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Navigate with Style

Charting the style of daily life...with a mouth like a sailor.

My First Designer Handbag

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As a very young girl, I had dreams of one day owning a quilted Chanel flap bag. This legendary design was regularly featured in the glossy pages of my favorite magazines and I quickly understood what an amazingly insightful and game changing designer Coco Chanel was. In my developing mind, owning a Chanel bag would mean that I had made it, that I was part of this exclusive (and elusive) world of fashion, that I had good taste. That's a little embarrassing to write but, oh well.

Great design is eternal and that classic Chanel handbag will never go out of style. But as I grew up, my tastes evolved and I became drawn to edgier designs. After graduation from college in 2002, the Balenciaga motorcycle bag had become the big IT bag (they debuted in 2001). The bags oozed cool, downtown chic and were carried by stylish celebs like Gwyneth, Gisele and other stars whose names start with letters other than G.

After a few months of lusting after these bags, I did the unthinkable. I purchased a knock off, found on eBay, for like $26. Looking back, it was literally the worst, most pathetic excuse for "designer" with white rubbery plastic and dried glue marks --- all around shoddy. I think I carried it for about a week. I had spotted a better knock off at a flea market just outside Boston so I bought it. The thing is, I never felt good about carrying these - they made me feel cheap. The thought of going into debt for a bag I really couldn't afford meant I still hadn't made it. The childhood goal of attaining that Chanel flap bag never included flea markets or not being able to afford to pay rent for the sake of fashion. I would have to put this dream of carrying a designer bag on hold.

Around this time, I started working for a company that owned local salons, spas and clothing boutiques that just so happened to carry Balenciaga handbags. I would visit the stylish store occasionally and take in the stunning leather eye candy, imagining how fantastic it'd be to carry one.

A few years into my job, I was asked to go above and beyond my regular duties to help our CEO with a particular high profile project. I was thrilled and honored to be trusted with the task and while the project caused a lot of stress in a short amount of time, the experience was worth it. A few days after completion of the project, I received a phone call from the manager of the company's clothing boutique. The CEO had asked her to reach out to me, asking if there was something at the boutique I'd had my eye on, something she could gift to me for a job well done. I was shocked --- my jaw must have hit the floor. I had no idea what to say and tried to think of anything else in the store, more reasonably priced, that I would like to have. Before I could answer, the manager asked if I liked Balenciaga bags. Uhhh...what? Naturally, I answered (quite shyly) in the affirmative. I didn't want to appear greedy but I certainly couldn't let this opportunity slip away. The manager told me to come by the store soon to pick one out. I believe I went that very same day. Slipping the handles of that bag onto my arm was a glorious feeling!

About one week later, I was out to lunch with a group of friends. I had just finished telling them the story of how I came to be the proud owner of this lovely handbag, which was now sitting in its own chair at our table. Each of us had ordered glasses of water as well as pints of beer and as the waitress approached our table, she lost control of the tray and eight full glasses tumbled right onto...you guessed it...my brand. new. handbag. 

Every single person at the table jumped up and into action. We descended onto the bag, emptied its contents, wiped everything off and tried to minimize the damage. We blotted inside and out, then hung the empty bag from two chairs to air it out before sitting back down for our (now quite somber) lunch, my personal belongings laying in a pile on the table. As the meal progressed, we noticed the damage to the bag appeared to be minimal, I believe due to our quick action. Major disaster averted. Whew!

Side note: The waitress blamed one of my friends rather than taking responsibility and never apologized, while the manager offered to pay for the damage. Thankfully, I never had to take him up on his offer.

Me, my first son and my first designer handbag, The Balenciaga Work, in 2008, on our way to Martha's Vineyard.

My first designer handbag is one I still carry often. It's a lovely and deep mahogany brown and very generously sized. Every time I carry the bag, I can't help but think of the events that led to my owning it and the (now) funny story of what happened to it at that memorable lunch. I've added a few more designer bags to my collection, thanks to deep industry discounts, but I will always cherish this first bag the most. Until I finally get that Chanel...