Saturday, March 26, 2016

A handbag post

There's this blogger cliché, or was when there were still bloggers: The apology-for-not-blogging. I've been so busy!, he says, he humblebrags, to the impatient horde... and his three readers (two of whom are immediate family members; the third is a long-forgotten ex) shrug and go about their days.

Well, my three readers, soon to be fewer still: Behold, the story of the least practical purchase ever made:

The backstory:

Long, long ago, when I lived in Frahnce, I spent far too many euros (for a grad student) on a bag. It was - it is! - gorgeous. Valérie Salacroux, you are a genius. And then wear, tear, and then-puppy poodle combined forces to make the bag... not what it once was. I went on to spend far too many dollars (US) on bag repair - in addition to an earlier repair job that added a discreet snap, so that the bag would stay closed. That helped for about five minutes, but now it's about back to where it was.

Slightly less long ago, while visiting my in-laws in the country that's not actually a failed state but never mind about that for the time being, we're talking about handbags... Anyway, in Antwerp, I spent a less-ridiculous number of euros on another bag. It was, I realized in retrospect, probably 'inspired' by a (more?) designer one, but it felt very glamorous to buy a bag in Antwerp. In any case, it had - has - two design flaws. Flaw 1, the easily-ignored: the hardware peeled or something, and looks as if it's rusted, even though I don't think that's it. Flaw 2, the crucial one: It has snaps, all right, but they take forever to align properly, so the bag is always flapping around open. Not ideal.

All of which left me in a place of quasi-needing a bag. A small, non-teaching bag; the big, laptop-and-papers-fitting one I've got covered.

The story:

I looked and looked and looked, which is to say, for however many minutes before realizing I was basically asleep, I scrolled around on the Matt & Nat website. Canada effectively has two bag brands - Matt & Nat for (vegan-leather) purses and such, Herschel for backpacks - so even though I'm still miffed at the former for that ad they had up a while back, looking for an unpaid copywriter, I had to admit that they make nice, reasonably-priced stuff, and... somehow, nothing in their current selection seemed quite right. One had potential, but didn't seem like it would close securely, and more to the point, I just wasn't excited about it. Valérie Salacroux I also considered, but those bags cost a lot more still than they did 100 years ago when I bought mine (but are, I suspect, still a good buy for the quality), plus the specific style I liked is - not surprisingly, given that it isn't 2010 anymore - no longer available.

And then, somehow, I remembered that there was a bag I'd always wanted. A hot pink one from the Cambridge Satchel Company. Or, if not that bag specifically, that brand. And sure enough, their website brought me to a bag that was gorgeous in a totally unanticipated way. Not what I would have said I was looking for, but also exactly what I needed - crossbody and with a definite clasp. Plus, free shipping! And, oh, some extra 10% off, for no apparent reason!

Now, I normally ponder purchases. For a long time. I spent a whole lot of living in suburban NJ unsure of whether it really made sense to get a car, and a lot of my first Canadian winter stubbornly resisting getting a proper winter coat. There's a $9 scarf I contemplated for a good long while as well. But this time, I was just like, this is the bag, and ordered it right away. I mean, what if it sold out???

The I-am-an-idiot part:

No sooner had an exciting email arrived about how the bag would be delivered the following day than... a second email, or maybe a voicemail, telling me that I would owe over $80 (Canadian but still) in duty. Duty! I may think of Canada as basically Britain, but the powers-that-be that handle irresponsibly-international handbag-shopping do not. (The government here is like, you will buy a Matt & Nat purse, or you'll pay.) But I figured, so, be it - if this will last me as long as the French one - both in terms of durability and in terms of Kondo-esque joy-sparking, it's worth it. (So much guilt.)

And then I opened the box, and there it was! Perfection. With a catch: My wallet's too big for it. Worse: it's the wallet I just bought - well, early fall, I think, but that's two minutes ago in wallet-years. I mean, it fits, but it's a challenge, and once you include keys and a phone (which... how to avoid this?), it was far too tight a squeeze.

The guilt. The guilt!

After several unsuccessful attempts in Chinatown (which has a corner on the neat $1 coin purse market - as in, the purses cost $1, although I suppose they'd also hold $1 coins) and the Kensington Market (which sold... a mini version of the Matt & Nat wallet I bought in the fall), I wound up with... a Herschel. A men's model, which a saleswoman warned me against (and which, alas, wasn't the shiny-silver model I thought they might sell, and that is indeed still sold, but that has nowhere to put coins and tokens), but sometimes, to have the conventionally-feminine-presenting handbag of your dreams, the only functional wallet small enough to keep in it is a utilitarian (or let's say minimalist-chic) one aimed at dudes.


Do I know what all this cost, all added up? That is, the bag and duty, plus the new, otherwise-unnecessary wallet? Plus the shame of it all? I do and I don't; I haven't done the $US to $CAD conversion necessary to put that figure in front of me. But the bag? It's gorgeous, and was, I suspect, entirely worth it.


caryatis said...

I'm irrationally attached to a disintegrating wallet I bought in Switzerland ...what, ten years ago now? Not even a cool store in Switzerland, it was Macy's-equivalent, but still, it was EUROPE and who knows when I'll go back there.

I also have a beautiful green Cambridge Satchel that I actually got monogrammed with my initials because I'm pretentious, but it's certainly not easy to fit things into. I much prefer my backpack.

Phoebe said...

Ha! I've mainly been to airports/train stations in Switzerland, and what I remember was that everything was so expensive that... it would sort of have to be special? I could see still having hung onto a water bottle from the Zurich train station...

Re: your satchel, is it the regular-sized one? And even that doesn't fit stuff? I still rely on a backpack if, say, it's snowing and my students have an exam, but the Matt and Nat pink thingy works for most days, and is even a bit easier, what with the correctly-sized (see, sometimes I do check these things) laptop pouch.

caryatis said...

I think it's the regular-sized one. I can fit my small laptop and wallet, but anything else (book, glasses, hat) is pushing it.