On Luxury; High Street v High Fashion.

My first designer handbag was a Gucci canvas Tote in chocolate GG print with a leather pocket on the front. I remember being so excited as I traipsed down New Bond Street to the Gucci store that day, dressed especially, in jeans and my very best Ralph Lauren shirt with my old faithful loafers also from Ralph Lauren, and a wannabe leather handbag from a high street store. I was going for that casual-luxe look particular to the Gucci customer, which I obviously wasn’t. I was an eighteen year-old A-Level student, one of those with a “passion for fashion” who worked a weekend job in Russell&Bromley so whilst I was not the atypical Gucci customer, I knew you just didn’t throw on your trackies to go shopping in Gucci! or saunter down New Bond St. looking like you rolled out of bed and into your clothes. There’s something about walking into a high fashion boutique that makes you feel like you should make an extra effort with your wardrobe than you would normally do if you were shopping in just another high street store. Something incredibly intimidating, with their brass doors and Men In Black type security that hold the doors open to grant you access. It’s all very chichi. And I guess you could say Luxury because no one holds the door open to H&M or Topshop. Then you have the snooty assistants seizing you up, never mind that they cannot afford what they are selling without their staff discount, whose priority is not the average shopper come to spend several months of savings on the meagre item, but their regular clients, Clients NOT shoppers, personally known to them. You know the ones who arrive in chauffeured town cars, are treated to the fake smiles and conversations with everything charged to their bottomless accounts… The Sure bankers. Theirs is the money commission is earned on.

I remember being so intimidated in the Gucci store that day because everything was so stark and sharp. Almost as if they didn’t want you to touch it. There were velvet ropes barricading certain areas. Each time I asked to see a bag I had to discreetly check the price to know if I could afford it, because woe betide you if you were caught looking at the price tag. Thinking back to that day, if I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t have bought the bag or any of the other GG’s that followed. It wasn’t about liking or loving the bag, I just wanted a Gucci bag because it was the designer to be seen toting around town. And the GG print meant everyone would know I was rocking around with Gucci, which lets face it, was the point; for the world to judge me by my handbag and nothing else. We were living in rather shallow times and the WAGs were the icons of the day with their lavish lifestyle. Everything around was “bling-bling”, French tip manicures and pedicures were par for the course, fake hair, fake tan, fake breasts, fake everything. And we covered ourselves in all the alphabets LV, GG, FF, CC etc. like a walking alphabet lesson for children. The bag cost me £155, the most I’d paid for anything in my life at the time, with my own money and to see me that day swinging my Gucci shopping bag as I traipsed along the street you’d be forgiven to think I just spent £1m in the store. Considering I spent half the month hungry, I might as well have.

I used the bag for all her money’s worth and then some more. In the Gucci sales I bought a coin purse, for £55, again with the obvious GG mini gold logo embossed on the front, which I’ve used all of six times, if that. I then graduated from GG to other fashionable letters of the alphabet; FF, CC, Dior print, a little YSL embossed bag and let’s not forget the Burberry, all the checks please.

Yes, I was a label whore.

As I became more mature, *ahem* rather, got better paying jobs, my taste evolved. I hope. The monograms were soon replaced by leathers, more discerning less shouty pieces. I fell in love with the über coolness of Marc Jacobs, especially the Marc by Marc accessories range, of which I now own about 8 handbags. Other labels have since joined my rather lovely handbag collection; DVF, DKNY, Furla, Mulberry etc. discreet in style, a little logo here and subtle detail.

In recent times however, my mindset has taken a shift and the high street store has regained my interest in accessories shopping. Nowadays almost everything high fashion feels like a “must have” and the pressure of keeping up with the ever changing minds of designers and the seasons, every three to six months, feels like a chore, a boring one at that. And let’s face it, we have neither the time or the money for that. Well, most of us. Luxury has become synonymous with quality rather than brand name and whatever the loss going on with the high fashion brands, the high street stores have made it their gain and come up trumps in the past few seasons especially with leather goods. The other day I bought a leather bag from H&M for £70 and over Christmas I bought leather and suede bag from Zara for all of £30 which people still refuse to believe because it could easily pass for something from a high fashion brand, and I treat it as if it were. The craftsmanship and quality from some high street stores stand up to that of any other designer brands, some stand even taller, and there’s something more appealing about spending £80 on a bag that will be unrecognisable than say £400 on a high fashion brand that 6 out of 10 people you meet, will have. Even the Birkin with a starting price of about £3,000 has become the handbag for every other woman. Still, I want one and the 2.55, it’s a bag right of passage for any bag addict really.

The prestige of saying your handbag is from blah blah brand will cost you, literally an arm I guess, and in a way, fashion is doomed to be repetitious and trendy, everyone will have something every other person has, but what’s in the name?

At the end of the day, its all leathers and brass buckles…isn’t it?

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