Today’s interview is one that I have been really excited to share with you all – Erica from the online store, HGBags. Many of you probably have already heard of HGBags, but for those who haven’t, it is one of the few online shops that has established itself as a reputable seller of designer fashion. I’m always fascinated by what people who truly work in the industry – both on the design and retail side – have to say, as I think their advice can be so helpful and spot on. So I am really happy to have somebody today that has carved themselves a truly successful niche in the luxury industry. Enjoy meeting the lovely Erica!
Who are you? What do you do, and where do you live?
My name is Erica Breining and I am the owner of HGBags. Many know us from our long standing history on eBay as HGBags, as we have been selling authentic designer handbags on eBay and via private e-mail list since 2002. Our current website, www.hgbagsonline.com was launched in 2009. We truly enjoy being able to offer the most amazing sought after authentic handbags, accessories and shoes at discounted prices. Originally we became well known for selling Balenciaga, but have also gained a great following for Celine, Proenza Schouler, Chloe and many other brands such as YSL and Givenchy. Most of our items are brand new but we have also started carrying pre-owned items within the last 2-3 years. We are one of the only sites online that will offer you immediate cash for your bags! We are located in the Metro NY area.
I love being able to bring a high quality product to ladies and men around the world at prices that can’t be beat. It’s an awesome feeling to know that the products we sell, make our buyers so happy. Being able to find a client what they consider their ultimate Holy Grail (HG) is a feeling that makes me want to do this forever. One downside to the job is that our main interaction with clients is via e-mail and truly do love to interact with people directly.
Celine leopard tote
You are one of the few independent retailers that has established a fantastic reputation online for selling authentic merchandise. How difficult was this process?
This process was extremely difficult. There are many suppliers/wholesalers out there, touting that they are selling authentic when indeed, they are selling high end replicas that can appear to be authentic to the novice eye. The truth is that, there is no such thing as a wholesaler. Either you buy directly from the brands, or you buy from authorized selling boutiques and department stores that are buying from the brands. Then, there is never a question. We have worked very hard over the years to gain this trust and build our reputation for only selling authentic. I definitely have my loyal clients on the Purse Forum to thank for always supporting HGBags and endorsing our auctions/listings as authentic when new buyers inquire about us.
Just how many fakes are out there? What’s going on – are they getting better, more sophisticated, etc? What about all these horror stories I hear of people buying real bags from department stores and then returning fake ones?
To be honest, I don’t really pay attention to this market. I focus all efforts on supplying my clients with the real deal at the best prices possible. Like I mentioned before, I only buy from the brands directly or from authorized selling boutiques so I’m not really familiar with the replica market out there today.
Lovely Pauric Sweeney brand – photo courtesy of Purseblog
What are some of your favorite designer brands? Which ones do you think are the best value for their quality?
I’m definitely a Balenciaga and a Proenza Schouler kind of gal – I am currently carrying my Violet Lg. Keepall for an everyday work/laptop bag. I also have a long standing love for LV – my daily standby bag for years was a Speedy 25 Monogram. I tend to like small bags for daily purse use. If we are going for quality at a great value, I love Pauric Sweeney – he has some of the most amazing buttery soft bags with the highest quality down to the last stitch in the $500-$800 range.
What do you think are some of the most overrated/overpriced designer brands?
With all due respect to one of fashion’s most iconic, I think Chanel has gotten a bit carried away with the price increases.
Some of my favorite PS1s in gorgeous colors
What are some of the favorite items you carry? What about your personal favorite item, your favorite holy grail item you own?
I only have a handful of favorites that I rotate. Everyone thinks I must have hundreds of bags but honestly, I have only a few. Amongst my faves is a Bal Tempete City, BV Black Lg Veneta, Pauric Sweeney Mini Overnight in Shiny Leopard Python, LV Damier Azure Speedy 35 and My PS Violet Lg Keepall. My little holy grail is an Amethyst Balenciaga Makeup…it’s my fave color and was given to me by a very special friend.
What items do you find yourself wearing the most? The ones that have had the best “cost per wear?”
Most Balenciaga if the color is popular will have a great resale value if kept in good condition. Celine as well due to the supply/demand issues of the Luggage Tote.
Celine cobalt Mini – via Purseblog
If a woman is only going to buy a few bags – which ones would you recommend? Brands and color recommendations please!
The Balenciaga classic black City is a must have in any wardrobe!! The Celine Cobalt Mini is my second recommendation – it’s a classic bag but in an amazingly bold color. One neutral and one bold to make a statement!
A rainbow of classic Balenciagas in beautiful colors
Can you share some of your advice around fashion/style/shopping/budgeting that you’ve had to learn over the years?
I’ve learned not to buy and succumb to a fad unless you truly love the bag!! If you wear it to death and get full enjoyment out of it, then that’s great. But if you are not sure and end up wanting to resell, once that bag drops off as the “it bag” values crash drastically. Take the Chloe Paddington and the YSL Muse for Example. If you are unsure, then stick to iconic classic styles like the Bal City, Chanel Quilted Classics, the Chloe Paraty, etc, they are safer buys. Quick resales at strong values.
A python Chloe Paraty bag
What are some developments in the luxury/leather/handbag industry that you think are great? What about some less great developments and changes that have occurred in the industry?
I know I’m partial to Bal, but I find it refreshing how many of their new releases every year become super sought after and hotter than the last thing – take the Rose Gold HW and the Covered Hardware for instance – buyers love them just as much as the Gold Giant, Silver Giant or the Classic Brass, if not more…many times when a brand does something new, they do it in a way, where it’s “weird” or “out there” to the average buyer and most people tend to navigate toward the classic repeats that happen season after season to be safe.
Some changes that I’m not so happy with is the decreasing quality amongst some of the top brands. It’s sad to see buyers having to pay prices in the range of $1000-$2000 and having to be concerned about leather quality, hardware, dye variation, etc. It also makes our job difficult – we need to pre-screen bags for quality upon incoming inspection and since there is so much variation from piece to piece depending on style/brand, many of our descriptions are subjective, making it very hard as a seller.
Balenciaga jackets on HGBags – remember the interview with R?
I’d love to hear a little more about yourself! what are your hobbies, some of your background, etc? If you weren’t doing HGBags, what would you be doing?
I am a chemical engineer with a masters in business from Columbia…I started working at IBM as an engineer out of college and started selling my own designer things on eBay as a hobby. I loved doing this and it really took off into a part time business in 2002 and then evolved over the next few years as I started to acquire a lot of my new stock from the brands. When I had my first daughter in 2008, I followed my dream to work on HGBags full time and I left IBM. I then had my second daughter in 2009. I am currently running HGBags and have a few employees that assist in making the day to day operations run smoothly.
Finally, please tell us something surprising about yourself!