My Parisian Spiritual Search
for the “IT” Bag

Click below if you prefer to listen.

Most people would not put the words “spiritual” and “handbag” in the same sentence.

But, I’m not like most people.

I’ve found God at Bergdorf’s.

I’ve had a spiritual experience at the Ritz Carlton.

And more recently, I had an awakening while on the search for the perfect handbag in Paris.

I believe that the presence of a higher power is everywhere, in everything, and in everyone. Everything we think, feel and choose is an expression of our soul. Spirituality is not just what happens for one hour every Sunday morning.

So be sure that you choose wisely and well in everything you do.

Curious?

Let me share a story that explains…

My Love Smack from God at Chanel’s Flagship in Paris.

Upon arriving in Paris, I knew I was going to invest in a fantastic handbag.

It was my gift to myself for raising my daughter and sending her off to school.

I had already decided.

It was going to be a Chanel.

Because isn’t that the handbag every woman should own?

So, on a Wednesday afternoon, my Uber dropped me off at 31 Rue Cambon

And I entered a dream-like state.
I sauntered past Coco’s iconic staircase.
Yes, I had found Bliss.

And my breath was taken away.

Literally.

Suddenly my ribs were squeezed so tight it was hard to breathe.

While I was in my dream state, I realized that I had been herded into the store with what felt like hundreds of other people who apparently had the same idea as me.

Packed into the renowned boutique like a can of sardines, I attempted to squeeze myself between the other raving fans so I could at least get a close up look at the classic Chanel flap bag. But our bodies were so packed tightly, I could only see a glimpse from afar.

I had such a romantic idea brewing in my mind that visiting Chanel during Paris Fashion Week would be so intimate and special.

Quickly, I began to wonder what the heck I was doing.

I asked myself,

“Tonya, why do you really want a Chanel bag?”

As I was being pushed and elbowed from every side, I began to do this mental inventory of why I was standing in the store at that very moment.

I was on the brink of a spiritual awakening, and it came at the most unexpected time (as it usually does).

That’s when I realized the real reason why I was there.

And it made me sick to my stomach.

I was standing inside Chanel because of vanity.

A Chanel bag, in my eyes, was a sign of accomplishment.

I had this belief that when you carry a Chanel, it’s like carrying a badge of honor like you’ve finally “arrived” as a woman.

I remember seeing women at the airport with the iconic flap around their shoulder and thinking,

“Wow, they must be important.”

Or

“They must have a man that really loves them.”

I glanced around the store again. There were several men in the Chanel store buying their wife (or mistresses) a bag.

My throat tightened up.

I started to ask myself:

Am I here because I want to feel and look important?
Do I not feel loved because my man isn’t buying it for me?
Am I here out of pride?

I was having a hard time breathing.

I needed to get some air.

Now.

I ran out of the Chanel store as fast as I could.

I’d never felt so free and happy out on that Parisian sidewalk.

I was still a lady without her haute couture handbag, but I had something so much better.

I had uncovered a deep knowing of who I am as a woman.

I don’t want to buy things to impress others or fill a hole in the soul that things can’t fill. I want to invest in things that bring me joy.

I went to my favorite people watching bar, Hotel Costes, to celebrate with a French Kiss cocktail carrying my old purse that I’d been carrying for years.

As I sat there all alone thinking about what had just happened, I realized that this wasn’t about a Chanel bag.

I thought about the many women I know who carry their Chanel with so much love and true joy. They bought it for the right reason. One of my favorite gifts ever is a pair of Chanel earrings given to me by a client (she has a true lover and aficionado of Chanel).

This was about being my own woman and really knowing what I like, instead of following trends and shoulds or vanity.

This was about me listening to my heart.

One of the ways I make decisions is to ask myself, “Why?”

And, if at the bottom of that questioning is a reason I don’t like, I don’t do it.

I didn’t like my reason for wanting a Chanel bag.

And for that reason, I didn’t buy it.

Don’t ignore taking a good look at the flip side of vanity. 

While I had determined that my handbag wouldn’t be Chanel, I was not about to abort my mission. I was still on the hunt for my handbag.

However, it was Paris, and I knew that there are some missions a girl shouldn’t go it alone.

This was one of them.

A few days later, I met up with my friend and Parisian stylist, Helene, on Avenue Montaigne, the Paris equivalent of NYC’s 5th Avenue. I told her about my whole Chanel drama, she told me: “Oh, I’m so glad you didn’t buy it.”

I was curious about why a Parisian woman would say that. In fact, it felt like blasphemy. She replied: “Tonya, you won’t see many Parisian women wearing a Chanel bag. It’s so cliche. There are better bags out there for you.”

Now, I had to be really careful not to go down the reverse snobbery hole of this thought:

“I knew it! I’m too cool for Chanel.”

This is a form of spiritual snobbery, to be precise.

This is a seemingly “justified” flipside of vanity these days and has crept into so many of our minds. Mine included!

I am not going to lie, for a moment, I started to feel it.

But, when I noticed where my mind was going after Helene made that comment, I laughed because I knew in that it was just a different side of the same vanity coin.

I simply wanted a handbag that felt like me.

With my trusted style guide by my side, we set off on my spiritual quest for my handbag.

Why are handbags so important to women?

A quality handbag has a unique story to each of us.

First, there is the story of the vision behind its creation, as well as the artisan who’s given birth to it.

Then there’s the story you recall about your experience in the search, deciding upon, and ultimately purchasing it. Where you were, who you were with, how you felt, how it makes you feel. You’re why.

But, more importantly, your handbag will carry the story of your life.

Handbags are our constant sidekick through life– the date nights, running errands with the kids, buying your first home, walking down the streets of NYC, watching your daughter’s dance recital.

She’s always there offering you something simple but needed: a credit card, a handkerchief, a fresh mint, some ibuprofen, a tube of lipstick, your phone, your passport.

She is always by your side.

Oh, it’s about so much more than the handbag.

I didn’t need a new purse. My old purse did the job just fine.

But did I really want one? The answer was clear: YES.

I was going to get a handbag.

Yet, the big question was still unanswered:

Why was I was doing this in the first place?

I realized that I had another false belief that my “why” had to be grand and profound and deep, like it would help me save the world or be a resounding symbol of self-love.

But it wasn’t.

And I really I liked my reason.

It was this:

I appreciate beautiful, well-crafted things.

I like things that will last a lifetime or three.

I love finding things that I can pass down to my daughter, and in turn, she can give to her daughter.

I love making investments in things that never go out of style; items that will appreciate in value over time.

I really like handbags.

Heck, two years later, I still like my reason.

When it comes to purchases, I take them seriously.

They hold the treasured memories of my past as well as the dreams of my future.

Like the big comfy sweater that will forever remind me of one of my first nights with Glenn sitting outside by a fire, or the gold pendant I wear that is engraved with my daughter’s beautiful face.

It’s about how it makes you feel and the memories you’ll associate with the things you own.

Follow Your Heart and You’ll Find Your <insert luxury item here>.

So there I was strolling the streets of Paris with Helene, contemplating the memories I wanted to make and the dreams that I wanted to live.

And these thoughts guided me to the bag that was to be ultimately mine.

My eyes were magnetically drawn to the storefront of Dior.

The entry felt how I want my life to feel — elegant, feminine and powerful.

As we walked in, we were greeted by the most lovely staff, one of which presented Lady Diana with her Lady Dior bag, made in her honor.

And I always adored Lady Diana, so this was yet another sign!

They brought us Champagne, shoes, and bags. I was in heaven. My soul was at ease.

I knew that my next bag would be a Dior.

But, because Dior had just come on my radar as a contestant in my handbag search, I wasn’t ready to make my purchase.

Not just yet.

Buying a designer handbag, for me, is like choosing your next house.

You better like it, because it’s going to be with you for awhile.

I figured that if it was the bag for me, a few days of waiting would tell the truth.

And so I waited.

Then God spoke to me through the Dior salesman.

I took Glenn hostage and dragged him with me to Dior the next week.

We were escorted to a special room where we were served Champagne (the Parisians really know how to quench a lady’s thirst). I told the salesperson about the bag I was thinking about and asked to see it in several colors.

While we were waiting for him to return, I recalled a conversation I’d had earlier in the week with a friend at a cafe in St. Germain.

(Yes, I find that lots of epiphanies happen for me during the seemingly hum-drum “waiting” moments in my life. Note to you: Make sure you are always listening, especially in the unexpected slow times – don’t get tempted to just get busy with unnecessary chatter or phone checking because it feels uncomfortable! The signs are often found in the silence.)

We were having a fun discussion about the next evolution of ourselves. I am SO passionate about the idea that, we women, get to create ourselves (not fix ourselves).

I described the woman I wanted to be as a modern lady.

I explained to her what “A Modern Lady” meant to me:

  • She has a feminine edge.
  • She is kind yet has a red velvet rope policy.
  • She is sophisticated yet down to earth.
  • She knows what she wants.

As promised, the gentleman returned with Diorama handbag, in several colors. I tried them each on in a non-hurried fashion: First black, then navy, and then in grey.

I slid the silver chain holding the grey bag over my shoulder.

That’s when I heard God.

The salesman looked at me with single-pointed focus and said:

“This is “the” bag for the modern lady.”

WHAT?!?!?

I knew it.

This was my bag.

Spirituality isn’t only found in shrines and silence.

“Materialism” gets such a bad rap. Yes, things won’t give you permanent happiness. Yes, our society is obsessed with constant consumerism.

But, when we French Kiss Life, we choose to look at all things through the eyes of spirituality. Everything we purchase, including a handbag, is energy. And, what we consume, carry and converse about is creating our lives.

No, you don’t have to renounce consumerism to be a spiritual person.

Not when you’re French Kissing Life, at least.

Spirituality is a broad concept that has a lot of room for interpretation. My flavor of spirituality is knowing that we are connected to something bigger than ourselves and enjoying and appreciating this life we’ve been blessed with. When you’re in a state of gratitude and joy, you are connected with God.

And in my case, God tapped me on the shoulder in Paris and led me straight out of Chanel and into Christian Dior, to find my perfect handbag. And I learned so much about myself in the process.

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JOIN THE CHIC CONVERSATION: What are your beliefs about Luxury & Spirituality? How might you be inspired to look at things differently when you’re looking to make a future investment in your next “impractical” luxury purchase?

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12 Responses to My Parisian Spiritual Search
for the “IT” Bag

  1. I am so glad you didn’t buy the Chanel.
    Personally, I have some amazing bags, made by hand by artisans, which I won’t see coming and going, or even on Instagram. The quality is excellent. When a thief tried to grab my bag, I didn’t let go, not wanting to spend my weekend getaway at the consulate trying to get a new passport. Plus, it was the most expensive bag I had ever bought (and still is). So I hung on. I got dragged down a busy Barcelona street but my bag didn’t break, and the thief eventually gave up. That is quality.

    • OMG!! THIS podcast in totality is the reason I am happy that Tonya Leigh found me and why I’m soo looking forward to working with her one-on-one. What I see here is for me the perfect balance on the things that are missing the things I need to reconsider, the areas that need elevation pertaining to the iconic life I’m creating — all in one place. I have been following French Kiss life for a couple of months now and I’m always amazed at what I find and the way my mind has shifted. I just want to say Tonya Leigh I’m coming for you (in a good way). My mom recently passed away.😢 As soon as i have things a bit more settled, i am signing up. I can’t wait to work with you. Bonjour!

    • OMG…I just imagined the scene in my mind. You are a BRAVE woman. It reminds me of my beloved cousin who loves all of her designer handbags. Someone tried to steal hers at gunpoint, and she threw her car in reverse and almost ran over the guy. It wasn’t funny then, but we laugh now.

  2. And yet another timely post! Just this past weekend, I had a conversation with a friend regarding my handbag (and why I won’t buy a cheap, mass produced bag). It is a lovely all leather handmade bag from an artisan. It is the prettiest shade of red and soft like a baby’s bottom! I love it and you won’t find it all over the internet or in any store. I refuse to advertise for anyone and want only a quality (read – real leather!) bag. I saved my money until I could pay cash for it and it was worth every sacrifice. It reflects who I am as a woman.

    • Love this, Talia! Some of the best handbags out there are by small artisans. It’s the love, material and stories that make things so special. I bet your bag is GORGEOUS!

  3. WAY TO GO, TONYA~!! I love the way that you describe your adventures so that your readers can get a true sense of what is going on in that moment. And good for you for listening to that still small voice. You are spot on when you say that we need to be purposeful in our purchases. I also love the irony that you ended up with a Christian Dior bag because you listened to what that still small voice spoke to you in that moment. Makes it all worth while in my opinion. Carry that purse with joy~!!

  4. I never really thought much about handbags until recently. I was content with a simple purchase from Target. That is, until one Saturday morning watching QVC with my mom, I saw a Dooney and Burke bag that, for some reason, I wanted. Like I said, I wasn’t a handbag gal; the only designer bags I own were given to me as gifts, and I rarely used them.
    I told my mom how much I loved that bag, but then my limiting thoughts said, “Samantha, you CANNOT afford that!” So I didn’t buy it.
    It came on the following weekend’s QVC specials again. I said, again, “My gosh I love that bag, but I’m not going to buy it. I don’t need it.”

    For Christmas, my mom bought me the bag. She said, you NEVER say that you “love” handbags, so I knew you really wanted it.
    Now, it’s even more special because of the thought my mom put into that gift. I wear it every day.

    This post also brought me back to my first “big” Coach bag that was a gift from my boyfriend’s mom the first year we were together. I was terrified that, deep down, she hated me. And then on Christmas I opened a beautiful Coach bag from her that could not have been cheap. I wore it for years, and it’s starting to get worn. I wore almost every day until my mom bought the D&B bag for me.
    For me, it’s the memories tied to those bags that make them meaningful, not the labels. I do love both of these bags in their own way, and I don’t even contemplate needing another right now. Thank you, Tonya, for this! I love reading these posts on my lunch breaks each week 🙂

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