Saturday, April 21, 2012

Channeling Pippa Middleton

Hey guys!

Ok, I totally admit it's been a long time since my last post. Working full time while still in graduate school on top of job hunting is a wee bit on the time consuming side.

However, given the above stressors, that also means that my graduation is coming up rather soon (22 days, but who's counting?). Given that I've become one of those handbag-and-shoe people (honestly, I never thought I'd be one of those girls, but hey, I like my girlie items...especially handbags and shoes...and nail polish...and glitter...and puppies. I like puppies a lot) I decided to invest in a big girl handbag. But being extremely picky and annoyingly logical, this was no easy decision. However, after months (yes, you read that right--months) of research and hemming and hawing and stressing and research and more stressing, I finally settled on a winner: the Modalu Pippa Medium Grab in Shark.

Why did I settle on this bag? Though it's true, this bag has become wildly popular thanks to Pippa Middleton's love affair with it in many a color, I actually didn't choose this bag because it is favored by the infamous Miss P; however, had the company not garnered so much attention because of her preference for their handbags, I probably would never have found it. Here are the reasons I eventually opted for this particular handbag.

Reasons I Chose the Pippa

  • The price point. While my research turned up many a gorgeous bag when typing in terms such as "best investment handbags" or "most loved handbags of all time" into Google, the G-Man often yielded Louis Vuittons, Chanels, and (*snort*) Hermes lovelies that were way way beyond my means. Kate Spade and even Coach were getting closer to a price range where I felt a little more comfortable, but I'm pretty picky about every angle, silhouette, color, texture, and smell associated with my handbags and I just wasn't finding the perfect match; I couldn't settle on one I was totally satisfied with, and if I was going to shell out $350+ for a bag I wanted to last at least a decade, I wanted to make sure I was 350%+ satisfied. There was a Coach bag I had seen at an outlet 2 years ago that I tried pretty hard to find, but not knowing every detail about the bag, it was impossible to track down, and I was getting sick of the snobby Coach store people practically rolling their eyes in my face as they tried to help such a noob locate a bag that was so 2 years ago. So I set a max budget of $300 and hunkered down to flush out something a little different. I resigned myself to the fact that I could, indeed, find a bag I loved that didn't cost a month's rent or a year's worth of gas (or should I say "petrol?" I did buy a British bag, after all).

  • The color. Finding a color that I felt would compliment just about any outfit at any time of year was difficult. White was really the only option that covered all the possible bases, but...well, knowing me, white was a bad idea for cleanliness purposes, as well as scratch resistance. Black mixed with brown is a huge pet peeve of mine, and I tend to gravitate much more toward browns instead of blacks when wearing dark colors since I'm so damn pale and black washes me out; so black was out. I loved the idea of red or yellow, but wasn't ready to drop a few Benjamins on such a bold statement piece that would likely be soon out of vogue. Gray was the next best solution I could come up with since it could really compliment just about any color (even brown if you're careful). Once I arrived at this conclusion, I fell in love with the idea of a gray bag. Trouble was, locating a gray handbag was hard. Surprisingly so. (I hope that's not a sign I have poor taste...I must just be ahead of the fashion world?) So when I found this bad boy, I was stoked (for more reasons than just the color, as pointed out in these bullets). And since this gray is just barely leaning toward the warm end of the spectrum, it seems like it will jive with just about anything (that was simply a lucky break--I was expecting a cooler gray--huzzah!). However, it comes in a slew of other colors that I also love, in case gray isn't really calling your name. Here are the nude, toffee, and black from Street Princess:

          If I had money to burn, I'd also consider it in Mint, which I love now, but know will be out of  
          style quickly:

  • The material. Despite one of my greener friends pointing out the fact that leather isn't exactly eco-friendly (and obviously not fur-baby friendly either), I decided that leather would be the best option in the long run since, if well-taken care of, leather would most likely outlast many other materials helping to even out the pro-con scale in terms of lives lost and energy spent. Additionally, most higher end handbags are leather, which provides more style options so that I could find a bag I really loved in a style I felt would last forever (*fingers crossed*). Quality over quantity in this case; I'd rather buy 1 handbag, even if it's leather, that will last 10+ years than buy 3 or 4 "greener" items that lost their luster, fall apart, or are in a less timeless style since there are far fewer items to choose from in the non-leather category.
  • The style. As already mentioned, I wanted this bag to hold up for years (if not decades) to come. That meant finding a timeless silhouette, size, and color that could surpass the test of time, fads, trends, and even minor abuse. I felt that the silhouette of this bag was elegant and classic and lent itself to both casual and chic needs; while the black detailing around the zippers isn't so timeless as I would like, it provides some nice contrast to bring interest to the bag. I prefer magnetic closures on my bags to zippers, but wasn't sure how a magnet would hold up over time, nor what it might do to various technological devices that would spend time in my bag such as a phone, credit card, and (hopefully sometime soon) an iPad. While zippers can break, they can often be repaired...magnets require taking the bag apart to replace, which made me nervous. If I'm gentle, these bad boys should last a while. I also liked the fact that the overall style of the bag could be dressed up or down depending on the use of the cross-body strap and outfit with which it's paired. So overall style gets an A!
  • The carrying options. I'm not usually a crook-of-the-arm kind of girl, which was a possibility with this bag due to the short handles. I took a chance that I might be able to fit the small rolled handles (love me some rolled handles--obsessed!) over my shoulder (if necessary) with this bag. I was much more hyped about the cross-body strap offered with the Shark color that has some adjustability options. Being an average height girl (well, a bit over at just shy of 5"6"), I'm lucky that this strap can be used for a shoulder or cross body carrying style. The rolled handles do barely fit on my shoulder, but it is one tight squeeze. Honestly, I wish the Pippa offered both the long handles and the cross body strap, but I could only get this color with the short handles and cross body strap; all other colors have longer handles and no strap. Decisions, decisions. I figured I'd take a chance on the short handles to get the color I loved and could fall back on the strap if needed (even doubling it over if I wanted to in order to make for a shorter shoulder-style bag). Plus, Pippa does look cute and stylish simply holding it by the handles in hand as well, and I admit, that does give it some nice sophistication. Or I could even--gasp!--become a crook of the arm girl. I became a handbag girl, so who knows? It does look cute on Pippa:

  • The multiple pockets. I'm an organizational Freak. Capital F. I very very much prefer (pretty much require) to have at least 1 pocket on the outside of my bag for my phone, and love 2 even more so that my phone can live in one, and my keys can live in the other without the danger of scratching up my precious iPhone. Given the precious cargo in these pockets, I prefer to have at least a magnet closer if not a zip. Check and Check for the Pippa. I also like more than one main pocket, but really dislike a skinny middle zip compartment that can't hold squat. This bag has a zip middle compartment, but it's the widest (though the shallowest as it's tucked down below, but that's Ok with me), so I've avoided the stupid what-the-heck-is-this-lame-thing-here-for-anyway middle zipper divider while gaining the luxury of not 2 large interior pockets, but 3. Woo to the hoo! Check, check, AND check. I was worried that, with the 3 compartments, there may not be any smaller organization pockets for travel purposes and/or further organization, but fear not! There is a small zip compartment (fully lined), and 2 slip pockets (1 x-small and 1 small) in the third large compartment. It's odd that they're in the third rather than the first (I'd prefer the one more outer to my carrying style on my right arm for easier access), but perhaps your items are more protected here. Or if you're a lefty (maybe there are more lefties over in the UK? They do drive on the other side of the road...), it works out great! So...check (and check again if you're a lefty or carry bags on your left arm). Plus, there's a nice zip pocket on the outside of the bag for flat items--I can see this being handy for a boarding pass, for example. Organization galore!
  • The liner. I know--this may seem like a weird one to some people, but I am uber picky about liners. One of the main reasons I ended up not getting my original top-choice bag (from the Dooney and Bourke Dillen II line), was because the liner was trendy, ugly, and a heavy-weight material that felt...just...not good to me. Cheap or something. This liner isn't as smooth and silky as I prefer (I like satiny liners best), but it's got 2 great things going for it: a subtle but sophisticated pattern and a light color. While light colors can show dirt more than dark ones, I'm a pretty clean person, so I'm not too worried about that. The big motivator for the light color is that it makes your life ten times easier when searching for an item in the depths of your bag because light liners = contrast. Contrast = visible items. Visible items = finding what you want quickly. Let's face it: we promise to pare down and be more organized when it comes to our handbags, but sometimes our carryalls become carry everythings that are bottomless abysses where the thing you need most is nowhere to be found and you feel like an idiot when you're standing in front of the security guy at the airport with a bazillion people sighing behind you as you dig for your license that you took out of your wallet 2 minutes earlier so you'd have it ready but is now lost in the dark depths of the black hole that is your purse. (No? Just me? just wait until it happens to you when you take that next flight.) The subtle design with the Modalu shell emblem is a nice final touch that provides subtle contrast that, in my opinion, elevates a liner from "meh" to "me likey."
  • The general size. I like handbags that aren't too big or too small. Too small results in a bag stuffed to the gills that ends up looking bloated and is uncomfortable to carry because of all the weird lumps and bumps. Not to mention, the stress from the stuffing can weaken the material, pop zippers, and cause misshaping over time. However, bags that are too big can make an outfit look sloppy, cause you to look like the nanny carrying all the kiddies' items to the beach, or (most annoyingly) end up targeting you as the "carrier": the one everyone asks to hold their stuff 'cause "you've got room in there, right?" An everyday handbag is not a weekender bag, and shouldn't be the size of one either. But it has to be big enough to hold what you need. So this bag fell just right along the spectrum at around 13 x 10 x 6. As I haven't used it out and about yet, I can't comment to my fullest extent on the size:daily use ratio, but from a visual standpoint, it looks like it can hold the essentials plus a bit more without looking like a chipmunk hoarding noms for the entirety of winter. I will say, however, that the bag does not fit my 13" Macbook Pro, and I can likely assume it would not fit the larger Macbook Air either, as it's a width, not depth, issue when it comes to fitting in the bag. 15+ inchers are never even going to be a remote possibility. I'm guessing both the mini Macbook Air, a Netbook, and any of the tablets/e-readers out there would fit just fine most certainly in the outer taller pockets, and likely the middle pocket as well. Considering this is not a work bag, and I intend on becoming the proud Mama to an iPad sometime in the near future, not fitting my laptop isn't a major concern for me. But it's certainly something to keep in mind if it's important to you.  
  • The company's reputation. $250 dollars is nothing to sniff at when it comes to a handbag (though I'm sure there are plenty of people who are snorting right now as they read that). Thankfully, companies who put a lot of effort, thought, and care into their designs (which results in a higher price tag) understand that their customers have high expectations for their products. Modalu has a great reputation when it comes to the stand of their products over time, both from a design and function standpoint. While I obviously haven't had to contact them for an issue with the bag yet, I can assume that this wonderful reputation would follow through should something arise with my bag that becomes a problem. I know that Modalu not only willingly replaced a batch of Shark Pippas known to discolor over time, but they willingly put out a recall for the handbags on their Facebook page encouraging customers to e-mail a photograph of the bag for verification so that the bag could be replaced. Companies that own up to mistakes and work hard for a stellar reputation are worth the extra money in my opinion. I'm quite confidant that Modalu will be more than happy to handle any issues with my bag, should they ever arise (though I don't expect that for a while due to their careful craftsmanship). 

However, everything about this bag isn't ponies and rainbows (i.e. perfect in my opinion). But honestly, what is? So far (I haven't had it very long at all) there are a few cons to keep in mind, and these may not even be cons in your book, as they are more about personal preference. I don't want these to tarnish my glowing notes above, as I am very happy with this bag--these are just some little things to keep in mind!

A Few Cons About the Pippa

  •  Leather texture. I really really like my leathers to be super soft and very textured (hence, why I mentioned I was considering the Dillen II line from Dooney and Bourke--which does not come in gray, incidentally). The leather on the Pippa is barely textured and has a slight sheen to it. I totally understand that this is the type of leather most people prefer (hence, its popularity and widespread availability). The sheen may also help to hide minor blemishes that are sure to accrue over time. Textured leathers also tend to be quite heavy, which is a con. Personally, I just wish the bag was more textured; however, I like the fact that the bag itself is not overly heavy, which most likely would be the case were it more pebbled, as that requires a thicker leather, and hence, more weight. The leather is also not as soft as the pebbled leathers tend to be, which gives the bag a bit more structure so it's not too saggy, even when empty.
  • Zippers. While I like zippers on my outside pockets, I'm not a fan of zippers for main compartments. Yes, they are safer for keeping items contained because they run from one side to the other, but they are often bothersome in my opinion, as compared to a hidden magnet such as in the B. Makowski bags. However, magnets can also have their drawbacks, as mentioned above. These particular zippers on the Pippa worry me a little because of their dark contrast (black); they provide nice visual appeal, but I'm not sure how the style will fare over time (as in 5+ years--that may not be an issue for those who are far more trendy than myself, and will likely not have this bag for that long).
  • Smell. I'm headache prone beyond the beyond, and smells can be a trigger. My bag has an odd smell at this point (about a week after un-packaging) and it's not a nice leather's more of a packaging-slight-chemical smell. But I have the feeling this will dissipate over time...fingers crossed!
  • Handles. While I love the look of the rolled handles, they are a tad bit too short to go over your shoulder; they fit on me, but it's not exactly a comfortable resting place...hence, (I'm guessing), the redesigned bag with the longer handles, but no cross body strap. Like I mentioned above, maybe I will eventually evolve into a crook-of-the-arm girl, but for now, this bag is hard to carry comfortably on my shoulder, which is my go-to style.
  • Cross body strap. I know--confusing! I told you I loved the cross body strap. And I do! It's the actual design and how it attaches to the bag that's detracting from my original enamored state. The width of the strap, while nice a feminine because it's not too wide, is a bit too narrow if you plan on carrying a loaded bag over an extended period of time. There's no wider shoulder part to help dispense the weight of the bag over a larger area, which can make the strap dig into your shoulder if you're carrying the bag for a while, especially if it's heavy. However, it looks great, because it doesn't have any manly functionality, such as a wide shoulder rest. I'm also not a fan of how the strap attaches to the handbag itself. It's easy to clip on and take off, but because it hooks to the rings where the handles attach to the bag, it's awkward to find a way to get the handles to either lay flat or stay out of the way because the rings need to fold down for the handles to lay flush against the bag. Trouble is, when you attach the strap, the rings want to stand up, because gravity wants to pull the rest of the bag down (that sounds confusing--just trust me on this one). There are no other locations to attach the strap, so I'm constantly shifting things around to get this to lay flat, and that stay flush, and this to lead straight, etc.
  • Footies. Yep, the bag's got 'em on the bottom to help protect the bottom of the bag. But it only has 4. This bag is long enough and wide enough that it needs an additional pair in the middle. Not many people will see the bottom of the bag, but over time, I'm not sure if the wear and tear will start to damage the middle of the bottom of the bag.
  • Noise. This bag is...squeaky. Not a lot, but enough that you can certainly hear it. I'm not sure if it's because it's new and needs to be broken in, or if it will make little rubbing and creaking noises for the entirety of its life. This is probably my number one issue, and I hope it goes away! Given that you hardly ever have a bag in a noiseless vacuum, most other people probably wouldn't notice such a minor issue. But for some reason, it bothers me...probably more than it should. Here's to hoping she breaks in nice and soft and quiet!
  • Availability. Now that I have the bag, this is obviously not an issue for me anymore. However, this bag was not easy to track down, especially in this color. And as its demand goes up, so too does the price. Shipping internationally is expensive, especially if you need to pony up for currency-exchange fees, customs fees, etc. I happened to find a company in Canada (Town Shoes) that carries the bag in this color (though it will likely sell out quickly), but ordering was confusing, customer service was horrible, and they limit the number of bags you can purchase (you can't order the same color for another 12 months after purchase, and you can't order a second color for 6 months after your most recent purchase). They are also considering eliminating international shipping, which was a flat $20ish for me to go from Canada to the US. So purchasing this bag from Town Shoes may soon not even be an option outside of Canada anyway--sad face. That leaves Modalu as the only option I'm aware of (where the Shark color sells out within hours of coming into stock, as I found out not once, but twice). I have no idea what their international shipping rates are--sorry!

So that about sums it up. If you have any questions about the bag, I'd be more than happy to answer them! I'll be back soon with a detailed video review for you visual peeps out there, as well as a discussion of other bags I considered in case you're drawn to similar styles but, would rather grab a bag in stores.

Note: Photos/Original Images (in order) from here, here, here, here, here, herehere, and here.