Perfection is guaranteed

Handbag fashions come and go, but true class never dies

It was only about ten years ago that I became able to admit to possessing a "handbag". Before then, I just couldn't say the word (nor could I admit to wearing "make-up" before the age of 28 - it was always tinted moisturiser; I still can't call shagging "making love", though). This was silly, because, like many women, I have always adored bags and bought far more than need dictated.

There was, however, one handbag I definitely fell in love with some years ago: the Celine Boogie bag. This is the perfect handbag. It's the perfect size and the perfect shape, and the compartments are just perfect: just enough, not too many. And it doesn't have any heavy padlocks, unlike some Marc Jacobs or Chloé bags, each of which can weigh up to 1lb.

I'd wanted a Boogie for years (it's a classic, unlike some Johnny-come-latelies, but the colours change each season). Yet, at £600-plus, it wasn't a purchase I could justify, no matter how many cards I put up in local phone booths. So, as often happens in these cases, I spent years trying to fill the enormous void left by not having one.

Forty pounds went on a Zara bag that I convinced myself would be just as good. Several times, £20-£40 went here and there on baby-cord or floral cotton bags that satisfied a season's whim. I bought a big Circa leather weekend bag - £125 in the sale - in the hope that having a "good" bag for going away would appease the ferocious itch for the Boogie. Nothing satisfied. Then, in August 2005, I was wandering around Selfridges when I saw that, in celebration of Celine being 60 years old, there was 30 per cent off certain colours in the Boogie bag range. My time had come. Although I was dressed like an on-duty plumber, the assistant treated me like Victoria Beckham must surely be treated when her Giacometti frame totters into a designer shop, her wallet heavier than she is and in need of purging.

After 90 minutes of discussion, with us trying to decide whether I should invest in the plum or the olive, it was decided. The assistant called up every plum bag from the stockroom - all five of them - before inspecting and selecting the best one; the grain had to be just right. "If you change your mind," he said, "you can take it back to any Celine boutique in the world." I loved that he presumed it might not be the London one.

Every time I go to meet friends who happen to be fashion editors they all say the same thing - "That's the most perfect bag" - even though they themselves have to be seen carrying the latest thing, which the Boogie no longer (gloriously) is. For this is not an ostentatious bag: no wet-look leather like last year's YSL "must-have" bag, or fake leopard-skin, like Louis Vuitton's Pleated Steamer bag. As my friend Karen says, "Those that know, know. Those that don't know just think it's a great bag." And it is.

Annalisa Barbieri was in fashion PR for five years before going to the Observer to be fashion assistant. She has worked for the Evening Standard and the Times and was one of the fashion editors on the Independent on Sunday for five years, where she wrote the Dear Annie column. She was fishing correspondent of the Independent from 1997-2004.

This article first appeared in the 19 February 2007 issue of the New Statesman, Iran - Ready to attack