Stella McCartney for LeSportsac Hobo, $182.99  Linea Pelle 'Dylan' Patchwork Tote, $297  B. Makowsky 'Berlin' Tote, $134  Anthropologie 'Station-to-Station' Bag, $99.95
Let's say you've saved up around $300 to spend on a classic, high-quality handbag. Now before you go out and buy a Coach, stop and consider the following: Do you really want the same purse that every mall rat in America is carrying? Or do you want something a little bit more original, a little bit more distinct and dare I say, more fashionable? If your answer is yes (and it better be!), then keep reading for some Coach alternatives, plus ways to score a so-called investment bag on the cheap:
Online sample sale websites: Ruelala.com, Hautelook, Ideeli.com, and Gilt.com are great places to score a premium handbag for less. Gilt.com (http://www.gilt.com/invite/budgetbabe), my fave site at the moment, has featured Gryson, Botkier, Lauren Merkin and other top handbag designers at drastically reduced prices. Just be sure to check out the sale the moment it starts as the most popular styles will often sell out within 15 minutes.
Off-price retailers: Overstock.com, Smartbargains.com, and Bluefly.com all offer designer handbags without the designer prices. Some designers to look for: Linea Pelle, Kooba, Hayden-Harnett or Foley + Corinna.
Specialty apparel retailers: Anthropologie.com carries many designer labels, they just don't advertise them as such on their website. Also, keep an eye on the handbag section at BananaRepublic.com and JCrew.com. They often have beautiful leather handbags at a fraction of the price you'd pay for a top designer name.
Department stores: Macy's (which has been hurting financially, but that's another story...) carries this brand called B. Makowsky which is surprisingly stylish. TJ Maxx and Marshall's carry this brand, too, and I often find myself reaching for them on the racks. They look expensive and are made from genuine leather. Also, I've been really happy with my Fossil cross-body bag, a brand carried at most department stores.
Outlet malls: If you must have Coach or Dooney & Bourke, at least buy yours at an outlet. Never pay full price, ladies!
If you don't like leather: Get a chic bag by LeSportsac, Kidrobot or Matt & Nat. OK, not exactly an "investment bag" but they boast a high "cool" factor, for a low(er) price.
Never buy fakes: You know I've got nothing against a Steve Madden bag that looks suspiciously similar to YSL, but the fake designer goods you see on the streets of NYC or shady websites (fake Prada, Louis Vuitton, Chanel) do contribute to bad stuff like human trafficking and child labor. Besides, if you're driving a '90 Honda Accord and carrying a Louis Vuitton, you will look like a damn fool. Get yourself a good looking bag that will make you look good, too (see above!). Soapbox, off.
What bag brands would you recommend as an alternative to Coach?