An Upscale Handbag for Every Occasion in a Click
These days, a handbag is not merely a holdall. A luxury handbag can act like a secret password that opens doors and carries you to higher social circles.
“Many social gatherings and formal events stipulate a certain handbag for their dress codes,” said personal shopper Dini Indra. “And we have to follow these dress codes to be accepted in those social circles.”
A premium handbag can cost you anywhere from Rp 20 million ($2,120) to hundreds of millions of rupiah. A rare and much-sought bag might even have a price tag comparable to a house in the upscale Pondok Indah neighborhood in South Jakarta. And on top of that, women might need a couple of options to match with different outfits on different occasions.
“There is strong demand for premium handbags in Jakarta,” Dini said. “Everybody likes to have one, but not everyone can afford a whole range of them in their wardrobes.”
Dini started noticing this a couple of years ago when she was working as a financial advisor in Tokyo. Her friends in Jakarta often asked her to find them reasonably priced premium handbags from Japanese secondhand stores.
“I was happy to do it for them,” Dini said. “I love shopping.”
And Dini’s friends were happy with her finds, and they continued to flood her e-mail inbox with more requests.
“But the bags were expensive,” she said. “So they had to hold off and save money for their next purchase.”
Of course, by the time the customers had saved enough money, the bags they wanted were not always available.
“They’re my friends so I had to help them,” Dini said.
She made a bold move and resigned from her prestigious financial job in Tokyo to focus on her hobby: shopping.
After returning to Jakarta, she established a business and website, www.butterfly-republic.com, which launched at the Ritz-Carlton Jakarta, Pacific Place, last week.
“The website is like your personal walk-in closet,” she said, adding that it helps customers find premium bags without spending a fortune.
The home page opens with a slide show of the world’s most coveted handbags, including the Hermes Himalayan Birkin and the Louis Vuitton Sevigne.
To browse the full collection of handbags on the website, you have to register as a member. After that you can click on each item to see a description, which includes the dimensions and material.
“To get the full benefits from the website, members have to buy two premium handbags from us,” Dini said. “After the purchases, they have access to up to 24 handbags from our collection every year.”
Dini named the scheme “2 for 24.” After buying two bags, members can bring one home but should leave the other in the Butterfly Republic collection for other members to see and borrow.
“Every member is allowed to borrow two new handbags per month,” she said. “So even though they only bought two handbags, they can use up to 24 handbags a year. Isn’t it a smart, economical solution?”
There are also monthly membership fees. A silver membership program will set you back Rp 500,000 per month and give you access to bags priced at up to Rp 20 million. Gold members pay Rp 1 million but get access to bags that cost up to Rp 40 million. The top tier, platinum, involves a Rp 2 million monthly fee for access to bags priced up to Rp 60 million.
“There are, of course, much more expensive handbags,” Dini said. “But I choose to work with the middle-class market. These are the people who have to maintain a stylish look on limited budgets.”
Dini said customers get back both of their original bags when they terminate their memberships.
“The bags are also good investment pieces,” she added.
Because there is a high demand and a limited supply of luxury bags, their prices appreciate about 30 percent every year, she said.
“So you can eventually sell your used handbag [in mint condition] at a higher price than you bought it,” she said.
Butterfly Republic also gives members a 5 percent annual interest rate on third and fourth handbags purchased through the website.
“It’s almost like a timeshare,” Dini said. “You buy the bags from us, put them in our collection and allow the other members to use them. In return, you’ll receive annual interest from your handbags. Everybody wins.”
Butterfly Republic currently has 25 bags in its collection.
Melinda Babyana, the editor in chief of a lifestyles magazine, said she liked the scheme.
“In my line of work, I should know how to present myself during social occasions,” she said. “I should always look great and stylish. But, of course, I should do it within my means. So I think Butterfly Republic has offered a smart solution for my needs.”
Lisa Soemarto, a financial advisor, is also a fan of the concept.
“It takes money to look good, but with Butterfly Republic you can do it without feeling guilty,” she said.
You can also inspect the bags in person by visiting Butterfly Republic’s boutique at Menara Batavia Apartment in Bendungan Hilir, South Jakarta.
“I offer a totally new and unique scheme,” Dini said. “Hopefully it can answer our needs as modern women who always have to look good and stylish.”