The Style Spy

Sign up for our Newsletter

Ask An Expert: How to Buy a Designer Handbag Online

Originally published March 28, 2013

One of the year’s hottest bags: the Celine Luggage Tote

When we first heard our Montreal-based photographer Rose Wong was a designer handbag aficionado, we had to pry more. Not only did she indulge in bags for her own personal collection, but she’s also an expert buyer and reseller of designer handbags. We had to ask her some serious questions, since designer handbag shopping is obviously very serious! Since more than a few of us go on handbag diets, investing a paycheque or two on these bags that will often stay in our closet and collections forever.

We hear you’re a designer handbag expert, tell us more.
The bag obsession started in my late teens. My parents, trying to instill the value of money in me never allowed indulgence in luxury products. I worked part-time, saved up my pennies and looked for an alternative way to get the bag of my dreams. One day I dug up a couple of Balenciaga bags on clearance in a boutique. They were not the style I wanted, but they were a steal and I recognized that they were a sought after colour – Balenciaga bags come in a myriad of colors every season. So I handed over my plastic and when I finally recovered from my first major sticker shock, listed them on eBay and they sold for twice the price. The rest is history.

Givenchy Pandora

Number of designer bags currently in your collection?
I currently have twelve bags high on rotation. Just from my personal collection I’ve bought and sold about 100, and I have bought and sold over 200 bags for clients. I will always remain loyal to my black Balenciaga City bag! Though my current favourite child is my black Givenchy Pandora in Pepe leather. It’s the large size and it comes with a messenger strap, which makes it perfect for commuting!

Give us your tips for buying designer handbags online?

1. Watch out for Custom Fees
When shopping online for designer handbags, be mindful of buying out of Canada, since that will mean having to pay for customs and duties (tax & handling & brokerage fees) which can add up when you are spending several hundreds/thousands. No one wants his or her new bag experience to be ruined by an unexpected bill upon arrival. This is why I often gravitate towards sites that offer prepaid customs that’s already calculated in the total price. Mind you, often they charge more than Canada Post (tax according to province & $10 handling fee), but chances are you are getting a better deal to begin with, not to mention super fast-expedited delivery. I find often the total ends up being lower than if I buy from within Canada anyway.

2. Resellers does not always mean pre-owned.
There are a lot of discount resellers that offer brand new authentic bags and some even straight from the label. Just make sure you do your research on the reseller before you make such a big purchase. Online forums offer a wealth of information. One of the most reputable reseller is They carry Balenciaga, Mulberry, Proenza Schouler amongst many other brands, and are often very happy to oblige an enthusiastic handbag lunatic (such as myself) with picking out the perfect bag, down to the perfect leather variation.

3. Buying on eBay
There are definitely some good deals on eBay, but as always, make sure you do your research! Best to buy from a reseller with good feedback (use to check for deleted negatives), but don’t take any sellers word for anything – just because they stated its authentic doesn’t necessarily mean it is! Online public forums such as tPF (The Purse Forum) have some knowledgeable and experienced members that authenticate on the forum free of charge. Check for telltale signs of wonky lettering, bad stitching (there’s a reason that LV costs so much), and if the seller only has a couple of blurry photos up, don’t be afraid to ask for more. Lastly, make sure you pay by PayPal, through eBay, and have the seller send you a thorough invoice. To save on fees some would propose to go ‘off eBay’ to save on fees and give you a bigger discount, but do so at your own risk. I even pay through my credit card through PayPal so that I am doubly secure just in case something goes wrong.

Valentino Va Va Voom. Photo Source.

Your favourite sites to shop for designer handbags – Small Company, excellent customer service. – Price listed includes customs and shipping, STILL cheaper than if I bought it in Canada. – Fantastic discounts, but you have to act fast. Customs and shipping also included in the price.

When looking for a new designer handbag, what should one look for?
When looking for a new handbag, I firmly believe in buying for your lifestyle especially if it is going to be your first or only designer bag. If you calculate cost per wear, a good bag will give you your money’s worth. Leather bags are quite the investment, but it will literally last forever, and there’s nothing like that new leather bag smell. Fabrics like nylon or coated canvas (like the classic Louis Vuitton monogram series) are very hardy and often waterproof. So if you live in a rainy city, definitely take that into consideration. I find that when I drive, having a hand carry satchel /box shaped bag (for example the Louis Vuitton Speedy) makes it easier for me to access my things, and would stay put when I leave it on the passenger seat or under my legs. For commuting, a comfy slouchy convertible bag with a cross body strap makes my life so much easier when I need to have my hands free.

Proenza Schouler PS1 Bag. Photo Source: The Blonde Salad.

The hottest bags right now in your opinion?
The Celine Luggage Tote ($1700 – $3850), Proenza Schouler PS1 ($1595 – $9250) and Valentino Va Va Voom ($1795).

Most underrated designer line
Givenchy bags have the most divine leather with the most exquisite workmanship. I find their designs extremely durable and practical for everyday life too, which is a rare quality in luxury bags.

Reader's Comments

  1. super useful post. I recently purchased a discounted leather jacket on Bluefly for around $200 and ended up paying $80 on duty.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.