I've Never Paid Full Price For A Designer Handbag But You Wouldn't Know It

To put it in perspective, a $3K Chanel bag bought on a whim would put my next three months of rent in jeopardy.
Publish date:
December 6, 2013
handbags, consignment, vintage

Handbags are always a weighted topic for the fashion set -- most likely due to their exorbitant prices and the ability of most of us to spot some of the industry's most coveted handheld accoutrements from miles away.

I admittedly have a thing for bags of the designer persuasion (no surprise there), though the costs of nearly all of the bags I fancy are not within my everyday means. To put it in perspective, a $3K Chanel bag bought on a whim would put my next three months of rent in jeopardy, and though I love all things Lagerfeld, quite frankly, he isn’t keeping a roof over my head and food in my stomach.

But designer bags still make me SWV-style weak in the knees and I am a woman who does somehow end up getting what she wants. In this day and age of Black Fridays and sample sales, possessing Chanel, Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton, and the like isn’t as out of reach as it used to be and I’ve found a way to own pieces from the aforementioned brands without ever actually shelling out full retail dollars.

Now that I’ve discovered ways to get the accessories I want without emptying my checking account time and time again, I’m kind of hooked on it. Here a few tips on how you can get the styles you want for a fraction of the price.

1. I always buy consignment and vintage. This is a rule I live by. When it comes to handbags, I have a favorite little Long Island haunt that stocks up on pieces from Céline, Fendi, Chanel and more. Each city has at least one consignment shop and I'm lucky to be a native New Yorker because we have a slew of them. Refinery 29 has a plethora of posts on great consignment boutiques all around the globe here. Some have layaway options so I can pay a little off each week, while I can negotiate at others and get the seller down to a more reasonable price.

2. I know my labels and do my research. This is key to discerning whether you're getting a deal or being ripped off. I've had sufficient experience in the fashion industry and have thus amassed a lot of knowledge, but you don't have to be a fashion blogger to know what you're getting! Taking time each week to browse through some fashion mags and shopping sites will give you an idea of a label's "It" pieces, as well as pricing. Equipped with that awareness, you can go forth knowing what's reasonable to pay for a used version of that design, as well as when it's marked down.

3. I'm dependent on deal sites. Sites like Gilt, Hautelook, RueLaLa, LXR & Co., and Beyond The Rack are weekly go-tos for me as they are always stocked with designer bags. I've snagged a satin Lanvin Tote on Hautelook for under $200 and a vintage LV crossbody bag on BTR for $250. Pretty amazing steal, right?

4. Sales are my friends. I embrace them with open arms. I know, I know: This is the holiday season and you're supposed to be buying for other people, but this is really the best time of the year to shop for yourself. There are so many sales that a fashion-loving woman would be remiss to not take advantage. I've also set sale notifications on ShopStyle, so that my favorite brands and bags are always on my radar.

5. I've made a few boutique buddies and I've taken advantage of their discounts! Certain brands have very strict rules, but for the most part you can take advantage of an employee's discount as long as they're allowed to use it on those who aren’t just immediate family. That was the case for me when I was embarking on purchasing my first Balenciaga bag, cutting the price down by a significant amount. Stores also have friends & family days and special offers for high-value customers, so your relationship could prove fruitful in times such as those. Friends in high-fashion places are always a win.

6. Last, but not least I stalk my favorite bags like I do the social media accounts of guys I date. I have a running list of pieces I need to own at some point in my life and I have laser-like precision and focus when it comes to them. I know each online site they're sold at and I've given every consignment/vintage store owner I know the heads up that I'm on the hunt for them should the bag come in. YES, that's obsessive and perhaps crazy, but nothing will keep me from my favorite bag. Nothing on this earth.

What about you? Do you have a love for designer handbags that you satisfy with consigned and vintage goods? What are your tips and tricks?