Building a handbag collection is a lifelong process. The purses we buy are a snapshot of who we are or want to be at a given moment, but, by definition, that means a collection evolves.
PurseBop’s latest article at christies.com discusses the evolution of a collection. It’s something we here at PurseBop love to talk about – how one’s array of handbags develops over time. Style, need and, of course, budget affect purchasing, use and, in some cases, rehoming.
Our article lays out what we term the four stages of a collector, all of which are discussed in more detail below. Behold – (1) the newbie; (2) the established; (3) the mature; and (4) the elite. Although our Christie’s article focused on Hermès bag collectors, we here at PurseBop believe the stages and analysis apply to whatever brand or brands you covet.
Stages of Evolution
The new collector is at the beginning of a handbag journey, perhaps dipping a toe into the luxury pond for the first time, or moving from one brand to another. In many cases, it involves a substantial jump in cost and caution is the word of the day. You don’t want to make a mistake and indulge on the proverbial closet ornament. Thus, at this phase, the focus tends to be on everyday bags in neutral colors. Now everyone has their own version of neutral; for some it’s basic black, others a beige and others, as Diana Vreeland famously said, “pink is the navy blue of India.” Alternatively, a new collector may be inspired by an upcoming event or special occasion to step up the bag game and splurge. As many have learned, often, that first bag is merely the gateway to more.
The Established Collector
No longer gunshy about an initial purchase, the established collector is ready to stretch for more variety or statement pieces. That could mean expanding one’s color palette – perhaps from neutral to bright; size range- from small to large and back to mini; and/or even shape or type – shoulder to handheld to clutch and back. Another strategy is to select statement bags – something unusual that will stand out. This is where a collector begins to develop a handbag wardrobe. For many, the journey remains at this stage – with a collection growing in depth.
The Mature Collector
Let’s first be clear, being a mature collector has nothing to do with age. It does, however, probably call for greater sums of money, as the mature collector is drawn to rare and exotic bags which come with higher prices tags. Think heavily beaded and decorated Chanel classics and minaudieres or Hermes ostrich, alligator, lizard or crocodile.
The Elite Collector
Truly, the elite collector is a level to which most can only aspire or dream. The bags sought in this phase are veritably one(or few)-of-a-kind. It could be a bespoke bag in an exotic or one with jewel-encrusted hardware. That’s right, in this stage you put the diamonds and rubies on, not in, the bag.
We reached out to a number of our incredible handbag aficionados here within our PurseBop community, and asked them for their input. We asked them to answer these two questions for us:
- What was your most recent handbag purchase? Your last bag bought?
- Based on the stages of evolution we identified, which stage are you?
Below you’ll find their detailed responses and some exquisite eye candy. Since many of these contributors are BopTalk Celebrities, be sure to click on their pictures to read interviews and other articles they have contributed to… get to know them better.
I fall into the mature collector category. I prefer exotic leathers in both Hermes and Dior and when it comes to Chanel I prefer their more rare bags. I have definitely become more selective with my purchases in recent years. I have never been interested in a Hermes bag with diamond hardware since I prefer to use my bags every day. If I had a diamond hardware Hermes bag I would probably only use it on special occasions, but never say never…
My most recent handbag purchase was the Chanel Crystal Ball. My latest Hermes bag purchase was a Birkin 30 alligator in Bleu Paon, and my latest Dior purchase was a matte white crocodile Diorever bag. When you asked me to participate with a few sentences about my most recent purchases I didn’t know how to share a photo of them but it turns out that those three bags all came with me on my summer travels so they must have been good purchases.
The latest bag to enter my collection was a mini Valentino “Volcano” B-Rockstud, from the Volcano Collection. It was a “surprise” buy as I was not looking for anything, but the opportunity came up (it’s not current collection and was reduced from 2400€ to 710€…). I have been thinking about adding a quirky bag whose sole purpose is to accompany me in the evenings. Since I took the conscious decision to commit to Hermes I seldom engage with other brands bagwise. But this is such a fun bag, ideal for the purpose I had in mind, matches the shoes and top I have from the same collection, was a runway piece, hard to find, and dutifully only carries essentials – lipstick, credit card, few euro notes and coins, perfume sample, not much else, definitely not my current iphone.
In one week I’ll be picking up my SO from Hermes but unfortunately, one week too late for your article.
Considering the 4 collector stages I have to say the established collector. and in my case I think we can say Hermes collector since I finally took the conscious decision to not buy other brands. I was never one for neutrals. I do own a black birkin and a trench kelly but none were my first bag.
No one does color like Hermes. And the way the shades change depending on the hide and the light is just magical!
Plus, I love their simplicity and absence of pattern (in 90% of the cases). Each one is effortlessly a statement piece and I don’t feel the need to carry anything else. They hold (or increase their value) and they convey a sense of tradition and elegance which I love. These days I’d rather buy 2 Hermes bags per year than 10 from other brands…
I see myself as an elite collector at this point wanting only very exclusive Hermès collectibles. I am fortunate to have so many exquisite pieces in my collection. I am completely smitten by the mini Kelly II though. Can’t get enough of them. PurseBop you have asked me in the past what I want next? This time I know … a mini Himalayan Kelly II , a girl can dream right? And my last handbag purchase was an mini Kelly II in Rose Sherazade from Paris and I think my rocket Chanel miniauderie.
The last bag I bought was my Special Order Kelly 25 Blue Electrique with Bordeaux inside and contrast stitching in Togo leather, brushed gold hardware.
With regards to the stage I see myself in at the moment, I can honestly say I am vacillating between the first three stages. Let me explain how.
– The New Hermes Collector: I am too practical to buy a bag for show. I buy to use and abuse so if a bag doesn’t serve the right purpose or doesn’t fit my lifestyle it isn’t coming home with me. Did I mention I love neutrals? Etoupe, Gris Asphalt, Gris Mouette, Etain, Gold anyone?
– The Established Hermes Collector: When I said I want practical bags, I didn’t mean boring bags! I want my bags to be statement pieces and the statement doesn’t necessarily mean ‘look at me look at me I am loud and bright’… the statement could be one of quiet elegance and an ode to impeccable craftsmanship. But, boy oh boy do I love colors! My favorite pops of colors are Bleu Electrique, Malachite, Anemone and Rouge Casaque.
– The Mature Hermes Collector: I like having a variety of leathers on my bags. The practical side of me won’t let me indulge in exotic leather just yet so I enjoy having a multitude of leathers ranging from Evercolor, Swift, Epsom, Togo, Chèvre… who knows, maybe I may own a birdie one day. For now I love creating one of a kind special order bags, two of which I have with me and another two, I like to imagine, being lovingly made by some amazing Hermes craftsmen. Will I ever reach the fourth and final stage? If you ask me now the answer is an adamant ‘NO’ but again, as I always say – never say never with Hermes!!!!
The last bag I purchased was earlier today and is an HERMES picotin, an unusual bag for someone who considers themselves a mature collector, but given that this one had a twist to it (in that it has matte croc handles) I would say that fits in with my profile! My Hermes collecting phase is probably in its 15th or 16th year so I’ve definitely loved the thrill of the chase and my collection has grown to having rare pieces that I may never even use like the quelle idole bag (also known as kelly doll) or the teeny tiny and super rare kelly 15 which is more usable as a bag charm than a bag. What keeps me from becoming an elite collector (ie: croc with diamonds) is very simply, the usability of the bag with my lifestyle. It’s nice from afar but never anything I’ve felt the need for, which is great, considering it’s eye watering price!
The last bag I bought is a Birkin 25 in niloticus crocodile Rose Scheherazade. I have been collecting Hermès bags for many years and my recent purchases have all been exotic so by your definition PurseBop, I am a mature collector and perhaps moving towards an elite. I love that my Hermès collection is a real mix of sizes, leathers and colors.
My latest purchase is a new Chanel Prefall mini rectangular with lucky charms. It was the first day that items were shown to customers and when I was lucky to see it wasn’t already reserved, I jumped at it!
Currently I’d say I’m a mature collector. I started years ago with sweaty palms and a huge grin when I got my first Gucci bags…Gucci became LV…LV became ‘oh just one Chanel bag’…to ‘no let’s collect all the Chanel styles’… to Dior for more classic chic…and then to Hermès, only to get completely caught up in their webs where I happily sit right now, with occasional trips to the other brands I love. I find that I’m content with what I have; all sizes, styles and colours are covered. I’ve become way more relaxed in finding the next additions, don’t get caught by trends. Bags have come and gone up to the point where it’s curated exactly to the collection I dreamt of all those years ago. I don’t need a big exotic collection nor do I need to go super exclusive to be happy, so that’s why
I’d already call my collection very grown up. But still having huge fun as in the early days!
My most recent handbag purchase comes straight from the Hermès Mothership’s hallowed halls. The Parisian H Fairies smiled upon me and I added both Gris Asphalte and Blue Zanzibar doll-size Kelly 25s to my bag arsenal.
4 years of worshiping hard at the alter of Hermès and I would categorize myself as a an ‘established collector’ with an aspiration of becoming a ‘mature collector’ one day. Shh! Don’t tell my husband I said that. I must confess, there is a certain black matte croc little Birkin I catch myself day dreaming of. I am just not sure there is room for it at the sand box or during circle time with my kids. So for now, I will be sitting comfortably at stage 2 while grabbing all the Togo and Epsom little Birkins & Kellys I can get my hands on without squandering my little human entourage’s college tuition fund. As to other luxury brands, my Chanel sale associate lost my number long time ago- I am afraid.
It is undeniable that my relationship with H has evolved over the years. At the beginning, I would say “Yes!” to nearly everything I was offered. Now, it’s quite the opposite. After a few dozen private room unveilings resulting in me walking out with a large orange box, the allure of run of the mill bags began to fade Though, this was not because of a lack of love for the brand – quite the opposite in fact.
The more I purchased, the more I learned about the brand and its heritage. Through visits to the museum above Faubourg and the ateliers in Pantin, I became privy to lesser known varieties of leathers and unique offerings available to a true H collector. Gone are the days of wishing for Togo. Now I wish to be offered croc, lizard, ostrich, barenia, etc. I just want something unique! Something not from the seasonal RAC.
My last unique purchase was actually not a bag but a SLG – a black alligator Azap GM organizer/wallet. The scales give an otherwise ordinary object character while the large size makes it perfect for traveling with extra room for bills, coins, cards and my passport. While I don’t consider myself elite by any means (nor do I think I will ever ask for or purchase diamond bags), I am proud to call myself a mature collector.
The three birkins below are all hard to find leathers in size B40 (ostrich in noir, buffalo in gold, and fauve barenia).
I am lucky to be somewhere in the spectrum of established to mature collector. I started my designer handbag journey with LV monograms for their practicality and streamlined look for work. Fun weekend bags were Chanel WOCs and Gucci. Never batted an eye at Hermes until I saw the prettiest shade of raspberry pink (tosca) in the most amazing crafted leather, and so began my orange ride. It’s been a slow, steady and somewhat strategic journey at Hermes – starting off with collecting seasonal colors of pinks, purples and blues. Neutrals are consistently produced by H so my chase was after colors before they are rested. There have been some bag regrets along the way (colors, sizes and styles) but they have since been edited out, which has helped me to keep my collection at a reasonable and manageable number. A few key pieces later, my color obsession is finally satisfied and now I’m focused on adding neutral pieces. I have been fortunate to have placed a few special orders (SO), which has helped me curate my collection. Still waiting for some outstanding SOs/podium orders but for now I’m at a (H)appy point with my H bag collection. I recently cheated on H and ventured back to Chanel to add a black mini flap. This season’s caviar leather was so too hard to pass up so it was a must have for my collection. What’s next? Maybe an adventure into Hermes exotics as soon as I collect my remaining neutral pieces. Maybe an ostrich bag one day!
The last bag I bought is an Hermes Kelly 25 Sellier Epsom in black with Gold Hardware. I have always wanted it but put it off in favor of seasonal colours. My SA told me that it’s one of the hardest combination to come by so I knew I had to get it before the wait list becomes too long.
I see myself as an established collector. Here’s why, One of the hardest thing to do is turning down a coveted bag so when I first started buying Hermes I was open to sizes, colours and leathers that do not necessarily suit my lifestyle. As my collection grew, I learnt to let things go, worked out what works for me and became much more selective about what I want. Before I was offered my K25 Black sellier, I turned down K28 Black sombrero and also K28 Black sellier phw, bags that I would have been happy to get even though it’s not exactly what I wanted a couple of years ago… I no longer agonize over turning bags down and wondering if I will ever be offered again… Maybe this is a sign that I’m becoming a Mature collector!
My last major handbag purchase is my first SO, Kelly 25 Sellier Etoupe/Etain Epsom Brushed GHW.
If you ask which stage I see myself as, I’m not quite sure. Perhaps, in between the established and the mature one? I have always been in love with neutral colors although my very first few Hermes bags were all colors, Birkin 30 Soufre Permabrass, Lindy 26 Rose Jaipur GHW, and Garden Party 30 Blue Ciel. I am fortunate enough to get offered and acquire gorgeous bags along the way. Some stay. Some are happily rehomed. But most that remains are those neutral ones I hope to pass on to my daughter one day when she grows up.
My last purchase was my Hermes special order b25 chèvre Rose Poupre/Blue Electrique brushed palladium hardware. I definately see myself as stage two . I love bright colors but I’m very picky on shades of color. Blue hydra is one of my favorite colors and I’m a Kelly girl all the way. A croc Kelly would be an amazing addition but it rains too much around here so I’m on the fence. As for brands outside of Hermes there are a couple that I do love. Chanel 2014 metallic boys have a special place in my heart. The colors were perfection that season. My Louis Vuitton Fleur d jais is also a special piece in my collection.
My last purchase is the Hermes SO, it was very quick, a birkin epsom (so 80’) in Jaune d’or and gold interior, I love discrete SOs….
I feel I am a mature collector because of the many years and many bags I have… however exotic is not my cup of tea… I have a few exotic bags from Valextra and Prada, they were all gifts because I am still concerned about buying an alligator bag because of my personal ethics problems (yes you may call me a hypocrite as I eat eggs, rib-eyes etc …) but I cannot bring myself to purchasing an exotic Birkin or Kelly.
Maybe I need to know more about it…my fave bags are always classics: Delvaux brillant, Lady Dior (my second last purchase)! Petite Malle (not really a classic but will become soon), and Chanel
(even if it’s been a while I didn’t get one), Valextra: Italia high end quality. Gucci are cute but I notice I get easily bored with them.
My most recent handbag purchase is garnet red Birkin 25 in togo leather. I think most of time I am in the mature stage as I love exotics and have been collecting them for many years. This does not mean I do not love regular leather Hermès bags from the established collector phase – I do very much just like my most recent purchase.
My very recent purchase is a Chanel classic clutch from the SS18 act 2 Collection. Quilted Black patent leather with the light gold hardware. I think its one of those time less chic pieces one can have and enjoy for the very long time.
Looking through my IG profile you can easily say that I am a Chanel lover. I wouldn’t call myself a collector yet, but some of my friends do call me so. Just a few years ago I’ve started collecting Chanel. I won’t hide my full passion and respectful attitude to this Fashion House. I’ve started with a little jewelry pieces and now I am growing my collection by adding the different types of bags, shoes and ready to wear pieces. I do fall for full (total) looks, like jacket and skirt (suit), add to that the same shoes as seen on the runway. If I go for the separate pieces of RTW or bag/shoes then it definitely needs to be not “trendy” or a “one season “ thing. I truly believe that we are not spending money on clothes but we do invest in it. And I am trying to stick to it collecting elegant classic pieces. To me Chanel is an amazing way of expressing yourself, your style and elegance throughout the years.
My two most recent acquisitions were both pink in hue – Birkin 25 Rose Azalea Swift in Gold Hardware and a preloved Kelly Pochette Rose Tyrien Epsom in Gold Hardware. Given that I was never a pink girl, two pink purchases within 6 months show how my collection journey is shifting again….oh dearie.
Looking at my humble collections that are primarily focus on Hermes and Chanel, with 1 piece of Louis Vuitton that I hold on to, I would say I dart between New, Established and Matured stages depending on brands.
Hermes – Apart from one to two more in the wish list, I am almost attaining my Nirvana collection (read: Journey to Hermès Nirvana) which puts me in the stage of Established Collector. My collection currently comprises of a good selection of holy grail models, neutrals vs bold colour palette, frequently used sizes and favourite leathers. I believe I can refine them further but for now, I am taking the time to enjoy the collection.
Chanel – I seem to be randomly slid between New and Mature. The collection ranges between basic WOC and Classic Flap to rare yet at times less than functional clutches such as the eccentric Chanel Minauedière of Lait de Coco or Dubai Jerry Can. I am still finding my feet in terms of my Chanel Nirvana, so it would be interesting to see where I am in 12 months’ time.
Louis Vuitton – I have been so busy with the above 2 houses that I hardly have any capacity to browse other brands. There is only 1 Louis Vuitton that I kept, which is the limited edition Eden Speedy from Spring 2010 Collection. I am pretty sure I will stay as an one-piece Established Collector for this brand (Wardrobe is overflowing and no other space to squeeze in more LV!).
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Special thank you to each of our incredible contributors for taking the time to share their stories with us. Share your stage in handbag evolution with a photo by hash tagged to #pursebopsstagesinbagevolution. We want to see where you are!
Updated: May 7th, 2021