The perfect handbags and their owners

Five people talk about the bags that quicken their pulses and hold their purses

Gail Kilroy , Monkstown, Co. Dublin  with her favourite Louis Vuitton bag.   Photograph: Eric Luke

Gail Kilroy , Monkstown, Co. Dublin with her favourite Louis Vuitton bag. Photograph: Eric Luke


Gail Kilroy (above)

Mother of four 

Girls find boys at 12, I found bags. A denim rucksack in Tenerife was the start of it. Now as I get older I ask myself do I need gazillions of bags or not. I probably have about 20 or 30, some are little clutches. I would go barefoot and ragged but my bag would be gorgeous. It’s an illness and I know I have a problem.

My all-time favourite is my first Louis Vuitton bag, Noé, which I got in Singapore with my husband Simon 24 years ago. I had seen it on a woman and she was the image of perfection: classy, glossy and stunning. I knew at least I could get the bag and I will never get rid of it – it is so special because when I see it I remember Simon and that time in Singapore and I know I will never get that buzz again. That bag has a life.

I tend to steer away now from heavy bags – and Birkins are so heavy that they hurt. A good bag is a tote you can throw stuff into and Louis Vuitton will always be my favourite and I would be a loyal customer of theirs.

I rarely make an impulse buy. If I want a Céline, to me it is like researching a car. I like Stella McCartney and Saint Laurent’s Sac du Jour is a classy bag. I don’t have many Mulberrys because I prefer the way they used to be and I think they have sold out. I love Anya Hindmarch and have her personalised Ebury. We’re lucky in Dublin to have so much choice though I would not touch Michael Kors or Donna Karan – too young.

I bought a Fendi in London and my husband got me a Chanel for my birthday. I buy about twice a year and my mother keeps saying, “Could you not be happy with what you have?”, but there is always something on the horizon.

Bucket bags are the new season’s trend and duffel bags are everywhere. But if I had to be buried in a bag, it would be Louis Vuitton.

MG1403FASHION--_WEBFiona Gratzer
Chief executive Unislim, founder of Gorge Us food products

A bag is part of who you are and an essential part of my life. The one I am wearing is by Alaïa, which my husband bought me for Christmas. It was one of those occasions where I had to be with him to steer him in the right direction! I tend to keep one bag for a very long time – and for the past two years I have worn a Coach bag with a lot of compartments but I could never remember where anything was.

I put everything in it and the number of evenings rooting for keys I could never find I cannot count. This one has one compartment for quick access and is quite robust with strong punched leather exquisitely crafted – an old school type of bag you can imagine being screwed together by hand somewhere in Italy. Inside I have my make-up bag, gloves to match the colour of the bag by Peter O’Brien, sunglasses, my wallet, my Tom Ford perfume, pens, a plug for the iPhone, keys to my house, to my mother’s house and to the car, my notebook and a pen. If I put my hand in, something important will come out. My bags are an extension of my personality and I am quite faithful to them. I love the way they become worn, the leather gets softer and the way you carry memories around with you.

It becomes an important part of how I dress and says something about me. With this bag, nobody knows where it’s from, there is no label and it has understated chic – I am not saying I have understated chic, though I would like to think that I have.


MG1403FASHION---9E8_WEBNorman Pratt
Account director, Weber Shandwick PR

The bag I wear was a gift from my mam, who bought one in New York and then I exchanged it for this. It’s a rectangular satchel with a flap by Louis Vuitton and is a functional working bag. I had my eye on it because it is very practical, very multipurpose. I can bring it to festivals, work, meetings – it has been everywhere and is getting better with age. People often say that they recognise me because of the bag – they see it before they see me – that’s happened at the airport a few times. It would have cost about €1,300 but I have it 12 years now and I carry it every day. It has various compartments and handy pockets.

I also have holdalls that I would carry travelling, but this size is perfect for laptops and even works for day trips to London or overnight. It is so diverse and the compartments really work. From a style perspective, it can give you a little bit extra. I do like a nice bag particularly if you are working and I like to have something a little quirky. I have inherited this from my mother – she recently bought me a Fossil bag from the Kilkenny shop, leather with a briefcase element.

But I am more attracted to this one because it has travelled all over the world with me and because of its memories. All my friends know that the bag is a symbol of me.


Secretary St Luke’s Hospital

My first bag came from my auntie Kathleen who worked in Aer Lingus and used to come home with exotic handbags from trips to Lebanon, the US and Madeira – that must have started my obsession.

I started to buy when I started earning and as you get older you get more discerning. I rarely buy at full price and I am willing to wait a long wait. I lusted after a Tom Ford bag just before Christmas and wanted it so badly, I could taste it. It was for me, but I didn’t get it. When I went into the sale, it was gone. My favourite is a Marni which is quite architectural in shape, though not the most comfortable to carry because it’s not a shoulder bag. It’s heavy brown tan leather and so well made – in parts. The person didn’t do the handle course and they came off.

What attracts me? It just something stirs in you and you think, I want that. It’s the kill in it. Something sings to you. I have about 30 and I hang on to them and change them every second day. You use or you lose it. I would look for craftsmanship but I never understand why shoestring straps are put on a big bag. I like most of Coach, but I don’t go near Michael Kors because everybody is buying Michael Kors.

The bags that have had the most outings are a black Max Mara shopper and a Coach man bag – I use that a lot. I don’t buy second-hand nor online as I am a touchy feely person. If I want something I want it now.

I don’t do guilt. I work, I don’t smoke or drink and I think that women carry guilt on their shoulders. I am not going to feel guilty [about loving bags] and I am delighted to see that my daughter who lives in Australia is carrying on the family tradition.


MG1403FASHION-TUX_WEBCaroline Sleiman
Market development manager, Moët Hennessy

My first bag that I remember was a black raffia affair with shells incorporated into the straw. The next proper one was a leather satchel knotted at the shoulder bought from a flea market stall which I wore when I was in college in France.

After that I raided my mother’s wardrobe for a Dior bag. It was quite large with the Dior pattern in burgundy and cream edged with burgundy leather with two handles. I take very good care of it and still use it quite often.

Over the years my one aim was to have a Chanel 2.5 and I saved and saved and finally got it and that was an investment that I will pass down to my daughter. For me handbags are worthwhile investments and for me they are useful accessories that make an outfit.

I have no idea how many I have. I have never counted them. One particular favourite is a leather and python Pauric Sweeney one which I use all the time. It is quite structured.

I also use my Chanel quite a lot either cross body or, if I need to dress up, I double the gilt chain and wear it over my shoulder. I have enough bags to cater for all the occasions my work demands including an art deco clutch I bought on a trip to New Orleans, which is beautiful and functional. It is difficult to find an evening clutch that goes with everything. I am not a collector. I use bags and enjoy using them.

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