Hermes, Louis Vuitton Chanel, and Delvaux.The handbag hierarchy has become a lot more about what’s on the crook of your arm rather than the art and craftsmanship that goes into the product. A true status symbol, the right designer handbag sends a message not only of glamour and style but that you’re are part of the social elite.

Whether your handbag is luxury or preowned, it is now a symbol of where you stand from a social and economic standpoint. With the carry-on becoming a signal of status and on the top of every girls wish list. Prices have risen, making them less accessible to the everyday shopper.

The Chanel handbag has seen a huge price increase going from €2547 in 2010 to €4379 in 2016 with rumours circulating of another cost hike for 2017. Chanel handbags are becoming a brand solely for the exclusive set. While prices for big designer brand handbags are soaring, many designer preloved boutiques have opened. Offering designer handbag fanatics, a chance to buy upmarket bags at a more reasonable price.

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One of these boutiques is The Designer Exchange based on Dawson Street in Dublin 2. The boutique opened its doors in 2012 offering customers a wide variety of handbags and accessories from high-end luxury retailers all these bags are authenticated and verified giving customers the opportunity to purchase high-end designer goods from a reputable source.

With five sisters, it’s no wonder Paddy Coughlan was inspired to open The Designer Exchange. Seeing a gap in the market, he decided to use a similar concept that had been used in his previous employment in the video and technology sector. This was “the buying and selling of items to fund the purchase of other items” otherwise known as a trade back.

The trade back concept has worked well for The Designer Exchange but Paddy admits that “the concept is nothing without people embracing it.He says, “we had to build that concept and create a hype around the concept that people wanted to come to us both to sell their items, which was important to us to build inventory and then for there to be a demand for people to buy preloved designer handbags and accessories.”

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While building the destination store, Paddy realised that people not only wanted to buy designer but that people wanted to be clever about how they bought luxury goods. Noticing the change in how consumers where buying Paddy explained that “People’s attitudes had shifted they want to make smart along with the joy of opening a box with a lovely handbag inside.

The joy and experience of that, almost illuminating out of the box at you is compounded by the fact you’re saying, “I did this clever, fair play to me”. It’s that reward on top of that reward that says I deserve this it’s the reward of saying I deserve it and I did it right.”

With a growing demand for designer goods and the ever-increasing prices on designer items buying preloved goods seems a better and more environmentally friendly way of achieving not only the status symbol but the fashionista image. However, Paddy disagrees when it comes to labelling designer’s handbags as a status symbol and is quick to point out that not all his customers are buying solely for the status of a designer bag.

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“I think it’s in some ways dangerous to call it a status symbol and the reason I say that is because there’s nobody out there, male or female that needs anything in their life to empower them. People’s personalities and what people do in their lives are far more important than the car they drive, the dress they wear and so on. With regards to the status symbol, yes there’s a demographic obviously of people who will just want an item. They may not actually love the item, but they want it because it is a social standpoint, but there’s also the customers who have the desire and the want for a piece and decide to buy smart.”

While I can’t help but to agree with Paddy’s opinion on the dangers of labelling people’s purchasing choices, I do wonder how many consumers are buying a product for its label as opposed to the fun and self-expression that comes with fashion. As handbags are cited as an investment piece worth more than some people’s homes, with the most expensive ever sold at auction fetching an eye-watering €178,723, is it any wonder that trophy bags have become a lot more important than just something to carry things in?

Either way, the consumer must be smart with their choices, and it is boutiques like The Designer Exchange who offer the everyday person a little bit of timeless glamour that’s affordable and stylish.