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How you can own pre-owned bags

By Alex Vergara
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 21:35:00 09/04/2008

Filed Under: Fashion, Lifestyle & Leisure

MANILA, Philippines?Penny-pinching bag hags who won?t settle for anything less than the real McCoy can get a quick fix at a new, multi-brand outlet in Makati, teeming with previously owned designer bags?from Louis Vuitton to Gucci, from Chanel to Prada, from Dior to Fendi?sold at a fraction of their original prices.

The place is also shaping up as a trading post for such covetable goods, as fashionistas are welcome to sell, trade or even pawn their designer bags.

Indeed, as many are finding out, the store is an ideal venue to either earn instant cash or unload unwanted styles to make room for newer, better options.

Aptly named Bagaholic (after all, such an addiction knows no gender), the store (tel. 986-4671 and 867-2335) at the corner of Makati Avenue and Pasay Road, adjacent to Renaissance Hotel, is owned and managed by Gigi Asok-Bambroffe.

A Filipina married to a British national, Bambroffe resorts to such a nuanced Filipino word as ?hibang? to describe how addicted to bags some of her loyal clients are. Indeed, calling them crazy wouldn?t have been enough.

?Hibang sila sa mga bag,? she says. ?Like I have a client who once went here with five bags to unload. Instead of pocketing the proceeds, she brought home with her a different set of bags.?

Well, it takes one to know one. A true blue bag lady herself, Bambroffe parlayed her passion for collecting Speedies and Birkins into a thriving business of pre-owned originals ranging from sometime ?it? bags to rare vintage finds.

In fact, a number of Bagaholic?s merchandise, especially from LV?s prolific design team, pre-Marc Jacobs, is no longer produced. Bambroffe pegs the bags? prices depending on how rare and well maintained they are.

As far as Filipino women are concerned, LV, particularly the Speedy in its many versions and sizes, is still the brand of choice, while the Monogram is still the LV variant to beat.

?Prices can range anywhere from 20 to 70 percent off from the original,? she says. ?I peg the prices myself based primarily on the bag?s condition.?

Majority of the bags are displayed in open shelves and arranged mostly according to style, material, size and color. Most of them even come with their respective dust bags.

But several unused Speedies have earned a special place of honor in a glass case. Bambroffe shaved off anywhere from P10,000 to P12,000 from their original prices. The same special treatment applies to a glassed Birkin (P380,000) and a Kelly (P200,000), plus a number of special limited-edition LVs.

?Some of these bags were gifts that their recipients didn?t use even once,? says Bambroffe. ?It was impossible for them to return the bags to the store without offending the giver, so they simply kept them until they learned about Bagaholic.?

Spotting fakes

Thanks to constant exposure and endless research, Bambroffe claims to possess the ability to spot a fake a mile away. Quite a number of times, she has refused some bags for their questionable appearance and poor workmanship.

Since telltale signs of fakery vary from one bag to another, Bambroffe declines to elaborate what these giveaway features are. She cautions bag hags who love buying pre-owned stuff to carefully examine a particular item?s workmanship inside out. The lining is one component counterfeiters usually love to scrimp on.

?I think that?s my advantage over goods sold at E-bay,? she says. ?The chances of you buying a fake are minimized, if not eliminated, because I personally oversee every item that makes it to my store. I sometimes road test the bags myself.?

Bambroffe doesn?t claim to be infallible. But should a customer feel that he or she bought a fake at Bagaholic, she?s willing to give that customer a refund, as long as the person can prove that the item in question is really bogus.

?What?s a few thousand pesos if it would mean saving my store?s reputation?? she reasons. ?Fortunately, no one has ever come forward to contest the authenticity of my bags.?

As the couple behind Manila Watch Exchange, Bambroffe and her husband have been in the pre-owned business since 1998, selling used luxury watches. Three years ago, she thought of including a few designer bags into the mix.

In no time at all, demand for second-hand bags gained a life of its own. The enterprising Bambroffe saw the development as an opportunity to expand the range of items by establishing a separate business elsewhere.

?We were doing well in Glorietta 2 until the area was closed soon after the October explosions,? she says. ?I relocated in Greenhills, a stone?s throw away from all those imitations, and displayed some of my bags at our watch place in Greenbelt.?

In spite of its location, the Greenhills outlet did fairly well, but not as good as her defunct space in Glorietta. When the unit beside Renaissance became available, Bambroffe lost no time renting it to pave the way for her eventual return to Makati.

It doesn?t hurt, of course, that Bambroffe?s clean and well-lighted store is meters away from Greenbelt 4, where the flagship stores of LV, Gucci and Prada are located. Never have bag hags been given such freedom of choice.



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