Money bags! One collection is worth £500k. Another haul has its own ‘bedroom’. Meet the women who can’t live without hundreds of VERY expensive handbags
Some women have a weakness for shoes , others for little black dresses. But, to one tribe, nothing beats the buzz of a new designer handbag — even if they already own hundreds.
Femail meets three devotees whose impressive collections are worth more than many people’s homes. Yet they insist they still don’t have enough…
A £65,000 BAG . . . FOR CARRYING NAPPIES!
NUMBER of bags: 500-plus
COLLECTION WORTH: £500,000-plus
Irène Major, 37, a model and philanthropist, lives in Kent with her husband Sam Malin, 53, who works in the oil industry and owns Burke’s Peerage. They have five children aged between 16 and 18 months.
Irène Major’s everyday handbag is a £65,000 red Hermès Alligator skin Birkin bag
Some might consider my everyday handbag — a £65,000 red Hermès Alligator skin Birkin bag — a little excessive. But as a mum of young children, one of whom is a toddler, I see it as nothing more than a basic essential. It’s large enough for me to put nappies in, and it goes with most of my outfits. After all, first and foremost, a handbag has to be functional, doesn’t it?
Despite using it so regularly during the 12 years I’ve owned the bag, it looks brand new. Every time it needs a clean or repair, I whizz into the Hermès store on Bond Street and they make it sparkle.
Hermès just think of everything. The Birkin even comes with a bespoke little raincoat that you pop on top of it to perfectly shield the leather from unexpected downpours. I don’t bother using mine, though — I’m too lazy to wrestle it out of the bag.
Naturally, I’m a Hermès VIP customer. They call me ‘the Queen of Bags’. There might be a waiting list for some people but I’m not on it. When a new colour comes in, they just call me.
There was a time I was buying six bags from them a year — all paid for by my husband, Sam.
Indeed, he buys me all my bags, and jokes that I am to handbags what Imelda Marcos was to shoes. But while, yes, I don’t know exactly how many I have — certainly more than 500 — the size of my collection isn’t unjustified.
To be honest, it’s a practical measure, as we have three properties: our home in Kent, a house in Canada and a holiday home in Madagascar. Sam insists we travel light — a nightmare for me — so I’ve had to make sure I have a sufficient number of outfits, shoes and bags in each house. We’ve missed too many planes in the past with me struggling and obsessing over my luggage.
I have more than 35 Hermès Birkin bags, which each have a minimum price tag of £7,000, but many of them cost more, depending on their leather and size.
That’s not all. I also have more than 40 Hermès Kelly bags, which start at £6,500 for a basic model.
You may wonder why on earth I need so many types of the same bag — but we collectors know it makes a huge difference whether a buckle is gold or silver, or if the leather is smooth or mottled.
While my bags simply have to be designer, I’m not so fussy when it comes to my clothes. Yes, I have frocks from Chanel and Valentino, but I’m equally as happy in Zara. Indeed, this is where my bags pay for themselves — by complimenting my cheaper outfits.
In our main home in England, my bags are stored in three separate wardrobes in a dedicated room. But I’m still running out of space.
My very first was a lovely red number by French designer Lancel, bought when I was only 14. After that it was a short step to Chanel, whose bags I still love today.
One of my Chanel bags — a jumbo shoulder bag decorated with crystals and sequins, which cost £6,600 — is particularly rare. Only six were ever made, and I’ve never seen anyone else with it.
There was a time when I would buy bags which were just trendy — like those Dior saddlebags, which start at only £1,700. I used to buy four different ones each year, depending on which particular colours etc were in style.
I’m more serious about my bags today, though. They’re investments, and I treasure them.
You might expect my eldest daughter, Samantha, 16, to be thrilled to have access to so many fabulous bags. Well, she isn’t. She’s rather sensible and isn’t bothered by them at all.
Her sisters, Lulu-Marie, nine, and Pearl, six, love playing dress-up with them, though. And I’ve given a bag to each of my friends — I just adore spreading the handbag joy.
You might imagine that I have every handbag I could possibly hope for. Well, not quite. I have my eye on a Hermès Himalayan Birkin model. One of these crocodile-skin beauties sold recently at auction for more than £200,000.
What does my husband think? I’ve told him a woman can never have enough bags.
After all these years, I think he finally believes me.
MY BAGS HAVE THEIR OWN ROOM!
NUMBER OF BAGS: 400-plus
COLLECTION WORTH: £300,000
Businesswoman Claudia Valentin, 40, lives in Surrey with fiancé James Constantinou, 49, a company director. They have five children between them.
COLLECTION WORTH: £300,000
Claudia Valentin has bought several shelves from Ikea to house her hundreds of different types of bags
Some men have wine cellars, and some women have walk-in wardrobes. Well, I’ve got a walk-in bagdrobe — a special room that’s been converted to house my many hundreds of designer handbags.
Until I devoted one of my rooms to my bags, I didn’t actually know how many I had. It turned out to be more than 400. But now I can display them beautifully and they are not at risk of being damaged by being piled on top of each other.
And while they could be worth more than £300,000, I managed to economise by buying lots of shelves from Ikea to house them.
It all started when I was four and an aunt bought me a beautiful handbag as a present from Sicily. I distinctly remember the gorgeous smell of the tan leather and the beautiful hand-painted flowers on it. I loved it so much that I actually slept with it.
So, when I was 14, with enough savings from my part-time job in a hair salon, there was only one thing I wanted: a proper handbag of my own. Off I went to Fenwick in Windsor and bought a tan Ted Baker handbag for £80. I felt amazing — like Joan Collins in Dynasty.
It was such a buzz to have bought something so beautiful through my own hard work. I was brought up never to take money for granted.
And so I kept saving for my beloved bags. When I was 18, all my friends were all going to roller-discos and parties. But I’d saved £14,000 as the beginning of my handbag fund — and I loved to dip into it for a new model.
Today, I have bags from Gucci, Yves St Laurent, Burberry, Louis Vuitton, Paul Smith . . . the list goes on. My favourite is a black jumbo Caviar Chanel bag with a silver chain that I bought in 2013 with a work bonus — price £3,450. I’m sentimental about it, too. My adored cousin Giovanna, who died of breast cancer seven years ago, loved Chanel handbags and always swore that one day she’d buy one, but she never managed it.
When I bought mine, I visited her in the cemetery and said: ‘Look what I’ve got — this is for us!’ She’d be thrilled, but so jealous!
My fiancé, James, can’t understand my obsession. I don’t think he’d realised how many bags I had until I displayed them in their own room. But, even then, he was pleased because I do consultancy work for his luxury pawn-broking business, Prestige Pawnbrokers, and if someone brings in a designer bag, I know my stuff.
When I look at my bags, I remember all the lovely stories behind each one. For example, I bought my Gucci baby bag while shopping with Shirley Bassey in Cannes about 15 years ago.
I got talking to her in the hairdresser’s and at first I had no idea who she was because she had her head in the sink. When she sat up, I couldn’t believe my eyes.
I rang my mum, who’s a huge fan, and she wouldn’t believe me until I put Shirley on the phone and made her sing Goldfinger!
When I mentioned that I was going to Gucci later that day, Shirley decided to come with me — and because I was heavily pregnant at the time, she even carried my bags.
I kept saying: ‘You can’t carry my bags — you’re Shirley Bassey!’
I still get a flutter in my heart when I go into my handbag room and look at all my beautiful bags, like works of art. I know I’m blessed to have such a beautiful collection, but I’m also proud because I’ve worked so hard for them all.
A HANDBAG CURED MY HEARTACHE
NUMBER OF BAGS: 50
COLLECTION WORTH: £100,000
Tamara Kalinic bought a £1,600 Celine bag after she broke up with her boyfriend last Christmas
Tamara Kalinic, 27, is a pharmacist turned full-time fashion blogger. She is single and lives in Brighton.
There’s only one way to cure heartache in my book — a new designer handbag. When I broke up with my boyfriend last Christmas after three years together, I went out and spent £1,600 on a beautiful ink-blue Celine bag.
And I didn’t stop there: I even wrapped it up and put it under the tree for myself, all ready for Christmas morning. And while I know material things shouldn’t really cheer you up, this really did!
Handbag shopping is one of my favourite pastimes. It’s like going to a particularly luxurious spa for the day.
If I’m feeling blue, there’s nothing that picks me up better than a trip to the Dior or Gucci stores. The customer service is unparalleled — you’re treated like royalty.
As they serve you, you’re given a drink and they take such care when wrapping up your bag. I leave those shops walking on air.
And when I have one of their handbags on my arm, I get so much pleasure from carrying something so beautiful.
My handbag passion was born when I was a teenager and my mother bought me a Gucci bag. I was ecstatic and never tired of it. Indeed, I used it every single day until it was practically unusable. I still have it today — a little souvenir with so many memories.
Then, when I was 20, I bought my very first designer bag, a Louis Vuitton leather tote for £600. I was still a student and the money was difficult to part with, but I’d had my eye on it for a long time. It was such a buzz finally to own it.
Although my collection built up slowly at first because I had to save up to buy each bag, since I started my blog, called theglamandglitter, a couple of years ago, it’s grown as I’ve devoted myself to acquiring the perfect collection.
That said, I try not to go above 50 bags because I think if you have more than that you won’t get the use of them, so I’ll give one away if I buy or am given a new one.
My favourite at the moment is a Constance bag from Hermès, which cost around £6,000.
I buy a new bag every six weeks, spending around £1,800 a time. Thankfully, I can afford it — but even so, friends think I’m crazy.
I wouldn’t class it as an obsession, more of a passion.
And I’m very generous with my bags. If someone wants to borrow one, I’m always happy to lend them out. Why shouldn’t everyone get enjoyment out of my collection?