Luxury Handbag For First-Timers

Buying your first- ever Luxury Handbag is like screening a suitor. You ask your friends to rate him, constantly but secretly examine how he is when you're together (and test him even sometimes because yeah, girls like it that way), and pray for signs to determine that he's finally the one. As silly and critical as they may seem, they are all vital because you don't want to hand your heart to someone who'll break it in the end in the same way that you don't want to fork your $$$ to a bag that you'll end up selling on ebay.

When I was looking for my first- ever luxury handbag, I relied heavily on bag blogs and forums for advice-they were of big help especially in authenticating bags, but I noticed that most (if not all of them) tend to be so loyal to their preferred bag brands and as a newbie, it just made the search all the more frustrating-I ended up liking everything they suggested! But you know, you can't question their preference! So I just went for what I really, really wanted-the Louis Vuitton Neverfull MM-and luckily, I loved it and it's still one of my faves 3 years after.

3 years and 8 bags after, I think I'm ready now to dish out tips in finding your very first luxury handbag. Each luxury brand actually has a candidate, but I will only cover four brands, the brands that I currently have. I'll try to be as objective as possible so you'll know the important factors and issues to consider before going for a particular style and brand.

Before anything else, I just wanna say that this is a passionate (aka long) post, but you'll need it. ;)

So, let's start? Click READ MORE for the list. ;)

Here are some questions to ask yourself before choosing:

1. What size do you prefer?
2. What are your day-to-day activities?
3. Are you a bit careless sometimes or meticulous all the time?
4. How do you travel? By car or via public transportation?
5. What style do you prefer? Classy, Edgy, or a mix of both?

Yes, I know, the one you should go for is the one that you really want, but you'll never know if you'll love the bag unless you get to use it, so I'm going to discuss the following brands and present their pros and cons to you:


- I think almost every gal (or dude) had an LV as their first- ever luxury handbag. It is the most affordable luxury handbag and the easiest to maintain, thanks to their best- selling canvas bags or the ever popular Monograms, Damier Ebenes, and Damier Azurs. What's not to love?

LV's canvas bags start at 40k a pop and if you add a lil' more and make it 60k, you can get the oh-so-convenient Bandouliere (the one with a detachable strap). Contrary to popular belief, these bags are not entirely leather-they're made from coated canvas trimmed with leather detailing, handles, and strap. The exterior is water and oil resistant, and very, very, easy to clean, making it a popular choice for most people in the Philippines where the rainy season could go on forever. Canvas is a tough material and you can throw the bag around (but don't make it a habit otherwise the bag will look old quickly) without worrying about rips, tears, chips, or stains. The iconic LV bags are the Speedy (which is Audrey Hepburn's eternal favorite) Neverfull and they come in different sizes. There's also the Alma, Delightful, Trouville, and so much more.

These bags, however, don't have a significant resale value-in fact, they devalue quickly (Check ebay to see what I'm talking about) especially if the handles begin to oxidize (or darken), unless you have the Damier Ebene. When these bags start to show signs of aging (the Monogram and Damier Azur), they could look really, really old. It's also the widely counterfeited bag and if there's a thing called "Hot Cars" or the most stolen cars, I'd like to believe that this is a "Hot Bag Brand"or the most stolen bag here in the Philippines because LV is a very well known luxury brand here and you're most likely a target if a criminal happens to spot you lugging one. Yes, thieves have taste.

PROS: Affordable, easy to maintain, sturdy
CONS: Can look old and dirty; can look exactly the same as a replica; highly targeted by thieves
PERFECT FOR: College students or corporate people because the bags are very roomy; those who like it chic and simple


- If I would be given a chance to talk with Nicolas Ghesquiere, the brains behind Balenciaga's renowned City Bags, I would just utter a simple thank you for coming up with a bag style that tops my most favorite handbag style list.

Balenciaga's City Bags are treasured by a lot of women because they are edgy, purely made from leather but are very, very lightweight.

When you buy a luxury bag, you don't want it to look common-this is why I love the City. When Balenciaga releases a color, they only do so in limited numbers (except for the staple colors such as red, brown, black, and blue) so that means you're less likely to bump into someone who has the same bag color as you. Even for the staple colors, you won't have a problem with being ordinary because they reproduce it every year in varying shades. Balenciaga's bags don't devalue quickly too and if you own a limited edition color, you're in for some luck. Another popular style is the Velo (the black one on top) because it features a longer strap and has a deeper, longer body that will allow you to accommodate more stuff. The studs that accentuate the City and Velo make it a striking, luxurious bag, but without being showy. I guess it's true when they said that elegance is felt, not shown. Oh, Balenciaga bags tend to give off this nice, leathery smell when they start to age!

Balenciaga bags tend to dry up over time and if you're quite unlucky, your brand new bag may showcase a bit of dryness already. (Others like it because it gives the bag that vintage vibe) It can be addressed though by treating it with a leather moisturizer (I recommend Leather Honey). The dryness can lead to chipping of the dye, tears, and fading, just some of the scenarios that you wouldn't want to see on your BBag. These bags are made from a soft type of leather, Lambskin, the secret to its lightness. However, Lambskin is a delicate type of leather and just one, big mistake may cost your BBag's beauty. I use the red one almost everyday and so far, I have no problems with it and it's still looking and doing great, but I have to mention that I'm more careful with it (along with The Prada Lux Saffiano) than my other bags.  

I would also like to warn everyone about the Mini Giant studs (check the Velo bag): They're gorgeous, but they're not reinforced very well on the bag! I lost a stud when the handle of the Velo popped from my arm and take note, the bag only contained a wallet, a calling card pouch, and a cellphone. Other Mini Giant owners too encountered the same problem (a friend just told me about it) so even if the Regular studs look a lil' simple, go for them because they have the best quality. Oh, Balenciaga Paris' CS sucks too. I ordered a stud replacement 4 months ago and I haven't heard from them ever since-they haven't even given back the tax refund! So sad-Balenciaga could've been my most favorite bag brand and now I'm thinking twice about purchasing another City.

PROS: Ultra stylish, very light, roomy, striking, most colors are produced in small batches, good resale value
CONS: Delicate, requires maintenance, can look too rugged and dirty when it's old already, and Customer Service is a let down
PERFECT FOR: Those who want a timelessly hip bag and a bag that tends to look vintage overtime


- It only took a Nightingale for people to start noticing this brand again. Givenchy ruled the handbag world last year with the Nightingale, but the Pandora just caught my attention. Never thought that body bags could look this gorgeous!

I used to lust over the Nightingale, but realized that it's just another Balenciaga Velo with a much simpler design. What I love about the Pandora is it's so unique-it's a box bag and what can you put inside a box? A LOT!

Pandora comes in two designs: smooth and distressed. I wanted the latter before, but my love for anything simple and clean won me over again so I opted for the former instead. It's made from different kinds of leather-there's sheepskin, goatskin, and calfskin-my bag is in goatskin. This color is called Aube, but if you're gonna ask me, Pandora also looks good in the colors Orange and Moroccan Blue.

Goatskin is a pretty thick kind of leather and feels much more resistant than Balenciaga's Lambskin, although feels a lil' heavier. What I love about this bag is it hangs beautifully whether on your shoulders or across your body and since the main zipper is on top, you can open up the bag pronto. Design is not complicated and I like that it looks so clean. Maintenance is minimal because the leather is a lil' glossy, ergo pretty resistant to scratches and seems to me that the leather of Pandora has been treated well to delay the occurrence of dryness. Resale value is a bit lower than Balenciaga though.

There have been some major issues with the Pandora especially with the first versions-some users have claimed that if it's used heavily and if you put a lot of stuff in it, the handle tends to get ripped off from the bag. If that happens to me, I will surely cry hahaha! This has been addressed in the newer versions, thankfully so piece of advice, if you're going to purchase a Pandora, it's best to purchase a brand new one just to be safe.

PROS: A more compact version of the Neverfull; can be carried on the shoulders; leather feels more solid and looks as if it won't look dry and old easily
CONS: Too much weight can damage the handle; zipper tends to get stuck on the ends
PERFECT FOR: Those who want a very unique, stylish and clean- looking everyday or traveling bag


We are now down to the last brand, which also happens to be my most favorite luxury handbag brand of all time. Why? Because it fits my taste so much: Very classy and a bit edgy at times.

Tessuto is dubbed as one of the toughest bag materials in the world-I was even told that this is Parachute material and a reader commented on one of my blog posts and said that you can't cut through it easily. (But I don't want to find that out for myself!) Also, it's very, very easy to clean: you just need a soft toothbrush, warm water, and a microfiber cloth to remove lints and minor food stains. What I like about the Prada bag is it's not overdosed with logos unlike Louis Vuitton.

The Tessuto Gaufre' will forever be my favorite Prada bag because it has a beautiful texture, is roomy, and shape is simple and a classic. It's very light and the straps are mighty sturdy-there are times wherein I fill this bag to the brim and it didn't give up on me-ever! This bag is very recognizable and it's the style that will really make you do the second look and say "That's one pretty bag." Tessuto, by the way, is the most affordable line in Prada. If LV's canvas bags are perfect for the Philippines, in Prada, it's the Tessuto.

My only problem with Tessuto Gaufre' is, color could get a lil' ashy overtime especially with black because the color fades and it gathers a lot of stubborn dust and dirt. The handles are made from Lambskin and after a few months, the dye will start to fade and leave you with dark green patches. I'm a little OC about this even if I know that this is inevitable because I prefer the colors of my bags looking vibrant and uniform. Nevertheless, it's an awesome everyday bag that you can even use in smart casual events-just take out the strap for a more formal look.

If you're a corporate person and prefer a more structured bag to fit the nature of your work and activities, Lux Saffiano is a good choice. It's made from Calfskin and engineered to feel and look stable and sturdy-it will soften overtime-as with all types of leather-but the structure will still remain. Lux Saffiano comes in block colors and since the design is basic and simple, you can pair it up with almost any outfit, no sweat. When it comes to maintenance, you only need a dry microfiber cloth to remove dust (it attracts dust and lint easily) and a dampened cloth to remove stubborn liquid stains-just make sure you wipe the damp area with a dry cloth immediately to avoid stressing the dye. This bag, btw, looks gorgeous in Black, Bluette (the color I currently have), Gray, and Red.

The biggest issue of Lux Saffiano is its dyed leather exterior-most users say it chips easily and there are  even horrible stories wherein the dye just chips on its own and continuously. I have experienced it myself: The bag fell from a chair and when I picked it up and checked the body, I found a chip near the handles. The bag was just a month old and the fall wasn't major. Of course I was irritated because the chip is standing out like a sore thumb, but I just shrugged off the issue because I don't want to go through the hassle of shipping the bag and having it repaired (I got it in Sydney) plus updating Prada on its status. So if you're buying this bag, be sure to check the body for chips and cracks. Your hard- earned money deserves a decent, no, a great bag. Also, Lux Saffiano feels very stiff and is heavier than Tessuto--and since material is non-expandable, you can't put so much stuff in it.

PROS: Both bags are easy to clean; design is universal and easy to pair up with any outfit; looks mighty classy
CONS: Color treatment on both bags has a poor quality
PERFECT FOR: Those who want a very luxurious- looking bag that won't cost them more than 100k; Those who like it simple, chic, and timeless. 

I think I might have been too carried away with this post. Isn't it obvious? I love bags! :D I hope this has been an informative post for everyone. If you'd have to make me choose which bag brand I prefer the most, it would be Prada because their bags are very, very sturdy and for the bag style, it would be Balenciaga City because this girl is a standout!

Off Topic: I also noticed that every time I blog about bags, there are Anonymous visitors who'd comment nasty things about me like I'm a show- off and an attention- whore. If I am, I wouldn't be putting so much effort into the blog posts and say nothing substantial, right? :)

Anyway, when it comes to my preferred store, I'd still recommend that you purchase directly from the boutique so you can take advantage of replacements, repair, and the likes, although price could be more steep than expected. For online sellers, I recommend Shop A Bag! because she sources her bags directly from the boutiques in Paris and she has the cheapest pricing I know.

Let me know if you have more questions! :)

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25 Lovely Thoughts

  1. Wow! One can only dream to own as much designer bags as you! :) Thanks for the tips. I've a long way before I can purchase one on my own. But I know it's not impossible, right? :D

  2. Thank you for this post, Martha! Been saving for my own bag (as in bought with my own money!) and still haven't decided between Balenciaga City or a classic LV.

    My first ever bag is a Prada that I "share" with my mom. But it's too heavy for everyday use. What do you think about YSL Cabas Chic?? :)

  3. Thanks for this very informative post Ms. M! A lot of research should be done before finally deciding to buy something expensive. For me, I also read lots of reviews first before finally purchasing something. This pros and cons you did for each bag really helps a lot in sorting out which brand is more worth it to purchase. I have been liking the Prada Tessuto design for the longest time but can't bring myself to buy it yet because of the price tag. I hope that soon I will be able to have the guts to shell out my hard-earned cash for this bag because I really love leather bags and this design is just so pretty!

  4. Such a helpful post! Could you list the price of each bag, particularly those that you bought in the Philippines. I think it'll help us decide on what bags to get, especially since cost is usually a buyer's first consideration. Thank you!!:)

  5. Hello, first of all I would like to say I'm a big fan, I follow your blogs everyday, first thing in the morning when I check email, fb, and beauty blogs. 😊 and learn something from every post, but I couldn't resist to post a comment on this particular piece, I know it's nice to have luxury handbags, how I wish I could have every luxury bag I fancy, but for us hardworking ladies, I really cannot justify spending 100k pesos for a handbag that will do the same job as a 100 pesos worth one. Anyway that's just my opinion. Thanks and more power. Looking forward to your blogs.

  6. wow, you got a lot of bags and they are all beautiful! especially the Balenciaga City! ... oh, how i wish i can afford one, hihi....

  7. What you said about LV bags being a frequent target for thieves is true. Recently I was in a jeep and this guy just grabbed a woman's LV bag and attempted to run away with it. Haha

  8. I super loooove this posts! This inspires me to work harder. I like to have a bag from all the brands you've mentioned here and YSL, Hermes, Goyard and Chanel. :) Anyway, hope you could post a pricelist of your bags. :) I'm actually hesitant to enter their shops since I know I can't afford them yet and it'll just break my heart. :(

  9. well said! I agree, it would take me such a long time to decide what bag to get.... I got my prada messenger bag last year beacause I needed it hehehe, I'm saving up for a new prada bag this year, since it is quiet expensive..kekekeke

  10. I am a certified bag addict but I haven't gone far as buying a bag for than 3000....and I usually rummage through Sales. I had bad experiences through soft skin leathers and versince, I never bought one... I admit, I am not that careful with bags, I just put them all in a trunk just to collect them that is why I never invest on luxury bags :D

    By the way, I somehow saw i tv that there is a bag doctor that can solve problems on discolorations, scratches or the like and most of her clients are luxury bag owners...have you tried that?

  11. Thanks for this post! Very helpful. I'm turning 25 this year, and I'm planning to get my first luxury bag on my birthday. Hihi.

    Dianne of Dianne's Little Adventures

  12. Hi Martha! Long time :) How are you? I love your collection. Sad to read about Balenciaga's poor CS. To think it has already been 4 months :( But those B bags are difficult to hate, they are so beautiful. The mini giant stud, I would love to have one. I hope your get your stud replacement soon, that Velo of yours need its much deserved repair, ASAP.

    Can't wait to hear about your 2014 acquisitions :) Bags are really great motivation to work hard. Haters gonna hate. :)

  13. Nix: Hi Nix! Thank you. Yes it's not impossible as long as you believe you can :)

    Jenn: You're welcome, Jen! Between the two, i like Balenciaga best, but LV is a great choice if you want a bag that doesn't need so much care and attention. The YSL Cabas? I LOVE IT and it's one of my goal bags this year. :) Just get the small one because it can fit a lot of stuff already-I find the medium a lil' too big already :)

    Kat: You're welcome, Kat. :) There's the Tessuto Nappa, or the all- leather tessuto but I find it too expensive already. Go get the Gaufre' because it looks equally posh but not as pricey and delicate. :)

    Paula- hi Paula! Sure. :)

    LV Speedy 30 Monogram Bandouliere- P61,000.00+
    LV Neverfull Damier Azur MM- P43,200.00
    LV Monogram Speedy 25- Around P40,000.+

    The LV bags are from LV Greenbelt 4.

    Balenciaga Classic City- Around P60,000.+
    Balenciaga Velo- Around P65,000.00+
    Balenciaga Classic Money wallet- P25,000.00

    Bal bags are from Galeries Lafayette in Paris, wallet is from Balenciaga GB5.

    Prada Tessuto Gaufre' BN1789M- P50,000.00 from Shop A Bag! on Facebook

    Givenchy Pandora- Around P78,000.00+ in Duty Free Philippines

    Prada Lux Saffiano- Around P68,000.00+ in David Jones, Sydney.

    Dianne: Wee! Hope you get it! Let me know what it is! I love checking out bags. :D

    Jenny Tiu: Hi Jenny! I'm good! Hope you're doing fine as well. As of this writing, Galeries Lafayette has finally responded and they're shipping out the stud. Yeah, haters gonna hate. :D I'm targeting a Celine Micro Luggage in Camel and a small gray YSL Cabas Chyc. :)

    Febmin: Yeah, Prada is expensive but I love the brand because the bags are super classy and pretty. Hope you get you new Prada bag soon! :D

    Winnie: Hi Winnie! I was like that too, but decided to change if I want to own a luxury handbag. :D Regarding the bag doctor thing, haven't tried anything yet because most of my bags are barely a year old. The oldies are LV Speedy 25 at 4 years old, Neverfull at 3 years old, and Prada Tessuto at 1. :)

    Geraldine: Hi! Thank you for being a reader and your honest opinion-I appreciate it. :) To each is own, I guess. :)

    Issa: I hope you can finally score your first luxury bag soon! :)

    Rizza: Thanks! I've provided the price list in this section. :)

    Aviva: Yeah. I even encountered as seller who sells stolen LV, Balenciaga, and Chanel bags :(

  14. This is why I love you, Ms Martha! Haha! :) I was debating on writing to you and asking for some tips and whatnot regarding luxury bags, then ta-dah! Here it is!! :) This is so informative and helpful, and I think this is one post that I would read over and over again in the next few days, months or years! :)

    You really are an inspiration to me and because of you, I wished for and finally got my first Balenciaga bag last year! Am thinking of doing delayed gratification just like you, and should I be successful, I'll have a new luxury bag by the end of this year! Wish me luck! :) Thanks again Ms Martha, and continue inspiring all of us! :)

    - SDM :)

  15. I love your collection! Balenciaga is on my top three favorite brands - their bag designs are just beautiful - simple but may dating, noh? :) A question for you - you mentioned something about using leather honey. Would you know where we can get that locally, brand name, etc? :) Thank you so much!!! :)

  16. Wow! I love your collection! What do you use to clean and condition your leather bags? Where can I buy them?

  17. Don't mind the haters, this is one lovely post :)

    I love that you share your expertise about luxury brands. It's very kind of you to inform people about how they can get the best value for their hard-earned money.

  18. I will work hard and buy one formyself in the future your tips helps ^_^ greatly appreciated.

  19. Hi Martha! Thank you for this wonderful post. I was thinking of buying my first luxury bag soon and your post really helped me. I was completely torn between Balenciaga and LV. Anyway, may I know what do you think about Kate Spade?

    Thank you! Stay awesome!

  20. Agln: Hi there and thanks for visiting! Glad you loved this post. :) Kate Spade is okay-it's a very girly brand and you'll love it if you're just that type. :) It's considered as an entry- premium brand alongside Michael Kors, Furla, Marc Jacobs, and Coach, although I haven't owned one ever.

    Carmela: I wish you luck :)

    BrownOso: You're welcome!

    Anonymous and Nina: Hi there! Thank you! I use Leather Honey to condition the leather ones. I got it from Amazon. It's not available locally though. :(

    SDM: Hi there! Thanks for sharing! Wow! Happy that you finally got your Balenciaga. I wish that you get the luxury handbag you wish for this year. :)

  21. Hello,

    I want to say that I appreciate your informative post. You added a lot of random tidbit info that I find very helpful. I am now torn between getting a Givenchy Pandora, Nightingale or Velo.

    Also, forget the haters and don't mind them because haters gon' hate. Your post is purely informative and thorough, so you can just ignore their rude and distasteful comments.

    Good job.

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