Buying your first designer handbag. The complete guide to a perfect purchase

Everything you need to know about buying your first designer bag. Follow these tips to minimize regret.

This is it, it’s happening! You’re now looking at buying your first designer bag and you must have so many questions: which brand should I go for, which colors, which type of bag, which material and so on and so forth. It can be overwhelming because there is SO much choice and you don’t want to spend thousands of dollars for the wrong choice. It’s especially hard nowadays because we are bombarded on social media with influencers that seem to have unlimited bags in their closet. Really, if you just scroll through Instagram right now, you’ll probably see at least a few designer bags and if you’re anything like me, you’ll probably want them ALL. That is not sustainable nor prudent, so take a step back and let us guide you through the wonderful (but sometimes overwhelming) world of designer bags.

best designer handbgas to buy first

5 questions you should ask yourself before buying your first luxury bag to avoid regretting it

1. What is my style?

A seemingly easy question to get you started. How do you normally dress and what’s your fashion style in general? Do you dress boho, sporty, classic, trendy, etc. – think about your average outfit and how your new luxury bag will go with it. For example, if you like to dress more casually, you might enjoy a cross body bag more or if dressing elegantly is your thing, you might like a structured hand held bag. There’s really no good or bad answers, just be honest with yourself.

2. What do I already have in my collection?

Even thought you’re looking for your first designer bag, that usually does not mean it’s actually your first bag. Look at your existent bags and see which ones you gravitate towards – is it a specific color, type of bag or material? In my opinion, most people should buy their favorite type of bag in the designer version. Also, pay attention to the specific things you like or dislike about your current bags: do you like multiple compartments or not, do you like slouchier bags or more structured, is there anything that annoys you in your bags or anything you absolutely love?

3. What is my lifestyle?

There’s just so many types of bags for many different occasions so it’s good to know what exactly you’re going to use this bag for. Some people have a thriving social life and attend events every weekend – if that’s you, you might want to invest in a designer clutch. Maybe you go to the office everyday and want a work tote that makes a statement or you love travelling and need a cute cross-body to spice out any travel outfit. Whatever it might be, you need to take your lifestyle into consideration, otherwise you might purchase a handbag that is just not a great fit. For example, since I had children, I gravitate towards cross-body bags so my hands are always free. If I were to buy a nice handheld bag right now, I would just never use it.

4. Which colors am I attracted to?

This is a tricky question because it’s not only the colors you like, but also the ones you would actually wear on a daily basis. For example I love pink and now I do have a fair amount of pink bags, but that’s a color that is obviously harder to style than neutrals. With the risk of sounding too boring, we recommend buying a neutral: could be black, tan, grey, beige – bag as your first designer bag. The likelihood of you reaching out for a neutral bag is just much higher than if you went for a colorful bag. That being said, with every rules come the exception. If your personal style and your previous non-designer handbags tell you that you would in fact wear and love a colorful bag more, then go for it!

5. What is my budget?

We normally assume that someone’s first designer bag is slightly on the lower end of the luxury scale. People do not usually buy an Hermes Birkin for their first designer bag, but usually start with something more “affordable”. A lot of people’s first designer brands are Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Saint Laurent or Prada. These brands have bags that are a little bit more entry leveled in terms of pricing. However, that does not have to be the case, you can of course just go all in with a Chanel Jumbo or any other bag that makes your heart sing. Just set a maximum budget beforehand, so you don’t get swept by the designer bag wave. If you’re looking for something under $2000, check our guide here. 

6. Which brands do I love and covet?

Most people love the look of, and resonate with a certain brand. If that is the case, it’s a great strategy to just look into all the bags that brand offers. If any bags align with the previous points (fits your lifestyle, budget, personal style), then you can go ahead and make that exciting first designer purchase.

Short designer introduction – Which designer for your first handbag?

  • Chanel – quintessential Parisian. Chic and feminine, it has a very specific look that is extremely recognizable. A lot of the most popular Chanel handbags feature a flap bag, a chain that interlocks with leather and usually a CC logo clasp. Their most classic pieces are the Classic Flap, the Reissue the Boy Bag, the Chanel 19 bag and the Chanel 22 bag – with the last two being a bit more casual. See our guide to the best Chanel bags to buy.
  • Louis Vuitton – usually hardwearing and practical. Louis Vuitton actually has a lot of different styles of bags: all different shapes and materials. Most people will choose a canvas bag from their “icons” line. That could be a Neverfull (my first designer bag as well), a Noe (bucket bag), an Alma (lady like silhouette) etc. The beauty of Louis Vuitton is that they have a lot to choose from and at different price points as well. You can have a look at our guide as well on the Best Louis Vuitton bags to invest in. 
  • Hermes – the most coveted bags in the world. Normally not for beginners as people spend years on Hermes journeys to be able to buy a Birkin or a Kelly. Fortunately, there’s a lot more to Hermes than those two bags – and you can actually buy a bag directly on the Hermes website. That’s not easy either – see our guide here on how to do that.
  • Gucci –  a great fun brand to get started. Gucci is an Italian brand unlike the previous three brands that are French. They have a great selection of all kinds of bags: leather, monogrammed canvas and at different price points as well. You can buy directly on their website without playing any games.
  • Saint Laurent or their previous name: YSL. It’s a great luxurious French brand. In my opinion is similar to Chanel in terms of the “vibe”, they mostly have feminine, beautiful leather bags that are a bit cooler than Chanel with a lower price point. Their popularity grew in recent years as well as their prices, but you can still find a good first designer handbag at Saint Laurent.
  • Prada – the Italian fashion house is iconic and makes a great place to buy your first luxury bag. Prada has their great Saffiano leather (textured leather) which is so hardwearing. If you want a structured tote bag for work you can’t go wrong with Prada’s totes or if you have a “cool girl aesthetic” you might love the Prada reissue bag.
  • Bottega Veneta – is known for their beautiful leather and intricate designs. If you love leather quality, Bottega is one of the best options out there. The brand has been trending in the last few years, but it has always been regarded as one of the best ones for leather quality.
  • Celine – minimalist chic. If your into beautiful simplicity, Celine might be the one for you. They have a lot of different designs that might speak to you: from the Sangle bag to the belt bag. As long as you want something more subtle and IYKYK (if you know, you know), Celine is the brand for you.
  • Mulberry –  British heritage. A brand that is still classic but with less “hype” and social media infatuation. You’ll be able to find a lot of different styles of bags, made out of great leather and in some beautiful colors.

8 Designer bags we recommend for your first bag in 2022

YSL Loulou Large review

The YSL Loulou is a great, versatile bag. Depending on the size, it will take you from day to night, it’s made out of supple, luxurious leather and it has a classic look to it with a twist. The twist being the slightly puffier than normal quilting. However, we do believe this bag will stand the test of time even though the puffy trend will go. Its logo is pretty noticeable, so if you want it to be more understated, we recommend the black on black version. One of the most versatile sizes in our opinion is the small, which is the one we recommend.

Price: 2590 USD 

This is a great bag for those who go to a lot of events or night out or for those who are very minimalist with what they carry on a daily basis. It’s also a great intro to Chanel. If Chanel is the brand that you are in love with the most – then this bag is a great introduction to it. Look wise, the Chanel wallet on a chain has a lot of the characteristics of a classic flap: the quilting, the chain, and the CC logo. Since it’s technically not a bag, but a small leather good you can also use the WOC in your bigger bags (think future Chanel purchases?)

Price: 2925 USD

best first designer bag

There’s a lot of bags to choose from LV: totes, hand held bags, shoulder bags, cross body bags, you name it. One of my favorite is the Speedy 20 as I find it the perfect size for day to day. The Speedy has a lot of history behind it, being one of the first handbags Louis Vuitton launched, so it’s nice that it can also be your first designer bag. Depending on your needs you can choose a bigger or smaller Speedy, with or without a shoulder strap.

Price: 2030 USD

  • Hermes Picotin

It’s not often that someone’s first handbag is actually an Hermes bag, but there’s no reason why not. We like the Hermes Evelyne because it’s very practical, very understated if you’re not into designer bags and just a good investment. It’s a bit harder to buy so you can either hunt it on the official Hermes website, buy it from the boutique or buy it pre-loved from a trusted consignment store. We love the 18 size.

Price: from 2600 USD (depending on the leather)

Jackie 1961 mini shoulder bag

The Gucci Jackie is just the embodiment of elegance. It comes is a few different, beautiful colors and sizes and it’s one of the best designs from Gucci. You can choose between smooth leather, patent or canvas, depending on what you enjoy the most.

Price: 3350 USD

prada reissue best first designer bag

The Prada Reissue is definitely the most affordable handbag on our list. It is made out of nylon, which makes it a tiny less luxurious. On the flip side, it is very light weight and sporty-cool. If that is your style, you can’t go wrong with the reissue bag.

Price: 1290 USD

best first designer bag

A beautiful, understated handbag and one of Celine’s best design. If you don’t want everyone to know you carry a designer bag, then the Celine Box might be the one for you. It’s very structured though and it doesn’t fit as much as you think, so make sure it fits with your lifestyle.

Price: 3950 USD

first designer handbag

If you’re looking for a first designer bag to mainly use for work – look no further. The Mulberry Bayswater is a great work tote that is better priced than other designer totes. It always comes in some great seasonal colors besides the classic black and brown. A really good option for those who don’t want to spend too much on their first designer bag, but still get a great quality handbag.

Price: 1350 USD

Mistakes to avoid when buying your first designer bag

  • just following the trends

There is clearly nothing wrong about being fashion forward and following trends. We will say though, buying your first designer bag is usually an investment in your wardrobe that you want to last. Influencers or celebrities get gifted a lot of their bags and / or can easily afford to buy new ones, so it makes sense for them to jump on the latest trends. Meanwhile in the real world, we need to be mindful of our purchases. Think about the longevity of the handbag you want to purchase. Just because micro bags might be in style, that does not mean it has to be your first designer bag. Similarly, if you enjoy a certain type of bags you should buy them even thought they might not be “in”.

  • buying because of the Instagram hype

There can be a lot of hype for certain bags. Sometimes the hype is organic and sometimes brands pay or gift influencers certain bags. When you see a million unboxing of the same bag you might be wondering if you should buy it as well. It has definitely happened to me – if I see a bag often enough, I’ll probably end up liking it. I think that us a good reason why one needs to be mindful and have a plan beforehand. Failing to plan is planning to fail – was that the quote?

  • not considering your lifestyle

We touched on that at the beginning of the article, but really – you need to know yourself and analyze your lifestyle. It’s just so easy to buy for the life you WANT to have versus the life you’re actually living. Buy a designer handbag that can actually serve a purpose now, that you can use often and that brings joy. I have a fair few bags that are collecting dust because they don’t align with my lifestyle.

  • spend more that you can afford

Repeat with me: no bag is ever worth getting in debt for. I blame this one on social media – when we see so many unboxings we kind of believe that this is a normal thing to do: buy new designer bags. In reality, buying any luxury bags is, well… a luxury and a privilege. If you want to buy a designer bag decide right now the maximum amount you want to spend for it. The budget set for your first bag will of course depend on your financial situation: salary, household income, debt, etc. Make sure that you can afford your bag before deciding which ones you’d like to buy.

  • feeling guilty and never wear the item 

It has happened to me. I have researched for what felt like years, saved for my bag, made sure I was in a good financial situation and finally went to the boutique and scored a beautiful lambskin Chanel flap. It downed on me a year later that I have never worn the damned bag. Why was that? I loved the bag and it was perfect for me but somehow I felt guilty and scared of wearing it. It was a substantial amount of money, so what if something happened to it while I wore it? In the end I came to the realization that bags are meant to be worn and that a scratch here and there would not destroy any bag, maybe just gave it character.

Preloved or New? Which is the best when buying your very first designer bag?

In general, we would recommend buying your first designer handbag new, possibly in the boutique. The reason is that you can get the full experience buying new: attention from the sales associate, maybe champagne, trying on a lot of different styles and colors and just walking out bursting with joy. However, that might not be realistic for some people: you might not have all the luxury brands in your city, or maybe you just feel too overwhelmed with the whole experience and prefer buying online.

If you’re shopping for a hard to find handbag (mhhm, Hermes!), you might have to go the pre-loved route. Just make sure you’re shopping on a trustworthy website such as Fashionphile to avoid any scams.

In conclusion – what have we learned?

Whew, that was a LOT! There just is a lot to keep in mind when buying your first designer handbag. Just remember not to make any impulsive buys, research and make a plan beforehand.

Hope you enjoyed our article and that you now feel more ready to go out there and buy the perfect bag for you!

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