Be prepared for some serious bag talk. Shoe ladies look away now…
It was a sturdy plastic lunch box with a cartoon exterior, matching drink container and a handle to walk jauntily to school. Red, shiny and top of my Christmas list. I visualised it for months, imagining it hiding on top of my parents’ wardrobe, waiting for me to fill it with unimaginable secrets.
Of course reality was much more mundane and sandwiches and an apple was the norm. it was never quite the same (stickier, battered and bruised) after it had gone to school a few times.
But my obsession with bags had begun.
Since then I have built up my collection – rarely able to throw one out – they are good friends.
I’ve grown up from swimming club sports bags to Mulberry, though there are many in between and I do not covet a bag for price but for the feel, for the smell, because I look at them – and they make me feel happy.
Indeed, some of those £2 cotton shoppers, with beautiful designs, are my favourites. Next excelled themselves this summer with a rainbow print my favourite.
I can pinpoint my pivot to bags with designer(ish ) names with a cross-body Kangol when I was around 15. I was never that keen on it, you couldn’t fit much in.
The student years were pretty barren, bags-wise, apart from a little cross-body red shiny number from Topshop I adored.
I’ve don’t know what happened to it but I remember my then boyfriend, now ex, recalling he could always find me in a crowd, thanks to that little red bag which defined my slight kookiness.
While travelling for several years my bags were limited to a faithful backpack, my entire world in my bag, far more reliable than the now ex-friends I was travelling with.
On the side I had a canvas number from the Army and Navy store, covered in badges and writing left-over from my almost-rebellious sixth form years. The Red Hot Chilli peppers featured, I recall.
But after returning home and eventually starting work as a reporter, with small amount of money in my pocket, I started my obsession with real, soft, leather bags and purses.
I began to adore and still do, a leather cross-body.
My first real money spent was a £30 (a lot at the time) chocolate brown studded number from Next. I still have and still adore this bag, it is worn to unimaginable softness but now a little unreliable as the strap comes apart.
My passion for tan leather started with the softest possible shoulder bag from Topshop, I still have it, practically fallen apart and stained but full of memories.
I was then seduced , as were many, by Radley at the height of its powers.
As everyone I knew got married, I carried with a succession of small-handled leather novelty bags with a little leather dogs dangling, a candy-stripe handled pink number my absolute favourite.
What they lacked in practical they made up for in pretty.
My last Radley was a pink grab bag, bought my ex, and as a direct result nevre used and languishing in my collection (note top self, must list on e-bay)
Then I discovered the delights of TK Maxx and the accessibility of almost-designer names at just-about manageable prices.
My first Ouschka was from there, a cavernous tan leather shoulder bag, with across body straps and multiple zipped pockets. I’d never heard if the brand when I bought for a then record price of £100.
Big enough to be used as an overnight bag, it is still my go-to flight carry-on favourite more than 10 years later, hand-luggage with added style.
More Ouschka’s followed, one off E-bay, another in the sale.
Then what I consider my first designer purchase. A small soft leather black studded small bucket bag, useful for a night out with added attitude, purchased in the sale at Karen Millen.
I still love that bag.
Then a black, zipped, heavy Gharani Strok. Fabulous quality, lots of pockets.
Then my life changed dramatically.
A huge breakup left me teetering in life with everything I had hoped for looking hopeless in the face of cheating – and loss. A story for another day.
But, with the help of those friends who stuck by me, I started asserting myself.
There are other ways to do this but first I needed to claim myself back as a powerful woman, so I bought two things. One was a beautiful Audi TT in powder blue, the other one a brand new tan leather Mulberry Bayswater in oak grain natural leather.
It cost so much I pledged to use it for work every day, forcing myself to come to terms with its heaviness (they make them lighter now). I eventually got used to it but eventually after several use intensive usage put it in semi-retirement, a little worn and battered but a status symbol I do not need so much now – though I am still in love with Mulberry.
I now also own a Mulberry Effie bag ( a sale purchase) in soft black pebbled leather which is my go to handbag with its handy over the shoulder strap – I still keep an eye on e-bay for the tan version.
I also purchased a soft Effie tote – bought to fit in my laptop – which if I’m honest is not my favourite due to its squareness when full and the short handles which mean you cannot shove it over your shoulder. But I do love to stroke it – there no questioning the quality of Mulberry.
But I’m not all about the statement purchases. I can trace my love of bags to a small purple, hippy bag from Accessorize (more than a decade old), adorned with sequins and sparkling mirrors – I love the colourways in this little cotton bag so much I pinned it to my bedroom wall, it’s just so pretty and if I’m feeling down I just look at it.
I want to say that is all my bags, but you’ve probably guessed there’s more.
A selction of Samsonite luggage from my travel trips.
My current Ouschka workbag in the softest orange leather and full of junk.
Sparkling clutches from Coast.
Shiny black clutches gifted from friends and a selection of trend-forward plastic numbers from Primark.
A zipped, woven, straw basket from a forgotten holiday.
Then there’s the brown leather bag purchases after great deliberation on a Malta holiday by my now late mum.
And vintage collection from my swinging sixties mum and my well-to-do, sensible, grandmother.
Did I mention I come from generations of bag ladies?
I had no hope at all…