By Joy A. Kennelly
Recently, I was approached by an Atlanta-based online designer handbag business called Bella Bag to attend their new bricks-n-mortar retail store launch happening here in Atlanta.
I've never quite understood the lure of a designer handbag and took advantage of the opportunity to interview the founder, Cassandra Connors, with very interesting results.
She answered all my questions, even though I know some were kinda naive, which you also might find enlightening because you may have been wondering the same thing privately!:)
Now, for those of you unfamiliar with Bella Bag, here's the official description:
With the launch of their retail store here in Atlanta, now you can "shop, trade and sell your handbags and accessories in person!" (Exclamation point per the publicist.:)
The address, for those of us lucky enough to live in Atlanta and experience this store in person, is: 650 Miami Circle Atlanta, GA 30324. The store is currently open to the public Monday thru Friday from 9am to 430pm or by appointment only. If you wish to sell your bag, you can do so at the store on Thursday from 10-2pm or by appointment only. Otherwise, you can do so online any time!
"Cassandra Connors and The Bella Bag Team’s mission is to create a secure, simple, and exciting shopping experience.
The Bella Bag team has created a straightforward authentication process to banish the worry associated with typical Internet luxury purchases. They believe that every woman should know the feeling that carrying a fantastic accessory creates the perfect ensemble...and that every woman should be able to do it authentically.
Learn more about Bella Bag at shopbellabag.com"
So, without further ado, here's the questions I presented to Cassandra and her very thoughtful, insightful answers. Please pay special attention to number 9 because I was surprised to learn this fact and it made me rethink my attitude towards fakes tremendously!
1. How did you get started in this business? Did you ever expect it to be so popular?
I started my business as a hobby really. I had some designer items myself (not just bags), and I was just a broke student at that time, so the only thing I could think of to do was to sell what I had and earn a little extra money to pay the bills…
Within time, some friends asked me to do the same for their extra stuff and then eventually I started reaching out to their networks too. It was always something that was just fun, and a great way to make a living.
What I did realize, from the beginning of doing this, is that there was a hole in the market. Women not only wanted to sell some of their older valuable but they also wanted a place to buy their newest pieces too. The problem was that there really wasn’t a place for them to do so safely online…a place where they would be guaranteed their latest purchase, although pre-owned, was still the real deal.
No, I never knew it would be as popular as it is today, but I did know that the concept was necessary and had tons of potential.
2. Why Atlanta? Why not a bigger city to launch your retail store? Or even online business? What is the draw for you as a fashionista to Atlanta? Just curious since it’s not generally known as a style city, but totally is.
Prior to moving to Atlanta, I had been living in Florida. My fiancé and I made the decision to move to Atlanta as we felt it was a place that was fully of culture, food and art.
I’m from the NY area originally, and of course love NY…maybe one say we’ll open another boutique there. One can dream!
3. What handbag is the must-have this summer season? Any fall trends popping up now too?
At Bella, we’re not about trendy items. We are all about classic staples that hold their value. Usually that mean Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Hermes, but this year, we are seeing a lot of customers wanting Gucci and Balenciaga too. These are great bags that are a bit more edgy, and will still never let down on second hand resale value.
4. Can you elaborate on “The Bella Bag 13 Step Authentication Process” and how you came up with this testing standard?
The 13 Step process is a system that takes into consideration all the different pieces that add up to an authentic bag, across all brands. The 13-Step is the initial authenticity check we do with every single bag that comes in the door. It’s the cornerstone of Bella.
However, its not the end all and be all, and counterfeiters are getting smarter everyday… We do everything we can to keep up to date on the new scams and schemes.
If a bag doesn’t pass the initial 13-Step, it’s not getting listed for sale. Even if it does pass the 13-Step, many times we do further spot checks and scrutinizing anyway. We want our customers to know that they are only getting the real deal when they shop with us.
5. Do popular designers ever go out of style? Or do they just go in and out with the season?
Oh yes, definitely. We see many handbag designers come in and out. For example, we used to sell tons of Marc Jacobs, now you will hardly find one in our store. Personally, I love them, but they just don’t sell anymore the way they used to 5-7 years ago. We’ve seen that happen with many brands. The good news is, that as quickly as popular designer go out of style, they usually come back around too!
6. Why would a woman buy a handbag and never use it? I don’t understand the concept of such frivolous shopping.:) Please explain.
I’ve had tons of my clients make impulse purchases at a big store, because they saw a friend with the same item or even a celebrity. Its not a rare thing that a woman gets that bag on her own arm a few days later and finds out that it just doesn’t fit her (body or personality).
Just as you will often hear people talk about the clothes that best flatter someone, handbags definitely are the same way. We spend lots of time with customers helping them to find not only a bag, but the right one. (Click on this article for more information "How to Choose the Purse for your Body Type.")
7. I’m new to this whole concept of designer hand bags. Does the value of a handbag increase similar to a piece of art? Please explain to those of us who are uneducated in this realm.
Sometimes. It depends on which bag and which style. At Bella, we try to carry the items that will hold their value or grow in value. If you choose a classic piece or a rare piece, then you are pretty safe, especially when shopping with our staple brands, like LV, Chanel or Hermes. Its when we buy the trendy or of the moment items that we see a value drop later on.
8. Why do women buy designer hand bags? Is it competition? Status? Society approval? Reward?
Hmmmm…I think it is a myriad of reasons. I don’t feel comfortable speaking for everyone, however in my opinion and personal experience, I think everything you mentioned is valid.
But, mostly, I would say Reward and Confidence. In my opinion, nothing feels better than carrying an awesome accessory that you are proud of.
Similar to the way many men feel about their watch, I think women cherish handbags in the same way. They see it as their mark of style, their investment piece…and to be able to afford one takes a lot of hard work, so they should be proud!
9. Tell me more about what the anti-counterfeiting organizations including the CACP, do to protect designers and the public?
There are many agencies out there that are very helpful, like the CACP. The biggest benefit of one of these agencies is that they are constantly educating the public. Many women initially think that buying or not buying an authentic bag is all about price…and maybe a designer’s integrity.
And, while it’s definitely about those two things, it’s also about the anti-American activities (such as child pornography, drug trafficking, terrorism) that the proceeds from counterfeits support. It’s a huge industry. The money goes somewhere. Other entities aren’t simply producing counterfeit fashion for the heck of it. The CACP truly helps people to understand the bigger issues at hand.
This concludes my interview with Cassandra. I hope you've enjoyed the read and learned something in the process.
Now go shopping!:) www.shopbellabag.com
I plan to post something for my male fashionistas soon.