CULTURE

Luxurious bags at affordable prices

It started with Prada’s backpack and continued with Fendi’s Baguette. In the last few years, luxury bags – and especially «it» bags – have become the single most important accessory in the fashion industry. Thanks to intelligent entrepreneurs, however, a passion for fashion no longer necessarily leads to financial ruin. «It is your right to luxury and to your appearance,» says Oliana Spiridopoulos, founder and owner of www.starbags.gr, an online rental agency for luxury bags. «It’s the feeling of confidence which you get when you have something special. It’s uplifting.» Take the new Balenciaga Moon Bag, for instance. At www.starbags.gr you may rent it for 99 euros for the weekend or 259 euros for the whole month. Alternatively, it is available at a retail price of 1,840 euros. An interactive space for renting (as well as buying), the website’s bags are available to those residing in Greece, while clients are allowed to take them along when traveling abroad. Operating for the last two years, the website has 3,000 members so far – not all clients, points out Spiridopoulos, but fashion lovers who log on to find out about new arrivals and get online fashion tips, for instance. With a broad background including a degree in economics, an MBA and studies in decorating, Spiridopoulos eventually landed a job at Jasper Conran in London. The idea of a rental service for upmarket bags surfaced five years ago. «It occurred to me one evening that it would be nice to have a service which would come to the rescue,» said Spiridopoulos, who returned to Greece in 2004. «London is a very dressy place and no matter how many bags you have, you always want more.» Similar services now exist in various countries, including the United States, Germany and Britain. Meanwhile, the importance of the bag, says Spiridopoulos, has led companies such as luxury stationary specialist Smythson, among many others, to come up with their own bag collections. Back in Athens, the website’s success lies in the selection. Buying directly from luxury brand stores, Spiridopoulos goes after each season’s hot items, while the online collections also include all-time bag classics. Besides the stunning Moon by Balenciaga, the current season features new editions of Chanel’s signature 2.55 as well as Louis Vuitton global favorites. Coming up shortly, is what you would call true bag royalty: the Hermes Birkin, for which Spiridopoulos went through the custom-made, made-to-order, procedure. Given a local legal void, there is no insurance policy for the rented bags – so far customers have generally handled the items with great care. Orders are placed online, by fax or telephone and the bags are then delivered in special cases (code included) at your address of choice by courier service. A major portion of the clientele lies within the 25- to 45-year-old range, predominantly working women who come into contact with people through their work or their social circles. Their point of reference, says Spiridopoulos, is their common desire for style, not necessarily their financial status. The business is also based on some kind of fashion recycling: After a certain amount of time, bags go on sale at accessible – second-hand – prices. «I get messages from clients telling me how good they felt about themselves just because they were carrying a nice bag,» said Spiridopoulos. «And they didn’t have to spend a month’s salary to get it. It is a great feeling, free of guilt.» For more information go to www.starbags.gr.