Interview with Erica Breining of HGBags

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, 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.

You must have one of the coolest jobs in the world. What do you love about your job…and what you could do without?

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! 

I am also the owner of a MedSpa, called Bellava, named after my two daughters Isabella and Ava.Isn’t her background fantastic? I’m so happy that I get the opportunity to interview all these smarty pants – and amazing women. Major kudos to Erica for pursuing her dream and making it such a success – an inspiration story to all women (and men!) out there. Thank you Erica for taking the time to share your wealth of knowledge with us – and for letting us take a peek at all the lovely items you sell! For more of Erica and her shop, visit HGBags.

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  • Lindsay @ A Walk in the Closet
    September 28, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    Great interview Katherine! I love windowshopping on HGBags. 😉

    Thanks for choosing Erica to interview! I really enjoy these interviews with stylish women who had or have careers that are non-fashion related or even complete polar opposites. Working in the financial industry myself and often being in a fashion rut, these women are such an inspiration. I really look forwards to these posts before I go to work each day. What a pick-me-up to start the day off with (along with my daily starbucks, of course!).

  • Make Mommy Chic
    September 28, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    Wow Katherine, it's like you read my mind. I was actually thinking of consigning my red bal city bag with HGbags last night, and now I think that 100% i'm going to do it. Great interview! I look forward to them every wednsday!

  • Yaya
    September 28, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    That's amazing that you got an interview with the brains behind Hg bags!
    I haven't personally purchased anything myself (out of my price but I've definitely gone through her website thoroughly in the past, and can't wait to be able to order something from her because she does offer some of the best prices I've seen up to date. =)


  • vanda
    September 28, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    Great POST, thank you for sharing this site with us!!!!Great stuff!!!! GREATTTTTTT BAGSSSSSSS!!!!!

  • homestilo
    September 28, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    SO many bags! And the Celine leopard print is fabulous!!

  • LC
    September 28, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    i`ve always wondered what HGbags was really all about, so i`m so glad you did this interview! you always ask the best questions!

  • amy b.s.
    September 28, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    really great bags!

  • Cindy
    September 28, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    Ahh Balenciagas, I want one in every colour! Black is always a good place to start I guess…hahah

  • Mary Ann
    September 28, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    This is a great interview – I've been wanting to know more about this company as I've been browsing the site recently. Thanks!!

  • Mindy♥
    September 28, 2011 at 4:12 pm

    Thank you for this great review! I've always been curious about Erica from HGBags! 🙂

  • Elaine A (TOBeautyReviews)
    September 28, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    Wow amazing interview! I have never bought off ebay, just too sketchy for me but I have heard about the great reputation of HGBags from other bloggers. Nice to hear more about the person behind the site. And woohoo I'm a chemical engineer too! 😉

  • skippysays
    September 28, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    What a fun interview- thanks for doing this!

  • tiffyama
    September 28, 2011 at 5:00 pm

    Great interview! Definitely learned a lot from reading it. 😀 -sigh- One day I shall own one of these lovely bags!!!

  • Lindsay
    September 28, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    I'd never heard of this company, but I'm happy I did. Ebay always takes too much of a cut from my bag sales.

  • Nelah
    September 28, 2011 at 6:11 pm

    I LOVE this post because I love designer handbags. So glad you have this interview because I have never heard nor trusted any online sellers on high end items EVER.

    I have always been extremely skeptical about authenticity of stuff sold online at eBay and other sites so I opt to buy direcly form Boutiques, for a peace of mine. Now I feel at ease about this site and I am in love with that Celine Cobalt bag, so bold and gorgeous. Thanks for sharing, I am a fan of your interview series.

  • Chocolate, Cookies & Candies
    September 28, 2011 at 6:48 pm

    Kudos to Erica. She's an inspiration to many moms who became mompreneurs. I think what she has done and achieved is truly remarkable. Good on her for pursuing her dream and passion.

  • Chocolate, Cookies & Candies
    September 28, 2011 at 6:48 pm

    Kudos to Erica. She's an inspiration to many moms who became mompreneurs. I think what she has done and achieved is truly remarkable. Good on her for pursuing her dream and passion.

  • Melissa
    September 28, 2011 at 8:36 pm

    Wow! Still killing it on the interviews, I see. You are totally amazing, as is Erica. What an inspiration! I love hearing about women owning businesses and keeping with what they love. She seems truly awesome.

    I'm back, and I've missed you! So glad to see you're still going strong 🙂


  • !Tb0n3!
    September 28, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    I love Erica. I got some of my bags from her and the customer service I got was outstanding. Thank you for the interview!

  • Kiwi's Fashion Blog
    September 28, 2011 at 11:53 pm

    Love Erica!
    Thanks for the awesome interview!!

  • Snazzy Dollface
    September 29, 2011 at 4:20 am

    WOW! I really like the PS1 bag! The colors are so vibrant!

  • Ale e Elis
    September 29, 2011 at 4:41 am

    Love the first bag!

  • stylish with a budget
    September 30, 2011 at 1:03 am

    thanks for the interview!!
    i love erica!! she's awesome!! i bought a chloe from her and the shipping was speedy and the purse was perfect.

  • audrinajulia
    September 30, 2011 at 11:30 am

    Awesome interview! Love all the tips. You're such great doing interviews of amazing personality.Better check her website for amazing deals!:) Till next week!Regards.

  • urbanjunglefashion
    October 3, 2011 at 5:41 am

    Another awesome interview. I love how she mentions she went to an Ivy League school, got a fantastic job at a prestigious company, but wasn't scared to leave that and now works for herself. I pray I follow that same pattern.

  • Anonymous
    October 6, 2011 at 4:20 am

    nice job! a fun and interesting read