Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Grand Designs

I have just spent a week's holiday in Las Vegas which is not only a great place for a spot of gambling but also a great place for a spot of shopping if you get lucky on the gaming tables. The hotels, or resorts as they tend to be referred to, offer a huge range of shopping, for most pockets. Some of my favourite haunts though are the top end fashion houses.

Las Vegas offers not one but multiple Louis Vuitton stores, as well as Fendi, Prada, Dior, Chanel, Hermes, Gucci and Emilio Pucci. It is shopping heaven if designer labels are your bag. I found it the perfect place for having a good browse. It is not often that I get a chance to get my sticky fingers on designer handbags and have a good poke about in them, so I took full advantage.

On the whole, I think most shop assistants these days have watched the film "Pretty Woman". Whilst I am in no doubt they knew I wasn't going to buy a handbag, they were, on the whole, helpful, friendly and polite. They didn't overtly judge me on my jeans and walking boots (well, apart from one anyway). For all they knew, I might have just had a big win in the casinos. As it happens, it was a case of have credit card, could buy one if I wanted to, I just couldn't actually justify the price tags and didn't really want to spend the next six months paying off a handbag!

Whilst I am sure the stores can justify the price tags, I really can't. I know the bags are handmade, using the best materials and you are also paying for the name. On the whole though, the handbags are relatively mass produced and I don't necessarily want to spent over a thousand pounds on a handbag that someone else has as well. You can buy one off handmade handbags for a fraction of the cost, which are also well made.

For a lot of people, owing a designer handbag is simply a status symbol. The Louis Vuitton handbag with it's distinctive LV monogram is easy to spot. It is also probably one of the most copied designs as well, with cheap replicas cropping up in many a cheap gift or luggage store. It is ironic to think that Louis Vuitton first put his initials on his luggage to guard against fakes. The other designers are also fairly easy to spot too, with Prada's badge, Fendi's buckles, Dior's D tags etc. Personally, I don't want a handbag that screams its provenance though. I like a bag to be a bit more discreet about its price tag. If I paid hundreds, let alone over a thousand for a handbag, I would be terrified of using it in case I damaged it and got mugged for it.

If you are not going to have the pleasure of using an item that has the sole purpose of being used, there is no point buying it. For me, handbags are all about form and function. I was surprised how many designer bags, were all show and not enough form. I would at the very least expect metal feet on the bottom of larger handbags to protect the bottom from dirt.

I have to admit I was quite taken with one Fendi evening bag which was beautifully beaded all over with a chain strap. It was a good size and very pretty. It was also US$1600. It got me thinking about all of the exquisite vintage beaded handbags I have sold in the past for a fraction of the price. Why pay so much for a beaded handbag when you can buy vintage?

Of course, there are always exceptions to any rule. For me the exception has got to be Hermes. I didn't even have the courage to go in and put my sticky fingerprints on a Hermes bag. I was like the Little Match Girl in the fairytale with her nose against the shop window. I just looked in awe at the handbag on the shelf. For me, Hermes handbags are the most perfect form, offering understated elegance yet functionality. I know the price, my credit card shook with fear. I also know that they take weeks to make by master craftsmen, using the finest leather.

I would like to think, and hope, that one day, just maybe, if I get lucky in Vegas, I might, just might be able to justify buying, loving, cherishing and above all using, a Hermes Birkin or Kelly handbag. Maybe, just maybe.

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