Kate Beavis, a pro-ageing advocate on TikTok, has what many women (and some men) lust over: a stellar handbag collection full of vintage finds, ready for any occasion.
The 50-year-old, based in Bedfordshire, doesn’t actually know how many bags she owns for certain – but she hazards a guess it’s upwards of 150.
When exactly Kate’s stash became a collection is hard to say, too. The collector always been keen on vintage fashion and unique finds, so she’s been buying them since her teens.
‘I’ve been wearing vintage and shopping second-hand since the 80s, and I don’t throw much away,’ Kate tells Metro.co.uk.
‘If I’m buying something, I genuinely like it, so while the odd thing will go to a charity shop, most of it I’m keeping and using.
‘Buy less, buy better, and keep hold of it forever.’ That’s Kate’s shopping mantra.
‘There wasn’t a “I’m going to collect handbags moment – it just happened”.’
Historically, Kate had a trunk at the bottom of her bed for her bags. Over the decades, it’s massively outgrown that space and now goes wherever it fits or looks best.
Since meeting her husband, 17 years ago, she started actively collecting specific coveted items from the 50s and 40s.
In 2008, she opened a vintage shop (which has since closed) – a job that went hand-in-hand with her passion for owning vintage bags.
‘At that point I started understanding they had a value,’ Kate says, hence wanting to collect specific high-value designs, such as Enid Collins’ box bags from the 60s.
Another bag Kate was keen to get her hands on was a popular telephone wire bag, big in the 40s, which is now very rare to find.
Kate looks on a variety of sites for goods alongside vintage shops, from eBay and Vestiaire Collective to Etsy.
‘Now I’m buying less. Unless there’s something specific, I’m not buying it, as I have way too many,’ she says.
‘The price will determine whether I buy it, as I know the value of these items.
‘If a bag is worth £70, I don’t want to spend that on it – I’d want to find it for, say, £8.
‘There are a couple of rare finds that are still on my list, and I’m looking for them.’
One of these is a hard-structured plastic clutch bag that looks like a rolled-up magazine – there’s plenty of reproductions of them, but not many originals exist and it can be hard to tell them apart. Kate, naturally, is holding out for an original.
As for where these bags live, a trunk houses evening and flat bags, the walls have iconic items like windowpane bags [with plastic covers and embroidery] on display, and a cupboard in the spare room has the rest all stacked up.
‘One of my rarest finds is a red clutch bag made with early plastic. Another is a Dorset bag, which on its own isn’t that rare, but the company Dorset merged in the 50s with a company called Rex. Most people have the Dorset Rex version, but I have the earlier Dorset version with the original compact and lipstick in it.
‘That only means something to you if you collect,’ she laughs.
Another special bag for Kate is the one she wore for her wedding. She bought a wooden box bag specially for the big day, which goes back to the 60s. At the time they were designed to be painted on by the user, and sometimes even built using the loose parts. Kate’s came readymade and painted, with a daisy design.
Though she hasn’t used it since that day, she’ll treasure it forever.
Another notable buy is Orla Kiely’s orange Lola face bag – which Kate calls a ‘future classic’ – it’s rare and the value of the style is always going up, with some even selling online for £600 according to Kate.
‘I love having something that nobody else has,’ Kate says, when reflecting on her love of vintage items.
‘I don’t conform and I’ve been like since my teens. I was a goth at 14, and in general love anything that feels nostalgic. One of my bags from my teens was from my grandmother, for example.
‘I enjoy being a bit different and being myself. And as for why the collection has become so big, well, I think I have a bit of an addictive personality – if I like something I really like it.
‘And I still wear things I bought in the 90s. My favourite coat is one I bought in 1999 and I use it every winter, for example.
‘I still get excited by my bag collection – when I see my bags together, I get reminded of all the ones I love but have neglected.
‘Although honestly, I was quite shocked at how many bags I had when I got them all out for the photographer.’
Kate wears and uses her bags, being someone that changes her bag often to match her outfit.
Although, she prefers to use the more robust ones day to day, such as her second-hand Mulberry bag.
But, no matter what, it’s always second-hand.
Vintage is a way of life for Kate, as ‘everything’ in her house is old and second-hand. It’s important to both her and her husband (who collects vintage tools).
It’s not just about monetary value either, as Kate has items purely for sentimental reasons.
One black beaded bag from the 60s belonged to her mum, and while it’s not worth ‘a fiver’, Kate wore it on her first date with her husband, so it means something and will always remain in her collection.
Sometimes, she does sell bags – though not often. Occasionally, if something isn’t getting use but is high in value, Kate will decide to part ways with a fashion item.
But ultimately, the 50-year-old is ‘confident in knowing’ know she likes.
And what Kate likes, evidently, are iconic vintage bags. And heaps of them.
The Collectables is a Metro.co.uk original series where we spotlight collectors around the world and take a tour of their impressive collections.
We’ll witness standout pieces, get a glimpse of rare finds, and uncover more about what makes people start collecting in the first place.
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