Ah, handbags… and double Ah… Designer handbags.
I think handbags are to women what watches and cars are to men. My issue of course is that I also love watches and cars. But I digress…
A minimal luxury handbag collection is completely attainable, and in fact ideal compared to owning a ton of different bags. I have always loved the less-is-more approach to handbags. I’m also not one to keep items that I have stopped wearing… So 2019-2020 became the time where I sold off basically ALL of my designer handbags and repurchased my dream collection.
If you’re wondering how to build a minimal designer handbag collection, here are my best tips for how to get started building your dream designer handbag collection!
I’ll be sharing my best advice as well as my own mistakes that I made in the past many years, many of them quite costly. Don’t make my mistakes if you can avoid it, so keep on reading!
DO: Buy For Your True Style.
For years I owned a pair of jeans that I had bought in a sale, and that I thought were amazing… except they didn’t fit me. I kept thinking that when someday my body had changed completely, I’d finally wear them.
Well, guess what, that day never came!
We all suffer from these illusory dreams of a style and look we dream of achieving. Because designer handbags are such an investment, building a minimal designer handbag collection is about picking a few items that you know you’ll love and use.
Ask yourselves which styles and looks you have used and loved the most over the years and stick with it. At least for me, designer handbags are not really where I experiment with new styles.
DON'T: Fool Yourself Into Thinking That Designer Handbags Are Ever An "Investment".
I was guilty of this when I first began buying designer handbags. When I got my first bonus in my first job, I bought my first Chanel bag – A Maxi sized Chanel Classic Flap. In order to legitimate the expense, which was significant (and perhaps a bit irresponsible in proportion to my salary, but hey, dreams are meant to be chased!), I told myself and my boyfriend at the time that it was an investment.
Well, guess what. I sold that bag years later at a loss. I found myself barely using it, and felt guilty having so much cash sitting around in my closet. (Which I still would – I use all my bags).
In fact, I have never ever turned a profit from selling a designer handbag. Per default it is not an investment. And I know some people talk about how Hermes and Chanel has increased in prices… Seriously, just stop people. Unless you’re buying Himalaya Birkins, your shopping is just that. Shopping.
If you buy very popular, evergreen models, you might be able to recoup some of the cash down the road, however, but this brings me to the next point…
DO: Buy For Yourself, Not For Others / Resale Reasons
Yes, a Neverfull can always be sold. Yes, Prada loses a lot of value in the second hand market. Does it matter? No. What matters is how much wear and love you get out of the handbag. Building a minimal designer handbag collection is about you. The styles you like and want to wear, what makes your heart sing.
I’ve bought bags that I knew were a “bad deal” and that performed poorly in the second hand market. But did I ever regret it? No, not often. Owning something that you truly love is far better than owning something that you think you might be able to sell off easily down the line.
The positive thing about building a minimal designer handbag collection is that anything with a designer name can be sold if it’s in proper condition. Especially if you keep the receipt, boxes and dustbags! It’s just a matter of how big a hit you’re gonna need to take.
Generally, Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Hermes will have the best resale values, especially if it is a model that has lasted for a while and is still in demand.
As an example I sold a quite worn Neverful that was 6 years old for CHF 430 – which is quite good compared to the wear I had gotten out of the bag and the original purchase price!
DON'T: Get Too Fixated On One Style/Size/Color.
It’s so tempting to just buy what you like in 5 different variations to play it safe, but I definitely have something to learn here too.
Having less means being more mindful of functionality and style. Let me paint you a picture: My current collection has an overwhelming amount of small shoulder bags. I used to favor larger handbags, especially when I was traveling for work often.
Nowadays I barely know what to put in the smallest of bags. I normally only carry my keys, card holder, phone, a lipgloss and maybe Airpods. If things are going wild, there might be mints in there too.
But of course there are days where I might also want to carry a water bottle and an umbrella etc. I actually got the YSL LouLou puffer for this very reason and am looking to add another medium-large sized bag.
I think having a small variety of some basics is a strategy that worked well for me. I have most beige and black bags, most are shoulder bags, but there’s a clutch and a few top handles in there too plus a mix of hardwares. Buying the same style and color again and again will end up boring you if you’re anything like me.
I will say though that I find that I keep dreaming about bags in colors but the reality is that I’m really most comfortable and happy with neutral color schemes and find them understated and elegant. I love that everything can be mixed and matched easily like this.
I’ve also found it super useful to have a designated summer bag – I got a ton of use out of it on our vacation this year, and this one was super cheap too.
DO: Work With Lists.
I’ve had a rotating wishlist of bags for years… and I really like working this way.
The bags that have been on my wish list the longest were always winners when I got them in the end. What can I say! It pays off to structure your research a bit and think through a way of building a somewhat versatile collection.
Being systematic in your approach will ensure that you end up with a small collection that caters to every possible situation.
I don’t get super dressed up very often, but when I do have two go to options – the Lady Dior with gold hardware and the Classic Chanel in silver hardware (speaking of which… I should have gotten gold hardware on this bag and actually regret it, but thats a different story) can work for most outfits.
I keep a continuous list of not just bags but also take note of situations where I have felt I didn’t have an appropriate bag. The above scenario is what made me realize that for more dressed up occasions in summer, it might be good to have a light colored option too
DON'T: Buy Without Trying.
You know what happens? Colors appear different in person. Interiors vary. Chain drops differ. Yes, you gotta test drive designer handbags before buying them in my opinion.
I’ve had several bags on my wishlist for ages that were promptly erased after trying them. I really can’t stress this enough.
Going to the store is also a way of discovering styles you otherwise wouldn’t have considered. The Chanel Le Boy bag is a great example of this for me – I absolutely love the hardware-leather combo strap on it and find it to be super versatile. I wasn’t at all tuned in to this bag before trying it in person.
Inversely, I also often have lusted after a bag for ages only to realize that the strap drop length was completely off for for height and build.
DO: Have Realistic Expectations Towards The Quality.
This is really a very general piece of wisdom that I have earned after many years of being a luxury lover. Price does not equal quality.
I have experienced a lot of quality issues with Louis Vuitton and Chanel. If you’re new to designer handbags or small leather goods, do know that an item will only last you as long as you care for it and according to how intensively you use it.
There really is no such thing as a handbag that you can use forever everyday and still have it look good… But different leathers age differently, and designs will also age in a variety of ways. A common sign of aging in many flap style bags is the splashing out of the sides.
It is natural that materials age and cave in somewhat. Researching how an item is likely to age is a great thing to do before buying.
Final Advice: Take Your Time Building Your Minimal Designer Handbag Collection
Good things take time. I didn’t build my minimal designer handbag collection overnight. It really takes time to find your personal favorites and decide on the purchases as they’re often quite significant.