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DarDra Coaxum of New York is co-founder of HRLM Champagne and is an investor in Harlem Shake. MASA

My first luxury: a Louis Vuitton Pochette bag

DarDra Coaxum remembers when she stopped borrowing purses from her mom or aunt

Shopping for designer goods is about more than beauty, workmanship and cost. It’s an emotional experience that often comes with a personal story. In this series, women recall a singular piece and a moment in their journey into luxury.

New York-based DarDra Coaxum, 35, is co-founder of HRLM Champagne and is an investor in Harlem Shake. Her first designer handbag was inspired by her mother and aunt’s style.

My first introduction to fashion was really through my mother. She was a Harlem girl, but such a style icon. Even as a teenager, when she was 14 or 15 years old, she was shopping by herself in big department stores like Bloomingdale’s or Saks Fifth Avenue.

My style was really impacted from just watching her get dressed and choose her pieces through the day. A lot of what my mother did was watch old Hollywood films, so somebody who was a huge style influence to me through her was watching Diana Ross in Lady Sings the Blues. Or watching the Sonny & Cher show. My mom was a woman who had an original Bob Mackey dress hanging in her closet that she let me wear to school during show-and-tell. Watching women like Dorothy Dandridge in Carmen Jones, one of the main things I brought with me from watching those women was one, their glamour, you know, their glitz and glam but still remaining ladylike while being sexy.

Besides my mom, my mom’s sister Cara, who is closer to me in age, played a role in how I dress. Cara was more of a 2000s girl. When I was close to Cara, Sex in the City was huge. So even though I was a little girl, I got this introduction to Carrie Bradshaw early on and one thing I learned from Cara was introducing that street style and incorporating it with ladylike classic pieces.

Both of my parents are so style and fashion-driven. They just looked at me like I was their doll, so they would dress me up. They would buy me clothes, buy me purses. Every day I went to school and I would either steal my mom’s bags or my aunt’s bags. None of them were mine. So I would always steal my aunt’s Louis Vuitton bags and luckily, you know, she would let me but I remember telling my mom, I want my own bag. But telling your mom at 15 years old like, “Oh, Mom, can I have a Louis Vuitton bag?” It’s like, “Girl, are you crazy? Absolutely not.”

But one Christmas when I was 15 years old, she surprised me and she got me my own bag, a Louis Vuitton monogram Pochette purse, a very tiny small bag with a leather strap.

I think that just really set the tone because I was like, this is mine. I don’t have to give it back. I don’t have to have it back to you so you can wear it for your date night tonight. And I wore that bag into the ground. I wore that bag every single day. It was finally something to call my own and establish my style. It wasn’t a bag that my mom had or my aunt had. It was just one that I saw that I wanted for me. That was really the start of solidifying my own sense of style and not so much just grabbing what was already in the closet that they chose.

Unfortunately, I had a house fire when I was growing up and I lost a lot of items, including the bag. The only Louis Vuitton pieces that I have, I’ve inherited from my grandmother. She gave me a garment bag and duffel, so I haven’t bought anything new from Louis Vuitton.

Liner Notes

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Channing Hargrove is a senior writer at Andscape covering fashion. That’s easier than admitting how strongly she identifies with the lyrics “Single Black female addicted to retail.”