Should we really be selling our souls for designer items?

Prepare yourself for a shocking confession: I’m in my twenties, work in a fashion-related industry, and have yet to be able to afford a real designer handbag. (No, Michael Kors doesn’t count.) In my mind, this translates into some sort of professional shortcoming. If I can’t afford to drop thousands of dollars on a Parisian handbag to compliment my Keith-Richards-wanna-be style, then obviously something must be horribly, terribly wrong.

Handbags and heels are a symbol of status. Sure, they serve a practical sense, but the moment you wear a bag monogramed with “LV” or “YSL” you’re not just saying you understand the practicality of investing in quality leather goods, you’re making a statement about your fashion-savvy and—more importantly—your bank account.

Whenever I see women carrying a Prada or Givenchy, I find myself wondering what they do for a living. Are they a lawyer? Do they work in fashion? Do they have a trust fund, a sugar daddy, or a mountain of credit card debt? There’s no way of knowing, and that’s part of the allure. They appear to have reached a level of class and status that I cannot yet fathom, and they must be better than me for it—or so some might have me believe.

My best friend recently purchased a Monogram Saint Laurent Collège bag. For anyone who doesn’t speak designer, that sets you back an easy $3000AU. Admittedly, it is one of the most beautiful pieces I’ve ever seen. Its stitching is done by hand, its gold chain strap glistens in a way that no non-purchasable accomplishment ever could, and it carries enough weight on its own to remind you just how much you paid for it. The second I saw it, I outstretched my arms and cradled it more gingerly than I would hold a newborn child.

But what you wouldn’t know—what I was privy to—was that my friend had recently decided to forgo paying rent and had put the bag on her credit card. “It’s an investment piece” is the general argument made in defence of such actions. Or my personal favourite: “If you calculate its cost it per wear, it’s basically free.” But at what point does the purchasing of designer wear exceed practical investment and enter the territory of just plain-old irresponsibility?

I say this, and yet if I could, I would gladly be up in the ranks with the morally/financially reprehensible. I have fallen victim to the worship of status and celebrity and I’m okay with that. But until Bergdorf starts taking payment in the form of fragmented soul, I’ll just continue taking style cues from Keith Richards and holding my friend’s YSL whenever the weight of societal expectation grows too heavy for her shoulder to bear.

Photographer: Yannis Vlamos/