For a very long time I knew I was going to spend my first proper paycheque on a Mulberry handbag. Sod the student overdraft; once I found someone daft enough to employ me properly I was going to use that very first hot, sweet cash injection to buy myself a sheath of cannibalised cow-skin, tanned into submission and moulded into a piece of exquisite, leathery perfection. It was going to be an extravagant gift to myself, an everyday reminder that all the
hangovers hard slog of university had been worth it and I was now economically active; a real, independent, self-sustaining member of the adult community.
Of course, it didn’t quite pan out like that. This is because my car decided to break down two days before P-Day. I was UTTERLY DEVASTATED. I may as well have been told I had minutes to live. I was so upset that I phoned up the garage after my mother called to break the news and shamelessly begged them to fix my car for less money. “Hello,” I said, in the steely tones of someone not to be trifled with. “You don’t know me, but my mother came in earlier today with a very shit, very naff little blue car. Apparently it’s broken and you are charging £600 to fix it. Now, you weren’t you know this, but it is nearly the end of the first month of my first proper job. For the last six months I’ve been working in a beauty hall being paid a pittance to smear make-up on to other people’s faces. And then I had to tell them it looked great so they’d buy a £15.50 mascara, even if it didn’t. I’ve been looking forward to pay day so much that there is a very real possibility that I will throw myself into some sort of ravine if have to spend most of my first pay cheque on car repairs. You certainly don’t want that on your conscience; it probably counts as manslaughter. So what can you do about it?” Miraculously, the bloke was so taken aback he took £60 off my bill, which shows it’s always worth throwing the odd suicide threat into negotiations with Kwik-Fit, but it still meant my leathery dreams had to be put on hold for a month.
Of course, even with a 10% discount I was still burning with the fury of a thousand suns. If I was going to have to spend £540 on a new clutch, I at least wanted it to be the kind that drew admiring glances when I took it out (I was so upset at the time I couldn’t even enjoy this irony for all its excellent punning potential.) But then, as I spent more time in London, I noticed that Mulberry handbags were everywhere. And I mean everywhere; every other bird had an Alexa or a Bayswater slung over her arm. It got to the point where I stopped clocking them they were so common, and who wants that? If I’m about to spend the equivalent of a week’s skiing holiday on a bag, I certainly don’t want one that everyone else has got. The one exception was the time that I saw a girl at a pedestrian crossing with a Mulberry Lily. It was a mini-bag in a shade of cobalt so rich and glorious I nearly cow-tipped her when she bent down to do up her shoelace so I could commandeer it for my own.
So I went in search of the perfect bag. It was hard, because I’m not really a bag girl. I’m more into crippling, impractical footwear, but that’s just me. I looked everywhere, until one day in the Alexander McQueen outlet store at Bicester Village I saw The One. It was from McQueen’s final collection before he died, and it was black with the most amazing harness detail. It was an incredible, sexy bag, all soft liquorice with Gothic hardware, like Bertie Bassett in a gimp suit (I appreciate I’m not really selling it here. My brain is scrambled with lust even at the mere recollection.) But it was £600. £600! Seeing it there on a price tag when I was ready to buy made it seem a lot more than it had before. It was still cheaper than a Mulberry, but I could buy at least an average-looking child from one of the more desperate LEDCs to schlep all my shit around for that. I spent 45 minutes in the shop deliberating. And then, eventually, in an incredible, unparalleled moment of maturity, fiscal responsibility and superhuman restraint, I didn’t buy it.
I sort of regret it. I mean, I still think about that bag. That’s a sign of real chemistry, right? It’s like the one that got away. But I moved on and, when I went to Florida in June, found a bag that I really, really loved.
Marc by Marc Jacobs Classic Q Fran Shoulder Bag in Blush
Now, when I got back home, everyone commented on my new bag; they said they liked it, but that they never, ever thought in a million years I would spend so much money on something that was pink. I mean, it makes sense to buy something you’re going to wear every day in a colour like black or tan, right? That’s what I thought too, until I realised how mindlessly dull those colours are. Yes, they go with everything, and maybe it’s sensible to always have a truly neutral-coloured bag waiting in reserve, but you’d be amazed at how much a mustard yellow or dusky, vintage pink will go with. Of course, it all depends on your personal style and how consistent your wardrobe is, but the girl at the zebra crossing, would I have remembered her Mulberry Lily if it was in the standard Oak shade? Probably not. I’ll admit that sometimes I do still wake up in a cold sweat thinking about the McQueen bag and what could have been, but only for its extraordinary hardware, not its colour.
So, if you’re thinking about treating yourself to a posh new bag, don’t automatically go for the neutrals. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with black, of course – nobody loves black more than I, except nuns, Darth Vader and possibly Simon Cowell – but you’ll be a lot more excited to wear something unexpected – like turquoise! – than you will something in boring old tan.