Shop Talk: The Investment Bag

Get tips on choosing a designer handbag. Plus: A Bethesda financial adviser's side business is luxury neckwear.

Invest Wisely

$695, Colorblock Bandit Hobo, Coach,
Westfield Montgomery mall, 301-469-6602 

Back-to-school season means new backpacks for kids, but it’s a good time to think about a new bag for yourself. Investment bags, which can last decades if properly maintained, can range from $300 to more than $3,000. We asked two local fashion insiders, Luis Serrat, general manager of Saks Fifth Avenue in Chevy Chase, and Naina Singla, a Bethesda stylist, to share tips to help you shop for a designer bag.

Evaluate your lifestyle 

$695, Link Detail Rogue Tote, Coach,
Westfield Montgomery mall, 301-469-6602 

The type of bag you buy depends on how you spend the bulk of your time. “If you’re going to be in a public space, especially in a city, you need to be cognizant of the closure of the handbag,” says Serrat. “If you work from home and are driving to yoga, you want something less structured that you can toss stuff into,” Singla says. 

Find your color

$328, Make It Mine Byrdie Bag, Kate Spade,
4803 Bethesda Ave., Bethesda, 301-656-2630

“Most women are wearing 20 percent of their wardrobe 80 percent of the time,” says Singla, who suggests focusing on those favorite pieces when determining what color to buy. If your clothes are predominantly black, go for a black or slate gray bag. Opt for a navy or brown bag if you wear more jewel tones. A camel or dark cream bag works best with closets dominated by navies, reds and ivories. 

Consider the materials

$595, Leather tote, Céline Lefebure, Bloomingdale’s,
5300 Western Ave. NW, Chevy Chase Village, 240-744-3700

Serrat says pebbled or textured leather will endure the elements and age the best, while suedes and exotic skins are more delicate. Singla suggests keeping hardware such as chains and studs to a minimum. Both recommend avoiding bags with lots of logos. “Subtlety wins the day,” Serrat adds. “And silhouette is what identifies the status of a luxury bag.” 

Try it on

$1,195, Steel Blue and Black Crocodile Embossed Satin Leather Tote Bag, Jimmy Choo,
5481 Wisconsin Ave., Chevy Chase, 240-223-1102

Singla suggests bringing to the store the items you carry on a day-to-day basis, and transferring them to your potential purchase. Shoulder strap comfort is difficult to determine in-store, so Singla encourages clients to read reviews on blogs such as Purse Blog and Bag Snob for in-depth opinions. 

Take care of it

 $3,400, Intrecciato Leather Shoulder Bag, Bottega Veneta, Neiman Marcus,
Mazza Gallerie, 5300 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Washington, D.C., 202-966-9700

Singla keeps her designer investment bags in top condition by applying leather protectant, removing stains promptly with a soft cloth and never putting them on the floor or other dirty places. She stores them upright and stuffed with old clothes when not in use. 

Family Ties

Photo by Liz Lynch

Bethesda financial adviser Kayvon Sarmadi, 29, learned to appreciate a good tie from his father, a crisply dressed businessman from Roanoke, Virginia. “As a kid, I always respected how polished he was,” Sarmadi says. “Never a hair out of line, suit and tie every day.” 

When he entered the professional world—Sarmadi has been with the financial services company UBS since 2010—he mimicked his father’s sartorial choices but didn’t like paying $200 and up for luxury neckwear that skimped on silk in favor of synthetic inlays or, even worse, would fray quickly. So in 2015, he set out to make his own. He went to the silk mills of Como, Italy, where designer brands such as Kiton and Brioni sourced materials. Then he went south to Naples, where craftspeople dutifully follow the traditional seven-fold method of tie-making. The resulting Sarmadi Brothers products—each adorned with a fatto a mano (“made by hand” in Italian) tag in back—are as crisp as the Hermès and Bulgari ties Sarmadi sported early in his career but are priced considerably less at $160 each.

The company, which also sells shoes for $395 to $450, is a family business. While Sarmadi guides the overall vision, his wife, Nadira, handles social media and marketing, and his youngest brother, Omid, supervises operations. His oldest brother, Paykon, an architect in Roanoke, advises on product design.

Sarmadi Brothers made its first sale in January 2016. Most orders come to via word of mouth—“Compliments in the kitchen [at my UBS office] lead to purchases,” he says about modeling the ties at work. The small-batch neckwear (most patterns are produced in groups of 10 or 20) is also available at the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia. There are plans to expand the brand, including new products—Sarmadi is currently testing pocket squares and floral lapel pins with private clients—before exploring new wholesale accounts or a permanent brick-and-mortar space. “We’re still in our ‘proof of concept’ phase,” Sarmadi says. “[I need to] see how much demand I can handle.” 

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