just needed to have it. Over the years, I’ve put badges and brooches on it, changed it up a little. It has tried to make a comeback many times, it still is quite classic. For a first buy, it wasn’t bad, although I’m currently having an ‘off-period’ with it.
Fendi Lambskin Spy Bag, aged 21, London
I got this bag from a relative for my 21st birthday. When I arrived in London I was just 18 years old, and discovered Topshop, H&M, Primark, … For years I’d just buy a bag to match an outfit, silly impulse buys at £10-£15, disposable and not memorable. Then a conversation with a relative changed all this, when I said I didn’t really have any ‘designer’ bags. She told me they aren’t just expensive, they are for life. I was told to pick something special, something I could remember my upcoming 21st birthday with. This was very much the “It-Bag era”, where a certain bag would become THE must have of the season. The Fendi Spy bag was that very bag, and I fell into that trap. In hindsight, I wish I knew then what I know now. Classics trump fashion every time. The lambskin is super fragile, and I’d be scared to take it out to the pub for fear of stains or theft. Now, almost 4 years later, the bag hasn’t seen much more action, but it’s still such a beautiful piece and an amazing gift and memory by someone very dear to me.
Chanel shopper, aged 22, Belgium
This was a Christmas present given to me by my mom. She’d bought it on a trip to New York a few weeks earlier without ever consulting me. This was just around the time I became really obsessed with fashion, so that was a pretty risky thing to do, she told me later, because she was terrified I would hate it. Because it had to go through customs, my mom used it on the trip home and had to leave the gigantic Chanel box and bag behind, which meant I never got the real ‘gift opening’ experience – she wrapped it in a plastic bag! But I loved it then and still use it an awful lot. Its size means I use it as my gym bag, a shopping bag, a travel bag, laptop case, … Because it’s plastic, it has endured many drink spillages and torrential rainstorms without a single stain. On the outside, it still looks nearly perfect. And no, a girl never forgets her first Chanel.
Leather and Suede Jimmy Choo zipper bag, aged 22, London
This bag was given to me as a leaving present by my old boss at Wallpaper*. I spent nearly 6 months working just for him as his intern and although he wasn’t the easiest to work for, we ended up having a great relationship. He wanted me to stay on full-time, but couldn’t because of budgets (isn’t that always the case) and so I left. On my last day, he came to me with a gigantic Jimmy Choo carrier bag. I’ll always cherish what he said when he gave it to me: “Alex, you’re always wearing black, black, black. It’s time for some colour in your life.” He was probably right – but you can’t take the black away from this girl. Alas, I’ve hardly ever used it, too colourful for me! Still, I would never get rid of it, because it’s probably the nicest present anyone’s ever given to me.
Vintage Chanel, aged 23, Belgium
I stole this bag out of my mom’s closet a few years ago. When I was younger, I used to never like it, then one day I just fell head over heels in love with it. The tassles were pretty unique for a Chanel bag, the brown leather with gold combo are just perfect. I had it for about a year before my mom noticed and claimed she needed it back ‘urgently’. I told her how long I’d had it, and she conceded. Apparently, it was a gift from my dad to her for their 10th or 15th wedding anniversary, so this bag is possibly 15-20 years old! People regularly stop me in the street asking me about it, I’ve even had some offering to buy it, but I will never, ever let this one go! Due to my intense use, it’s showing a bit of wear and tear, but like all good things, I think it just shows its character and history. I also love how it holds a piece of my parents’ life together.
Black Balenciaga Motorcycle Bag, aged 23, London
I’m absolutely in LOVE this bag. I still use it every single day, it’s my go-to bag, it’s got the perfect bit of rock’n roll edge and yet such a classic design. Confession time: I used to have a fake version for many years. I loved it so much, but couldn’t afford it. Then, when I started working in the fashion industry, I realised fake was not ok. I vowed never to buy fake again and I promised myself to buy this bag with my very first real paycheck. And that’s exactly what I did. The ironic part? The paycheck came from my PR job at Louis Vuitton… I’ve not regretted spending an entire month’s wages on this bag either. It’s sturdy, big enough to fit some shoes and goes with EVERYTHING. I recently bought a Balenciaga cuff bracelet to match the bag, which I think is really cool. For me, this bag means my first accomplishment, a promise to myself I was able to fulfill.
So now, with my gigantic Chanel shopper, the vintage Chanel for dressed-up occasions and the Balenciaga for everyday life, I’ve had no desire to get any more bags for quite some time. I really am complete. I’ve completely stopped buying cheap high street ones as well. But with this birthday coming up, I do wonder if perhaps I can add another piece to this story. And if so, which one?
The bags I’d like most right now would probable either be a Proenza Schouler PS1 or Alexander Wang’s studded Rocco bag. But then, from writing this, I’ve realised perhaps I should go for classic over fashion. A classic Chanel? A Mulberry Paddington bag? An Hermes Birkin bag (ok, now I’m just wishful thinking). I know a lot of you may think piece is hugely shallow, but for me it’s been a wonderful trip through memory lane. I may not even use half of them, but I’d never get rid of the bags either. These are all pieces of my personal history. I dare you to go through your wardrobe, perhaps the art on your wall or your collection of shoes or jewellery and not find a collection of great stories just like mine.