Designers handbags carry clout with signature style

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
| Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013, 5:50 p.m.

A designer handbag holds more than a woman's wallet, keys and makeup.

It carries clout, status and prestige.

“People know when you are carrying a designer handbag,” says Sandra Reiman, a native of Colombia who lives in Regent Square and is founder and president of Sandra Cadavid handbags crafted from fine leathers. “They become statement pieces.”

Designer handbags and shoes tend to be more easily identified than clothing.

“Owning a great bag is irreplaceable,” Reiman says. “And, no matter what outfit you put on, it will make you feel like a million bucks.”

Leather gets better with age, says Reiman, whose bags are sold online ( and at Victoria, a Fox Chapel boutique. Items in her collections sell for $195 to $575.

Some women invest in a luxury statement bag and carry it year after year, says Kimberly Coppola, who co-owns Serendipity, a Downtown boutique, with her husband Peter. A high-end handbag will last a lifetime if you take care of it, she says. She suggests a top-handle version because “it adds sass and sophistication.”

“There are women who save and save and save to be able to afford that coveted bag,” she says.

Liz Kane, director of advertising and public relations for Dooney & Bourke, agrees.

“A high-end handbag not only makes a fashion statement, it tells the world that the owner has great taste and is smart enough to invest her money wisely,” Kane says. “It is always smarter to buy one high-quality bag in a classic style that can be carried for many seasons, instead of several cheap bags that need to be replaced every season.

“Unlike clothes or jewelry, (a handbag) can be worn every day and add a chic update to every look.”

High-quality materials and expert craftsmanship are the hallmarks of high-end purses.

“In addition to making an important status statement, a designer handbag will go with everything,” says Gregg Andrews, Nordstrom fashion director. “Women of all ages love designer bags, because they convey a certain level of prestige.

“Women have emotional connections to items,” Andrews says. “And a handbag can be something that has traveled with them through many of life's moments.”

Shoppers don't necessarily have to spend a lot of money to own a high-quality bag, because there are many more options today, says Gwendolyn Covington, a style editor for

“It used to be that you had to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on a designer bag to be on trend, but now, if you are willing to sacrifice exotic skins or luxe leather, you can get the same style of bag at one-third of the designer price point,” Covington says. “Today, online shopping through websites like and offer a department-store experience online and have tons of handbag designers to choose from at any price point.”

Thrift, vintage or consignment shopping is a trendy resource to get great, authentic second-hand bags, Covington says. Because they usually last a long time, they most likely will be in good shape.

When it comes to handbag popularity, there are two groups to consider, Covington says. The first being the mass shoppers who prefer classic brands like Michael Michael Kors, Cole Haan, Coach and Dooney & Bourke. They offer the latest trends each season, are easy for shoppers to find, and they are at a reasonable price point for quality materials, Covington says.

The second group would be the fashion insiders group — editors, fashion industry people, hipsters, fashionistas and bloggers. This crowd seeks out cutting-edge designers like Foley & Corinna, Rebecca Minkoff and BCBGMaxAzria.

“The price points are often higher, but the quality is ultra luxe, and these bags are often sure head-turners on the streets and are fashion-cult favorites,” Covington says.

Owning a designer handbag is part of being accomplished, says Amber Herring, accessories editor for Self magazine.

“It is also an investment in something that will stand the test of time,” she says. “A leather handbag is the way to go, and most of these designers pay such attention to detail. And you can see the bag is not mass-produced for the most part. There is something special about buying something that you can use for a lifetime if you take care of it.”

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at or 412-320-7889.

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