Phyllis Jacobson, also known as the Bagshop handbag detective, spent some time giving LoveToKnow Handbags the inside scoop about her store, her style and her advice for women and their handbags choices. Phyllis is known as the handbag detective because of her knack for helping women find the right handbag. She operates an online handbags and accessories store, as well a collection of brick and mortar stores in the New York metropolitan area.
Bagshop Interview with Phyllis Jacobson
The Early Years
LoveToKnow (LTK): Thanks so much for agreeing to an interview, Phyllis. Tell us a little about your growing up years. Did you always enjoy pretty handbags?
PJ: Yes! I always loved pretty purses and clothes and felt I could add my own touches and accents - I was always creative and could sew and daydreamed about making my own creations
LTK: You started your first handbag business in 1968. Tell us a little about how that came about and where it is now...
PJ: I started the business after I graduated from CCNY with a math degree. I was teaching and wanted a short leather mini skirt but couldn't afford it. So, I went to the leather district, bought some skins and started making custom made leather clothes, fringe vests and pouches, as I could sew and was very handy and a little artistic. The handbag business grew from there. We made custom made handbags through a home party system until 1988, when I started the first retail store in Chappaqua. We now have five stores in New York, in Chappaqua, Bronxville, Scarsdale, Tribeca and Manhattan, and one in Greenwich, Connecticut. My son, Jason, his wife Yami, and my daughter Jennifer help me run the stores.
Phyllis' Obsession with Handbags
LTK: What is your personal favorite handbag? What are you carrying right now?
PJ: My two favorite bags are a pink croco Longchamp bag and a microfiber Carlos Falchi tote. Currently I am carrying the Longchamp bag. And I always wear my Eric Javits hat to protect my skin from the sun (the only hat that really works).
LTK: A little birdie told me that you are the master of matching a bag to the woman. How do you go about this process?
PJ: I'm like a detective…I ask my customers about their needs, their lifestyles and their colors. I listen and adhere to the first two but pride myself on pushing them out of their color zone - often! And they are usually thrilled to discover that a new color actually suits them and makes them very happy.
Bagshop.com, Petticoat Lane and Phyllis' Leather Shop
Phyliis operates Moiseff Designs, Ltd., which includes not only the online Bagshop store, but also several brick and mortar shops that sell handbags and accessories. Petticoat Lane and Phyllis' Leather Shop offer items such as sleepwear, lingerie, hosiery, jewelry, and slippers along with their collections of wallets, bags, and purses.
LTK: About how many different handbags do you carry in your stores?
PJ: Hundreds - from tiny exquisite evening bags to extra-large totes and everything in between.
LTK: How do you stay on top of the handbag fashion trends?
PJ: We go to the shows and many designers give us exclusive first peeks. Sometimes I spot a bag only available overseas and just "know" that it will be a hit, so I get on the phone like crazy to get it into the store.
LTK: You are so good at matching the handbag to the woman that you have some pretty impressive clientelle. Can you share the names of your more famous customers with us?
PJ: Vanessa Williams and Hillary and Chelsea Clinton always come in and shop for bags, lingerie, and fun things. They are all great, fun and very personable.
Choosing the Right Bag
LTK: Even though your stores are located in Connecticut and New York, you also have an online store. How can online customers get help choosing the right handbag?
PJ: Our website, www.bagshop.com, is very user-friendly with good-sized pictures and many links. I advise online shoppers to print out some of their favorites and compare and contrast features before choosing.
LTK: Handbags can be a hefty investment at times. How can a woman choose a handbag that is going to remain timeless, so she can really get her money's worth?
PJ: If you want a bag to remain timeless, the philosophy is the same as with buying a great garment: buy from a classic designer whose style doesn't change all that much. Mix it up though with other fun, less expensive choices. We have bags at all prices and all styles. I think a bag should be practical but fun and not a bank-breaking investment. Buy what you can afford, as we always change our minds and usually want a new bag every season.
LTK: Anything you'd like to add?
PJ: I know a new handbag can't find you love or cure a disease, but I have found through the years that an inexpensive summer tote or a lavish leather dressy bag can lift your spirits and make you feel like a million bucks!
A very warm thank you to Phyllis Jacobson for sharing her unique insight on the handbag fashion world, how to choose the right purse and how to figure out trends. Check the Bagshop website for store locations, or learn more about shopping on Bagshop.com.