Designer Bags: Stares and Status

July 6, 2008 / Culture, Opinion / 21 Comments

After experiencing life in Asia for the past month or so, I have come to conscious realization that Asians are infatuated with designer bags. It’s not a bad thing. However, with a little knowledge of designer labels, it has become quite obvious that most (not all) aren’t infatuated with the bag or the brand, but with the status the bags bring them. This shouldn’t be too surprising since designer bags have always been a status symbol for women, just as cars have been for men.

Despite knowing that, it’s still quite a culture shock for me. I have not seen as many Louis Vuittons, Guccis and Chanels the past 4 years in Toronto as I have in 1 month in Singapore. Perhaps Canadians have other ways of measuring status; perhaps Canadians just don’t care. Whatever the case, I really shouldn’t be in such a state of shock since grew up in Asia, but as a teen or a child I wasn’t as aware of society’s expectations as I am now.

I honestly don’t know how to react to this expectation. My natural instinct as a person who have lived in many countries is to adapt and buy one. At the same time, I’m not someone who will readily spend $2,000 on a bag, when I can spend that amount to hire a private tutor to master a new language or travel to some exotic destination. After all, the amount of knowledge I gain by traveling or learning is priceless. The bag will just depreciate in value after Karl Lagerfeld designs a new collection next month.

And I most certainly would not spend $660 on a low-tier Louis Vuitton monogram, when it clearly does not match with any of my outfits, like many women do over here. After all, what’s the point of carrying a bag that cannot complement your outfit? Either your $5 shorts and $2 tanks will look like an eyesore, or your bag will – and eyesores of any kind are not worth $660.

Louis Vuitton Speedy Monogram Canvas
Low-End Louis Vuitton Monogram “Speedy 25”
Picture from eLuxury.com

Yes ladies, I carry a “shitty” (i.e. non-designer) 200-US-Dollar bag designed by some German company called L.CREDI. It’s leather, it’s durable, it’s functional. Not to mention that it fits 90% of my wardrobe, my black boots and my black Mac just fine. There really is nothing to wrong with it – except that it isn’t a Chanel.

But after all is said and done, I will likely succumb society’s expectations, since there are only so many bag stares a woman can handle. When that time comes, maybe I’ll give Loewe‘s Amazona a try. After all, it would match with my boots. 😀

Loewe Amazona 2008 Collection
Loewe “Amazona”
Picture from Loewe.com

What do you think of designer bags? Are they worth it? Would you buy one? Do you own one? What do you think of bag stares?

Disclaimer: I’m not against designer bags. I can, in fact, appreciate quite a few of them, and can fully understand why they cost $4,000 each. I am, however, not very fond of the idea of designer bags bought solely because it is a status symbol. There are more justified reasons for spending $4,000 on a bag like…lust.


  • k

    to hell with them (the bag starers), i say.

    just buy what you like and what suits you, whether it is a $2000bag or $10bag.

  • http://www.notbrainwashersafe.com Id

    I look at colour instead of brand name, so it’s obvious that I am not one of the Asian statistics infatuated with designer bags. And I have never even left Asia!

    I do, however, have a lot of Indonesian friends who are infatuated with brands such as LV and Marc Jacobs. Personally, I also find the LV logo a bit of an eyesore, even though the rainbow-ised version was somewhat cute. Still, I don’t get the appeal.

    Colours and style have always been my primary concerns. When people ask me what brand of bag/wallet/shirt/whatever I am wearing, I tend to give them obscure names and they look at me as though I am insane. But I don’t feel the need to justify myself.
    I mean, my current wallet was freaking S$19 from BORDERS. HAHAHAHAHA!

  • http://www.little-wonder.net Brenda

    Heh, I happen to be one of those designer bag obsessed people and has easily spent several hundred on that obsession. Time for me to stop, though – because my pockets are getting pretty shallow now. :(

    But still, it boils down to whether you like the bag and are comfortable with it. It is after all, pretty costly and despite what it seems, people wouldn’t judge you by what bag you carry! (It would be really ridiculous if they did. :P)

    Anyway, just for information’s sake – I happen to buy, sell and trade online at this Livejournal community called SGSellTrade. Based on observations, several bags are acquired from supplier sprees – whereby a user manages to locate an overseas supplier that is able to provide these bags cheaply, gather a few friends (and random people online) and place a large bulk order, splitting the shipping costs among themselves. 😛

  • http://www.stompy.us Nel

    I totally agree with you, deisgner handbags are more of a status symbol for women similar to cars for men. Designer handbags has reached a frenzy, although its not as bad here as it is in Singapore as no one around can afford it.

    I would love to own one though- I have expensive tastes but then having one is not the be all and end all in life. If you can afford it, fine but what is wrong is when people get into debt buying all these designer things that they can’t afford.

  • http://www.annacircles.com Anna

    I sometimes don’t understand why people buy designer brands, period. A few of my friends are obsessed with them, and they say that the durability is the primary reason. Yes, they are good quality, but you can find things just as good in regular stores. I don’t own any designer brands, yet my wardrobe doesn’t break or fall apart.

    I wouldn’t spend more than $15 on a purse, designer brand or not. Perhaps when I finish school and start working, I’ll allow myself to be a little more liberal with money, but for now, I like my non-designer wardrobe (:

  • http://simply-precious.net Simply Precious

    Yeah, since I’m poor, I don’t have any designer bags. I don’t think I’ll ever get one, either. It’s just a bag… LOL. Maybe because I’ve grown up and still living in poor conditions, so… Money isn’t something that I can use on things that aren’t a neccessity… =(

  • http://jing-wen.com/ Amanda

    Like you said yourself – there are much better ways to spend $2000. Holidays, for sure! There’s no point having a bag when I can go to Paris. 😛

  • http://www.silvercpu.com/blog Lissy

    I don’t buy designer anything. I never understood that. I don’t particularly like how the stuff looks and I’m sure as hell not spending over $50 on a bag that will probably end up on some bathroom floor at some point. And for thousands of dollars, that thing better come with a laptop.

    I have really funky taste in stuff. I get more compliments on my $10 hat and $10 bag than I do on anything else. Why? They’re different. My friend actually asked me if my bag was from hawaii. I said, no, Paramus, NJ

  • http://www.teddy-o-ted.com teddY

    That’s the same thing I’ve observed after living 6 years in Singapore – many women are simply obsessed with designer bags. What makes it really absurd is that what they have in mind is the brand behind the bags and not how much the bag suits their wardrobe – they tend to think that with designer bags, any kind of outfit, regardless of colour and hues, will complement the bags perfectly.

    And it’s even more absurd to think people trying desperately to make their outfits match their bags and not the other way round. If they could not afford a couple of branded handbags from Marc Jacobs or Louis Vuitton, why purchase them at the same place? I could agree more with your view about making sure that your wardrobe matches the bags you buy and not the other way around.

    I’ve got a friend who bought a pair of LV shoes recently, and she told me that she’s giving away half of her jeans because they simply don’t match the sepia hue of the shoes. I asked her why not try investing in other more affordable brands (like Converse, for example) with different colours, she retorted that it’s the brandname that really matters.

    Regarding the ‘bag stares’ thing, I’ve read the post you’ve linked too and I find these people really despicable. Why stare at people’s cheaper bags, just because you think you fit in a high society and thus look at those who have non-branded bags with jeering eyes? I wish I could slap them to make them wake up from their nonsensical fantasies and back into the REAL world.

    My mom uses this bag from Cleef (I doubt anyone have heard of it anyway) and she bought it for less than $100. And she’s still using it now, after 3 years, and it’s so durable and handy… well this pretty much disproves the fact that only designer bags are durable!

  • http://aigoo-chamna.net Tara

    X_X;; I don’t understand the concept of designer anything. I don’t understand why I should pay more for a brand name when I could get a cheaper item!

  • http://twentyfourcarat.net Katy

    I have to agree with you! I would never get a designer bag just to fit in… the only reason I would want it is if I think it looks good, if it’s versatile and if it will be timeless… and if I know I have enough money and won’t go broke after buying one.

    I hate those cheap $600ish LV monogram bags that girls are carrying around everywhere nowadays (and let’s not talk about fakes)! The monograms don’t even look good IMO and if they can afford LV, why but one in the lowest price range? They obviously can’t REALLY afford it (wonder how long it took them to save up?) and they’re just desperate to own a designer bag.

  • http://tis.luved.net/ Tammy

    Well, the whole infatuation with something occurs a lot in high schools here. I’m thinking of the TNA bags. Ugh, huge, ugly things, but at least they didn’t cost $4000. I think it’s less in UofT because it’s more academically motivated? Haha, at York, you can definitely see some dominant trends. My sister goes to McMaster, and she told me that people go to class in their PJs/comfort clothes quite often, but York is more fashion-conscious.

    To be honest, I’m not fond of having overly branded stuff. Makes me feel like a walking ad. I’d be happy finding a simple bag that matches my clothes at the back of a clearance shelf. Granted, that has never happened (though I would be happy if it did), but I’m not much of a bag-shopper anyway.

  • http://pocketcultures.com/topicsoftheworld/ Liz

    This is really interesting… in many parts of the UK (even in many parts of London) having a designer bag would not be seen as an asset! In fact I think if I ever bought one I would feel completely out of place. It’s almost the opposite of what you describe here – in some places you can get stared at for having a designer bag. Maybe I just don’t move in very classy circles though!

  • http://www.everdestiny.com Destiny

    I’m one who’s not really into LV. Though I love looking at the purses, I often just get fake ones because I cannot afford having a $2000 item on my hand and risking any stains and such. How people do it, I don’t know… but I find that having a house and other commitments makes it hard for me to just spurge out of the blue. Though some people will starve themselves in order to have a “real” purse, I’d rather just stick with a fake one because I end up tossing them in my closet afterwards.

    I bet there’s so many over in Asia!!

  • Tang

    Im an Asian…ohoh! i couldnt sleep…i needed to buy a designer bag again..im just too obsessed with it…i know im crazy, but i only buy once a year and i do save up for it! And yes, i dont buy the most expensive one..$1000 is my limit….

  • Ally

    Interesting responses here. I too was NEVER one to fuss about brands. As an Australian middle-class citizen, I know very well what it’s like to work hard for my money. I am a Mum, wife and full-time worker I recently enjoyed a well-deserved holiday to Italy and France. Well, I finally started to open up to the world of fashion and realize that there is s whole new world out there in regards to what fashion is all about and how it affects peoples lives. I really started to adopt the attitude of “you only live once” and if you can make it happen…go for it! I purchased a LV Olympe handbag and have not looked back. It’s stunning. I wear it with pride and enjoy what it symbolizes for me…hard work, appreciation of fine things, fun and great memories. I guess buying “designer bags” means different things for different people. Enjoy!

  • sony

    YOU CAN GET ANYTHING IS LIFE,IF ONLY YOU WORK TOWARDS IT, MY STORY:
    I was poor and could not afford a designer Bag and friends who could afford it laugh at me and look down at me because of that, but I respected the ideals to be look at one day IN my Life not as a loser ,but as a strong Woman who can afford anything in my Life if I work Hard towards it.I want on the internet through a internet Cafe AND begin to search how I could be a Network engineer ,and after that search I ,became to learn from youtube ,because I could not afford the school,and I study hard and learn to my best and save money to take the CCNA test and pass,Now people in my life ,people who look down on me can beg me.when I am amount others Human beings now I can afford anything,this is to tell you,you can afford anything in Life if you wanted.there are websites online that allows you pay every months for a Designer bags,is nothing important or so big to have one but ,as a Lady it feel good something to feel yourself and wear good things ,this is all part of Life.we don’t have to say negative things when e can’t afford it.
    But work towards it when we just wanted to have the good feeling of been part of the Rich side of the world.