What Your Handbag Says About You

A friend (fellow lawyer + handbag junkie; apparently there are a lot of us out there; this is good news for Taryn Zhang) sent me this article. See Meredith Stebbins, “Your Handbag, Your Self,” Bloomberg Businessweek, Jan. 20, 2011.

To assess a lady’s character, look no further than the handbag she carries to work. “It is an absolute indicator of who they are and what their style is,” says Rachel Zoe, celebrity stylist and entrepreneur.

Stylists, fashionistas, and designers weighed in on what certain handbags conveyed about its carrier’s personality. Per the article:

Photo Credit: longchamp.com

Longchamp tote = preppie. I see that. (Btw, I really, really like the Longchamp totes.)

Photo Credit: feedprojects.com

Those burlap FEED bags = social activist yuppie.

Photo Credit: louisvuitton.com

LV monogram bags = I’ll quote the article word for word this time: “lady who luxes.” And that is a great euphemism for what I’m thinking in my head. Suffice it to say I am not a big fan of carrying monogram bags to the office.

Actually I would argue that none of the aforementioned bags are appropriate for work, unless it’s Casual Friday and you’re working in the back offices, not front. For work you really want to go for a structured bag with clean, simple lines.

I’d like to dovetail on the Stebbins article by adding the following:

High-end Designer Monogram Bags, you know, the ones from EU nations. I’m referring to brands such as Prada, Gucci, Chanel, or the above-mentioned LV. These are status symbol bags. The girl carrying this bag wants you to know she can afford uber-expensive bags. She will probably tell you something like, “Oh, I appreciate quality craftsmanship,” but really, we all know what she appreciates more is the luxe label and what flashing that luxe label around town does for her reputation. She is probably a little materialistic (or a lot) and high-maintenance. That’s okay, by the way. I’m totally a high-maintenance gal.

Sources: coach.com; colehaan.com

Coach or Cole Haan. I have always thought of Coach and Cole Haan as All-American labels. Some bag snobs refuse to carry Coach, thinking it is too “common,” but if you review objectively the craftsmanship of these bags, they’re fantastic, as are Cole Haan bags. With reasonable care, a Coach or Cole Haan bag will last you a decade at least. As for what carrying one might say about personality, I would say a younger girl carrying a Coach bag emblazoned with monograms is probably a little green to designer labels. However, an older woman with a solid black or dark brown, classic- and timeless- style Coach or Cole Haan bag, one with no visible monograms or logos, is a woman with a strong sense of values. Cole Haan, by the way, I’ve always opined to be more sophisticated than Coach.

Sources: Nine West, ninewest.com; Nicole Lee, nicoleleeusa.com; Liz Claiborne, jcpenny.com

Department Store. Department store labels, such as Nine West or Liz Claiborne, Nicole Lee, Kathy van Zeeland, or Guess, tell me that the woman carrying it is a smart shopper. She is not materialistic, probably not high-maintenance, very down-to-earth, and although she wants to be stylish, she won’t foolishly pay an arm and a leg for it. She is self-assured enough to invite you to judge her on her own merits, not on the brands she carries. Nine West, by the way, is a great brand. I love their bags! And shoes! Within this category, there is such a range of style, too. Nine West and Liz Claiborne are for more professional crowds, probably a woman with a 9 to 5 desk job, while Kathy van Zeeland and Guess are for the young, bold and loud fashionista.

Sources: ekatrinany.com (left); miss-lonelyhearts.com (right)

Independent Designer. I instantly admire any woman carrying an independent designer label. She is an artist or an artist at heart, and fashion is not for status, but rather fashion to her is truly an art form. This is a woman who supports all things creative and entrepreneurial. She is also a sophisticated shopper, one who discriminately seeks out what she likes rather than accept what is fed to her by the media and multibillion dollar advertising. Two of my favorite handbag designers are pictured above: Ekatrina New York by Cathy Lee and Miss Lonelyhearts by Jenny Yuen. Although they have different aesthetic points of view (Ekatrina = refined opulence; unsparing elegance and Miss Lonelyhearts = Jazz Age/neomodern interpretation of Depressionist irony Old Hollywood flair) both labels create absurdly gorgeous handbags!

Tibetan Handmade Wool Embroidered Bag; Happiness Floral Brocade Bag; East African Baobab Fiber and Mudclotch Bag

Sources: tangozuluimports.com (left); goodorient.com (center); swahili-imports.com (right)

Aboriginal Art or “Ethnic” Bags. How we use and throw around the word “ethnic” is terribly careless. I use it here (carelessly) because it’s the fastest way for you to get what I’m talking about. These are the shiny silk handbags with distinctly Chinese, Japanese, or Indian patterns; they’re the bags recognizably from Africa or inspired by traditional African art, made from sisal, dried grasses, bone, or with ornate, bold-colored beadwork; these are the handbags with distinctly aboriginal art inspirations, bright colors, geometric patterns, or made from materials we urbanites don’t get to see everyday. I also instantly admire any woman carrying such bags because she’s probably an artsy type. As applied to minorities, it is a statement of cultural pride. For example seeing an East Asian woman carrying a silk brocade bag while running around New York City says to me that this woman is proud of her roots, and probably not what we otherwise call a “white-washed” Asian. =)

Me... and an old messenger bag I've had since high school. High school!

Well-worn/Casual. Oftentimes on weekends and roadtrips, I am the well-worn/casual type. She is the woman carrying a handbag that is clearly many years old. The bag is probably made of canvas, most likely a messenger style bag, knapsack, or something super-functional. This type of bag is often accompanied by classic cut jeans and sneakers. This is a woman carrying a handbag because she has things to carry (imagine that!) and doesn’t care one hootie about status. She is the girl next door, a tomboy at heart, or a good, sincere best friend (never one of those frenemies… frenemy types never carry well-worn/casual bags, ever notice that?).

So what does the handbag I carry right now say about me?

I dunno, maybe it says “I’m a wannabe designer and I designed this bag myself but the design got totally messed up in the hands of an overseas manufacturer but I spent money on this prototype and I’m not about to admit I wasted money so now I am going to use this bag because who else is going to use it but me.”

That’s probably what my handbag says about me right now.

Speaking of work and office, here’s a peek into my day job:

I put together a production deal for my company. We built the studio kitchen that you see above, which is used to film the shows for several celebrity chefs! Neato, eh? Above were shots I took with my camera phone during the rehearsal or run-through. This particular cooking show is for Chinese cuisine, and is filmed specifically for the Lunar New Year celebrations. It’s going to be aired on a major network. Was quite exciting to see the fruition of all that contract paperwork and negotiation. Talk about an exciting entertainment law gig. I saw this project through from pitch, storyboard, and briefing to filming, production, and post-production. And will soon get to see it on national TV too.

Wonder if the handbag I carry (the messed up version of the Executive satchel brief in black) actually says anything about what I do for a living (other than “failed designer”). Swear I’m not usually this self-deprecating. Just in one of my moods.

Anyway back to the original point. Read the Stebbins article. It’s a good one.

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