The Ladybug Has Good Luck: Meeting Hanif Kureishi at the Milanesiana

The Ladybug Chronicles - Kureishi 01I had a pending situation with my favorite writer, Hanif Kureishi.

You may remember the chronicles of my vicissitudes trying to meet him for a picture or a simple signing of my book last year during La Milanesiana in Milan. Well, throughout the course of the year nothing much changed. He came to Italy a couple of times, but for some reason I wasn’t in town, I couldn’t go or something came up and that left me chasing my little reader dream.

The Ladybug Chronicles - Kureishi 05When Miss Sgarbi came back with a new edition of this successful event, the first thing that I did was download the agenda to see who was invited! … I was at work, but I couldn’t hold the little scream of joy when I saw that he was on the menu… excuse me… the panel again!

The Ladybug Chronicles - Kureishi 02It was set for the 1st of July at the Piccolo Teatro Grassi and this year’s theme was… The Good Luck!  A good sign, right?

The Ladybug Chronicles - Kureishi 03I spent the whole week before the event in a whirl of ups and downs: ups when I imagined finally talking with him, shaking hands or just taking a picture- downs when I reminded myself to not be so “dreamy” because I’d be sure to return home with the same disappointment as the year before.  And this was my daily mental game, until that night.

The Ladybug Chronicles - Kureishi 08I was very nervous and he was not the first one to present his lecture. I barely followed the others, except for Fleur Jaeggy whom I enjoyed a lot. Admittedly I spent the few minutes of his reading basking in his voice and my beloved British accent like a little girl listening to her mum’s voice singing a lullaby.

The Ladybug Chronicles - Kureishi 06As he finished and I came to myself, I realized the time was soon approaching for my dream to come true. But when the magic is finished and the moment arises, what in the world am I going to talk with him about and more importantly, how was I to insure this moment not pass me by again?  I decided to write to Mr. Kureishi a little message and pass it through one of the ushers. Not easy! First of all I didn’t have any paper (which means that I had to write on my business card!). Second, I had to face the total lack of interest and curiosity of the ushers: “Excuse-me can you give this to Mr. Kureishi?” – “Mr. who?” – was the first answer. Oh well… ”you know, he read earlier…” – “I didn’t pay any attention”. Cool. “But you can give it to the hostesses they will find him.. “Erm… you know… it’s quite urgent…” –  “If you know who he is you can give it him.”  Yes!

The Ladybug Chronicles - Kureishi 07I saw that he was sitting on the front row but guess what?, he was sitting in the middle of the row! The first person I could give the paper to and who could pass it to him was an old lady, whom I asked a couple of times (I think in three different languages) before she understood what she had to do with it. I thanked the lovely lady and came back to my sit waiting impatiently for the event to conclude.

Well… I don’t remember what happened after that, but I had been told later (once recovered from the shock) that he came out to look for me. We went to the bar for a drink, I looked like a 15 year old girl in front of the singer of One Direction- I spoke for half an hour without pausing for breathing. I have been told that I also said at some point that I spoke English, but that the language coming out from my mouth was difficult to understand. Long after, I realized the copy of the book (The Last Word) that I had in my hand was signed with a dedication to my name… oh, and there were pictures in my camera and iPhone with me next to him.

The Ladybug Chronicles - Kureishi 04So, I guess it happened. And I guess it really was good luck.

Thank you, Mr. Kureishi.

The Ladybug is an Italian Beauty at Sephora’s Book & Makeup Event in Milan

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You know already that I am a Sephora fanatic: I spend a lot of time (and money!) in their shops, and it is one of my favorite shopping places in Milan. I can always find the latest trends and my favorite makeup brands, but did you know that Sephora could also be a perfect place for a book event…? Well, the answer is yes- if it is a book about makeup!

A few weeks ago Erica (Erica Makeup Dolls), Alessia (My Head is a Fashion Jungle) and I had been invited to the presentation of Anna Airoldi and Gabriella Lojacono book called: “Italian Beauty,” a special journey inside the world of beauty and its secrets, a world in constant change and evolution- approached by two curious customers, Anna and Gabriella. Gabriella was amazing and told us about how the book was conceived and how they found out about a new fascinating world behind the scenes of the Italian makeup market. I also loved the simplicity of her approach with the genuine curiosity of a user/customer and a woman, like all of us, who loves makeup- as we all do! It was the same approach she used with us when we started taking selfies… plus she had (like one of the Benefit Cosmetics slogans) “the most powerful make up that a woman can wear,”  her contagious smile!

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Of course there wasn’t a better place than Sephora to talk about beauty! Moreover it all happened in their wonderful new shop on via Durini with some special guests that have a lot to say about beauty. All of the Benefit Cosmetics crew was there, not only as special partners of Sephora, but also to help us girls try the new amazing They’re Real liner gel and mascara and share the famous Brow Bar experience!

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Last but not least, Mr. Daniel Makeup, one of the most famous beauty bloggers and youtubers, was there to share some beauty secrets with all of us and to take pictures of course!

Here you can find some of our delirious pictures with him, Erica and Aurora, the beautiful and talented Benefit Cosmetics beauty consultants!

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The Ladybug “Does the Right Thing” at Fa’ La Cosa Giusta!

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A few weeks ago I read on Internet two good articles: first thing was about one of my favorite fairs coming to town for the weekend; the second was about a new book that I wanted to get and its author presenting it in town that same weekend. Only later did I realized that the two events were actually happening at the same time/place!

I am still hanging around with my broken finger, but as I missed the “Fa’ la cosa giusta” fair last year I didn’t want to miss it again this year: if you are in Milan, I am pretty sure that you know about it as it represents the most important fair about critical consumerism and sustainable lifestyle. This was the 11th edition and it was as successful as the others which means that maybe, people are finally becoming interested in a new way of living and consuming with a more critical eye on our daily actions and on the impacts that they can have on our environment.

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I was very surprised about all that could be found there: from sustainable ways of traveling or organizing your wedding, to recycling and reusing objects by giving new life to what we don’t need to throw away and not to mention clean and healthy eating: there is a way to take care of ourselves and of others in everything that we do.

Of course I was pretty much into food: not only because I am a food lover, but mostly because I decided to start a new healthier way of eating since coming to Milan (where fruits and veggies usually don’t taste like fruits and veggies!), one that is more conscious and more critical, which is the best decision I could have ever made in my life! I am still eating meat on my path through “I am what I eat.” Still, my dietary journey is ever changing and evolving and I can’t deny that I am tempted by vegetarianism or even veganism even if I know that this kind of choice needs more time and meditation for me! I am very open and curious toward these ideas and I keep adding new elements to my diet that I discover through vegan blogs and recipes.

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This is why, when I read that my adored Paola Maugeri (a woman that I’ve loved since I was a teenager and MTV addict) was presenting her new book of vegan recipes Las Vegans, at Fa’ la cosa giusta, I decided to head to the fair that Sunday to have the chance to listen to her… which was a great idea!

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Paola was smarter and more charming and charismatic than I expected and her fight for the social acceptance of veganism really drew me in. I bought her book (and started using the nutritional yeast that she mentioned a couple of times!).  I had the chance to talk to her about the best places to shop for healthy food in Milan and I received a great compliment from her regarding my ’80s look!

By the way… do you know that she is a vintage lover? I remember meeting her at the airport some time ago wearing an amazing vintage head-to-toe ’70s outfit!!

Here I’m wearing Replay jeans, vintage trophy jacket from Montagnola market in Bologna, Isabel Marant boots, my Pushkin bag from Saint Petersburg and vintage YSL frames from Oggetti Smarriti.

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The Ladybug is a Vintage Reader at the Salone del Libro Usato in Milan

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Living in Milan, one of the events that I really cannot miss is the Used/Vintage Book Expo. I enjoyed it so much last year (I still remember that day was the first snow of the season!) that I couldn’t wait for this year’s event which would happen during the last weekend of November.

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This year things were a little bit different: first, the location (one of side pavilions of the Milanocity Fiera) was not as beautiful as it was last year.  I also noticed there were few more antique book collectors compared to the year before.

I love those big volumes full of dust- that smell, the history…, but I prefer less vintage finds in this instance… like comics or just used books at ridiculous prices!

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My friend Silvia was visiting during that weekend and we took some time to play at the little playground near the Fair… I wore a Twenty8Twelve taupe military jacket with an H&M black sweater and leather midi skirt. I added black man brogues from Marco and my small Balenciaga handbag.

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This year I found some old Valentina comics (I was so happy because after her expo last summer, I wanted to read so much more about her!) and three used books for 2 euros each: my beloved American writer, James Baldwin; one of my favorite French writers, Jean-Claude Izzo, and my favorite book from University, Maruja Torres’ Amor America.The Ladybug Chronicles-5062

The Ladybug’s Vintage Book Club Goes in the Author’s Office: Introducing the Amazing Naomi Thompson, author of “Style Me Vintage – Clothes”

Being an avid reader and vintage addict, I spend a lot of time on Amazon or in bookstores (especially abroad) looking- not only for vintage books- but also for books about vintage.
I have two entire shelves full of books about vintage fashion, vintage style, vintage furniture and even vintage cooking and tea parties. The “Style Me Vintage” collection is one of my favorite so far: the first two books “Style Me Vintage: Hair” and “Style Me Vintage: Makeup” are an incredible source of ideas and tips to create great hair and makeup in a perfectly vintage style. They’re also a very interesting journey through different eras and concepts of beauty and hair style.
This is why, when I read the third installment of the collection, “Style Me Vintage: Clothes,” was coming out soon this year- I jumped online to order my copy! When I read that Naomi Thompson (one of my vintage gurus!) was the author I really got excited about it and checked the waiting list every day to see when the book would be in stock and I could finally get a copy of it!
If you don’t know about Naomi Thompson let me say that she is THE vintage reference not only for those of you are just approaching vintage fashion, but in general- for all vintage lovers! She is one of the most important and recognized vintage stylists and personal shoppers in the UK. Her site was immediately included in The Guardian’s “What’s Hot” list, and she is unbeatable in finding the best quality vintage items at the right price. As I told you, she’s my vintage guru!
When I finally received her book I immediately sat on the sofa with a cup of tea and read it all that afternoon! “Style Me Vintage: Clothes” is full of tips, looks and useful recommendations for everybody loving vintage. After a very interesting introduction; with many tips on how to date vintage clothes and how to find your personal vintage style along with great tips for buying vintage, Naomi starts a beautiful journey from the 20s through the 80s, providing many beautiful pictures and descriptions of the characteristics and features of each decade and amazing looks that re-create the daily and evening looks typical of those years.
The last part of the book is all about very useful tips: from vintage swimwear and lingerie to how to repair and maintain your vintage clothes, from the best labels and online shops to the most interesting books and online reading. A special mention goes to the casting of the models: the pictures are really beautiful, but the models are simply perfect! Fleur De Guerre is still at the top of my list of my favorite vintage models, but I also loved Annie Andrews, Hazel Holtham and Jennifer Siggs!
What I liked most about this book, is the fact that it is open to everyone: there’s advice and tips for those who wants to create their own vintage style as well as for those who are already into vintage. But for me the very important part of it is that Naomi doesn’t give general rules to follow blindly just to get “ a vintage look.” She helps women define their personal vintage look. The wide range of looks presented are not a model but an example to help women find their personal style. If you look at vintage bloggers, for example, they all are very different from each other and this is what makes them unique. Their style is considered vintage or vintage inspired but everyone uses the vintage touch infused in so many different ways. This is why I fell into vintage: it allows me to be myself, to wear things that nobody else wears and to mix it in my very personal way.
When I finished the book I contacted Naomi to tell her how much I loved it and how interesting I found it; I also asked her for an interview and I found out that she’s also one of the loveliest people I’ve ever met!

TLC: Naomi, I really enjoyed your book “Style Me Vintage: Clothes,” not only for the helpful tips but also because it is really inspiring for those women who would “learn” how to add a vintage touch in their style. What inspired the idea to write a book about vintage?
NT: Thank you, it is always a pleasure to hear. Unfortunately, the idea was not mine! I was lucky enough, a year ago this month, to be approached by the publishers to make the book. It was a bit of a heart stopping moment. They had followed my work and writing and liked the mixture of clothes, events and social occasions. The format is not far off at all [from] what I would have come up with, and I was very, very lucky that they humoured me in many ways and allowed me to choose the content around the looks. For instance, I was really happy to have the recommended reading section and the page about creating your looks. Half way though making it, it hit me like a ton of bricks that I did not want to make a book that dictated how anyone should dress and I changed the approach to make it more ‘relaxed.’ I think this has been key to its success. I don’t like being told what to wear!
TLC: One of the things that I appreciated most in your book is the idea of vintage fashion as a sign of individuality, a way to escape from the high street diktats to embrace a very personal way of dressing. Can you tell us more about your idea of vintage? What does vintage represent for you and why a woman, in your opinion, should consider wearing vintage?
NT: I feel quite strongly about this. I hate the idea of vintage becoming another slavishly followed trend that people feel obliged to follow. I believe we all need a creative outlet in our lives and our choices when it comes to dressing can provide this. On that note no one should wear vintage if they don’t want to. To me it’s exciting, it makes me feel unique and it’s also an enjoyable hobby, but it’s also a personal choice. There are so many forgotten shapes and patterns to choose from. [Incorporating] the vintage ‘palette’ [gives a] much broader [scope of choice] than if you dressed to be ‘on trend’ in high street clothes. You don’t have to go the whole hog though. I’m a big fan of old and new mixed.
TLC: In the UK, you are considered a “guru” when it comes to vintage fashion and your experience as a vintage personal shopper is clear: how has this experience helped you and what have you learned?
NT: I am quite happy to be a vintage shopping and dressing guru, but I can assure you- there are many people out who know a lot more about vintage than I do. I am no fashion historian. I am completely self-taught, and even that was backwards! My love of cut and colour came first. I still base my choices purely on the aesthetic appeal and garment quality. It was only later that I learnt about labels and fashion history. The personal shopping idea came from years of dressing people in vintage clothing for shoots or styling projects and developing a fairly quick eye when it comes to knowing if a vintage garment will fit someone
TLC: Some time ago we talked about the great success of charity shops in the UK, do you find some of your vintage clothes there? Do you have a favorite one in London?
NT: Yes; I do find them but it’s becoming harder, without a doubt. I also have a bit of a bee in my bonnet with ‘vintage sections’ in charity shops. It’s amazing the vintage that doesn’t end up there. Also I’m sorry to say, I have yet to see a charity shop with a vintage section that is fairly priced. The price range seems to be based purely on the supposed ‘age’ of the garment with no regard for quality or condition. For example I will not pay £19.99 for a smelly stained 70s polyester blouse just because it is from the 70s. I could go to a good vintage shop near me and get a lovely one, in mint condition for £12, that has been washed and lovingly sourced. The best shops are the ones that have a flat price of say £5 for dresses, £3.99 for cardies etc. There is an amazing charity shop in London (all I am saying is it in Hackney) where I have to date, found 6 pre-50s dresses for a fiver each.
TLC: We always try to find new tips about where to buy the best vintage around and you’re definitely the perfect person to ask! Which are your favorite shops or markets where you can find the best bargains in London or anywhere else?
NT: The problem with knowing where the best vintage is, is that after a while of recommending places, they tend to either up their prices or they run out of good stock. This has happened to two shops that I used to adore!
I’ll give you my two favourite shops and leave you to find the rest 😉 The best thing anyone can do is to take a weekend and go and have a good rummage in your area. Vintage is everywhere right now.
The Vintage Emporium and Tea Rooms (Bacon Street, just off Brick Lane)
If pre 1950s is your thing then this is worth more than a trip to the V&A. Owners Olli and Jess really know their stuff and the upstairs tea room is the perfect place to relax away from the Brick Lane masses.
Dead Man’s Glory Vintage (Portsmouth)
Luci’s shop is more like the local hang for the vintage obsessed and she always pulls something amazing out of the bag.

Soul Sunday with KNAGUI: A Corset For Your Thoughts???

“The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier” premiered at the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA), on November 13, 2001 and ran through February 12, 2012.  This was the DMAs inauguration into the art of contemporary fashion, which featured a multimedia exhibition of one of the world’s most celebrated couturiers.

I was really excited about going to this event.  I actually received the promotion for the show just before it opened and shared it with The Ladybug.  My excitement grew when she (obviously) knew who I was talking about.  I knew nothing about him… Still, I told her I would go, but I knew I wasn’t going to have any time available until February.  That time came on the last day of the exhibit.

Let me admit something… This turned out to not be KNAGUI’s “idea of a good time.”  It may have been better with The Ladybug as my guide to understand exactly what the hell couture is and it’s purpose in the world, but we’ll never know.  There were things I really dug about it, but I’m not a “costume”/”couture” (really don’t know what the difference or line is after seeing this show) wearer, so I couldn’t sink my teeth into his world of fashion.  I did, however, see his philosophy to showcase “the strength of women and the frailty of men” threaded throughout the exhibit.

The exhibition included pieces as recent as his Corcirico ensemble for men featuring black fox, feathers and lamé from the Haute Couture Fall Winter 2011/2012 collection and as vintage as his Sainte Nitouche Cow-Style Gown which was the first piece he created in 1971 (for Pierre Cardin, I think). Described by the Jean Paul as, “my biggest show ever [in] my life,” the more or less 500 works comprising the exhibition illustrate the technical virtuosity, unbridled joie de vivre, and daring flare that I’ve learned can only be Gaultier.

Stage outfits worn by Madonna (including two of the iconic cone bras worn during the 1990 Blond Ambition Tour), and Kylie Minogue are just a few of the 130 couture and ready-to-wear ensembles showcased for men and women spanning from 1976 to 2011.

More than midway through,  I felt like the guy dragged to the museum by his girlfriend, but this time… the girlfriend was me. LOL “I AM A BOY, DAMON!!!” (sorry, it was a movie line that popped in my mind)



Speaking of movies- excerpts from films, concerts, videos and dance performances give insight to Gaultier’s idiosyncratic connections with the worlds of art, music, film, and dance.  I found interesting how these multidisciplinary influences formed his eclectic and global creative vision.  As a wannabe photographer, I was drawn most to the photography.  There were loads of prints from renowned photographers and contemporary artists including Richard Avedon, Nathan Goldberg, Steven Klein,  David LaChapelle, Steven Meisel, Cindy Sherman, Mario Testino, Andy Warhol and more.  I was surprised when I rounded a corner into my favorite room of the exhibit to see the album cover for Cameo’s Word Up! album which was styled by Toyce Anderson.  Seeing it and the rest of the pieces and media in this room was like a much needed caffè Italiano. Buon Giorno!!!

According to Exhibition Curator and Catalogue Editor, Thierry-Maxime Loriot, “When you see the craftsmanship and all the work and how imaginative Gaultier is, I consider him a real artist. He designed more than 150 collections for himself, 15 for Hermès, countless collaborations with movie directors from Peter Greenaway to Luc Besson, dance choreographers, pop stars and all the videos he collaborated on, no other designer has ever achieved that much, but what is most fascinating is that it is always innovative, always new, never boring, which is exceptional. He initiates the trends rather than following them, which explains why he is still here after 35 years.” Adds exhibition catalogue contributor Suzy Menkes, Fashion Critic and Editor at the International Herald Tribune, “He is not just a fashion designer, he has created kind of modern art that should be in a museum.”

This may not have turned out to be my favorite assignment, but I did walk away with a refreshing prospect of how to open myself up for both my life and my art. Gaultier said two things that I’m keeping with me.  He said, “we must be proud to be different.” This is something that I’ve always embraced, but sometimes I need a reminder of accepting others’ differences.  This  evening helped.  He also said, “In life, I like the blemishes, scars, emotions of the skin, of the flesh of the moment.” To me, it was a testament of how soft his skin might be to absorb so much from the world around him and then squeeze out something so different yet similar …but beautiful (…But Beautiful is an awesome Shirley Horn compilation. I couldn’t help adding this because she’s such a big influence of mine). I’ve been wanting to make myself more absorbent to the world around me.  I think this helped me understand a bit more about how to do that. So to answer my question, a corset for my thoughts… NEVER! …but I can think of a wonderful being to put a corset on. lol

The exhibit is accompanied by the English publication of a 424-page exhibition catalogue. It features interviews with Gaultier friends, colleagues, and muses including Madonna, Pedro Almodóvar, Carla Bruni Sarkozy, Catherine Deneuve, Carine Roitfeld, Boy George, Marion Cotillard, Pierre et Gilles, Helen Mirren, Dita Von Teese, Tom Ford, and Victoria Abril, among others.

The next stop for the exhibit is: de Young-Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; March 24 – Aug 19, 2012.

The Ladybug’s Vintage Book Club Reads: “Hermès. L’avventura del lusso” by Federico Rocca

Since going to the Forlì Vintage Festival and meeting Luigi Cagliari from Tara Vintage, I realized after a couple of conversations with him, that although I love Hermès stuff so much, I don’t know that much about their history.

That’s why, when I read about this new book completely dedicated to Hermès’ history, I ran to the book store to get myself a copy to try to understand how and why Hermès is a real icon today. How is it possible that their bags are sold at auctions as if they were paintings, and why is it one of the few companies with a 46% profit during the most powerful crisis of the century?

Federico Rocca, the writer, is first journalist I really appreciated for his serious, no fashion fantasies commentary! The history starts in 1837, when the Maison was created by the saddler Thierry Hermès, as a reins and equestrian equipment factory, until the arrival of Jean-Louis Dumas in 1978 who brings Hermès, in a few years, to top of the world’s most important luxury brands. The history brings the reader through the adventure of a real luxury family starting with saddles and reins and moving to handbags, silk foulards (the famous carré), clothing, home design and jewellery.

Family history and the French society are always linked throughout this amazing book. All the most important designers working for Hermès are greatly remembered (from Véronique Nichanian to Herni D’Origny, to Leila Menchari), and the last chapter is a real guide to buying authentic Hermès vintage and how to recognize it from the knockoffs.

A special attention is given to the history of the two Hermès iconic bags: the Birkin and the Kelly.

The highly coveted Hermès Birkin bag was originally created in 1984 by Jean-Louis Dumas for British-born model-actress-singer, Jane Birkin. The story goes: the pair were seated next to one another on a flight from Paris to London in 1981 when Jane’s belongings tumbled out from her straw bag stored in the overhead. The actress told Dumas that she couldn’t seem to find a leather weekender that she actually liked, which compelled the designer to create one just for her. In April of this year, Jane auctioned her infamous bag on eBay and donated all $163,000 of the proceeds to the British Red Cross for relief efforts in Japan.

Since the days of its creation, the Birkin has become the ultimate status symbol for fashionable women around the globe. It is distinguished by its handmade craftsmanship, the Hermès signature saddle stitch developed in the 1800s and by its padlock closure with the keys tucked away in a leather clochette. Hermès actually started in 1837 as a premier horse bridle and harness shop- producing fine saddlery for the elite in the late 1800s and introduced high-end clothing, accessories and leather handbags in the 1920s. Émile-Maurice, son of the company’s founder Charles-Emile Hermès, began creating handbags because his wife complained of not being able to find one that she liked. Sound familiar? In 1935 the Sac à dépêches (meaning “news bag”) was released. It was a smaller, updated version of the first ever Hermès bag, the Haut à courroies, which was created in 1900 and designed to carry the saddles of horseback riders. The Sac à dépêches was later renamed the Kelly bag in 1956 after Grace Kelly: when the new Princess of Monaco was photographed holding the purse on the cover of Life magazine to purportedly hide her baby bump. The Kelly is actually quite similar to the Birkin except for a few key differences: the Kelly is more formal and refined, while the Birkin is more casual and youthful; the Kelly has one handle instead of two like the Birkin; the Kelly has a convenient shoulder strap, while the Birkin does not; and the Kelly is a little less expensive than the Birkin.

The Birkin bag typically ranges in price from $9,000 to $180,000, depending on hide, size, and hardware. It is most popular in 30, 35, and 40 centimetres with weekender sizes available and there is also a Baby Birkin ($5,000) which barely holds a cell phone. The $180,000 Diamond Birkin features a diamond encrusted lock and clasp and is by far the hardest to find as very few are produced each year. There is one Birkin; however, that outshines all the rest. Created by Japanese designer Ginza Tanaka, this one-of-a-kind platinum evening Birkin is covered in over 2,000 diamonds totaling 208 carats. The bag sold in 2008 for $1.9 million, making it one of the world’s most expensive handbags. Serving multi-functional purposes, it has a removable 8-carat pear shaped diamond and a detachable diamond strap that can be used as a necklace or bracelet. (The Affluist, 17/10/2011)