Mireille's Musings - April 4, 2015

A Handbag for the Decades

(No, not Hermes)

Do you own a handbag you love? Have you ever had one? We can weirdly measure our lives in the handbags we have carried.

I got my first great bag as a young professional in the Big Apple after years of so many useless, plain, not functional ones–no matter the size, shape, material or price. In the late eighties, working at Veuve Clicquot in New York, I acquired a little known luxury bag (in the days before globalization and ubiquitous malls and duty free shops). I always liked “unusual” (read “different”), and that bag with superior design, craftsmanship and quality was exactly it: by Bottega Veneta.

Loved their ad at the time, “When your own initials are enough” That was a drawing point. I’ve always disliked clothes/shoes/bags with logos and names. The bag was easy to pick. They only had a few models in those days. I got lots of compliments over the years with the “where did you get this gorgeous bag?” Very few people had heard of the brand, and several businesswomen friends went up to the little shop on Madison Avenue in Manhattan and found their dream bag. I later discovered their ur-shop in Florence and hit the sale season for shoes and more.

The bag was the Bottega signature braided kind, navy blue, light, well made and with impeccable outside and inside. Even today the lining is still beautiful and the bag intact except that it needs a real good “finish restoring” as the leather is a tad dull after years and years of usage. It was an expensive bag at the time, but what a good investment.

I have bought and received a few bags since but all were mistakes or near mistakes as they never, never, never quite fit my needs or lifestyle and many had lots of flaws discovered after the fact…

Now thirty years later, I had almost given up finding the bag of my dreams (even went as far as getting close to making my own via an investor who wanted to back me to start a “French women” bag company). Then a couple of years ago by chance I discovered a small shop CORTO MOLTEDO in Palais Royal, Paris. It was a fall day and from the window my eyes went directly to a blue bag that contrasted with the yellow and red fall colors of the garden reflected in the shop window.

I was mesmerized by its unusual “one of a kind” shape and beauty and went inside to look at all the details inside and out that immediately made me want to own it. Of course, my sense of frugality and my inner dialog convinced me I really did not need another bag at this point in my life. My “less is more” philosophy helped resist impulsive buying. I waited and waited months but kept thinking (dreaming?) about this bag, and each time in Paris I’d go back to the shop (and quickly was recognized as the lady who loves the blue Priscilla), and each time loved it a bit more. Who knows, it could be my last bag …so why not? I cannot stand all those big, heavy bags, especially those with heavy support material from famous and very expensive brands that make them look too big for a woman my size and also bang into people’s legs, plus are just not attractive to me (and not functional either).

The blue Priscilla bag I finally bought is, I believe, a great investment. I like the fact that Mr. Corto put a lot of thinking and listening (to his mother, women’s friends, and others) into the design, and his artisans did the rest. I have no doubt that if I live to 104 (according to those funny tests as related in my aging book), this handbag will still be in good shape, but the fact is I have loved it and enjoyed it every day since I bought it last year.

Everything works for me: the color (blue), the safe openness (did not want another zipper or click buttons), the two soft-closed pockets outside and inside the one attached to the bottom of the bag, the shape (unusual, see the photo), the softness, the lightness (800 grams), the natural feeling, the lovely leather material (goat skin outside and lambskin as inside lining), the look and feel whether or not using the shoulder strap. The fact that it’s a day bag but also goes well when out to dinner or theater or cocktail or party of any type. Great for traveling as well.

Nothing like a great bag where there is a place for everything and everything has its place. Perhaps you have found your own or are contemplating investing in one (even this one). You will enjoy it every day. Let me know.