A stylish italist customer on designer bargain hunting and only buying what you love

We reached stylish italist customer and fellow Californian Samantha Birkenfeld-Malpass, a.k.a. bargain hunting blonde, to discuss her love of designer luxury, working in Silicon Valley, and her list of spots to visit once quarantine is lifted. Plus, three tips on caring for your designer handbags!

Q: Tell us a bit about your background. What kind of work do you do?

A: I grew up in the Bay Area, specifically Walnut Creek. I then moved to Los Angeles for undergrad and graduated from UCLA Law School. I then moved to Silicon Valley for my current job as a white-collar investigations attorney.  

Q: How did you get into designer and luxury fashion? How did you become a blogger and ‘bargain hunter’? 

A: I have always loved luxury handbags, which is really odd since no one in my family has an affinity for fashion. My love of handbags led me to explore other areas of fashion and from there my love of luxury just snowballed. 

italist stylish customer samantha birkenfeld malpass deal hunter luxury

I started blogging when I realized I wanted to share my passion for deals and luxury with other like-minded people. Up until that point, my friends and family had to listen to me endlessly chatter about luxury and deals, but I could tell they could only tolerate so much. This especially applies to my then boyfriend, now husband who is not into luxury at all. 

The bargain hunting comes from my mom. She has always been about the deals and the sales so that rubbed off on me. Now I want to share that crazy with you all!

shop heron preston on italistQ: Do you have a favorite brand or designer? What makes that one special?

A: Of the brands italist carries, Celine is my absolute favorite! There’s something to be said for a fashion house that excels at the foundational principles that make for a lifelong piece. 

From the raw materials to the labor and care that goes into each piece – you just see it and feel it. There is beauty in subtlety and I think Celine does that extremely well. Celine also reminds me of when I got engaged in Paris. My then boyfriend, now husband and I went to three different Celine stores in Paris to find the last mini belt bag in all of Europe. Hustling, even on vacation is part of my bargain lifestyle!

Q: What other brands or designers do you like? What are your top 5 if you had to choose?

A: I will admit I basically like at least one piece from every fashion house. But to list a top five: Celine, Dior, Saint Laurent, Gucci, and Loewe

italist stylish customer samantha birkenfeld malpass deal hunter luxury

Q: When not under quarantine, what does a typical day look like for you?

A: I have basically perfected the 20 minute get up and out the door routine. To do that I rely a lot on my classic pieces like my Gucci Brixton Loafers that make any outfit look put together. Plus it does not hurt that Silicon Valley business casual means I can wear jeans to work, even as an attorney. 

There really isn’t a typical routine for a lawyer. My day can start off defending clients in San Jose Federal Court and end with setting off for work abroad in Zurich or London. Don’t tell my husband, but this makes for great opportunities to shop the lower priced items abroad! 

The days I’m not setting off for international adventures, I frequent the local gym and the local libraries. My husband jokes that are apartment has so many library books that it should be a satellite office for the San Mateo County Library system. 

If we’re lucky, our day ends with a home cooked meal and a walk around the neighborhood with our twelve-year-old yorkie named Juice, aka Juicy Couture (named after my favorite brand in high school). 

Q: What’s your favorite aspect of your work? What’s your least favorite?

A: My favorite aspect of work is the variety. I work with a host of different clients, both domestic and international with different problems that require constant intellectual growth. That does come with a cost, mainly in time. I often work 7 days a week for weeks on end so that can be demanding.  

Q: How have the last few months affected your life and your work? What does a typical day look like during quarantine?

A: I am fortunate that as an attorney, the majority of our work can still be accomplished during quarantine, whether it be via Zoom or some other online workspace. There’s obviously no traveling so I’m itching to see my international friends soon! I am glad that I get to spend more time with my husband. 

Q: What’s the best way to take care of one’s designer pieces? Two or three pieces of advice (just curious).

A: 1. Inspect your piece after you use it. It helps you identify any damage to the piece. If you identify damage quickly (like a dreaded pen mark) it’s often easier to get off then if you notice it a month from when it happened.

2. Cleaners and conditioners. Both of these items will prolong your piece. However, each piece is different. I always research online which is the best for the item I am cleaning.  This is not only dependent on the type of material, but also on the brand. 

For example, I may not treat Celine pebbled leather with the same conditioner as I would a Saint Laurent pebbled leather. Even when I feel confident in my selection, I test a small, not easily seen, part of the item to make sure it isn’t discoloring or harming the item. Once I confirm that I clean away. Also this is very relaxing for me…not sure why!

3. Storage. Storage is really important and people often forget that your designer items often come with a dustbag for a reason. I make my husband keep the clear packaging airbags that come in any Amazon package, for example, to help keep the shape of my bags while in storage. Stay away from the colored packaging airbags! I always stuff my designer purses and store them in their dustbags. 

italist stylish customer samantha birkenfeld malpass deal hunter luxury

Q: What are your style and/or shopping inspirations?

A: In recent years, I’ve really cut back on buying more outrageous prints and colors and have gone back to the basics. My husband encourages me to look for pieces, purses, shoes, or anything else luxury that are timeless.  Therefore, for style inspiration I often find myself looking at simple, elegant Parisian looks. The classic style I often see coming from Paris is style goals. My latest obsession is Sezane and their sweaters.

Q: How do you think fashion and/or the retail industry will change as a result of everything that has happened?

A: I think companies that were holding out selling online are really going to have to get with the times and provide some version of an online option. I do think the younger generation does like to shop online. Luxury shopping is an experience that we all should experience at least once in our lifetime, but what I take away is not the experience of purchasing the good, but carrying and using that item for a lifetime.  I think we can live without the boutique purchasing experience for each item we may purchase. 

Q: How did you come to find italist? What has your experience been as an italist customer?

A: I was searching for a very specific bag (the Valentino Rockstud Spike Bag in the photos) but I was of course, looking for a bargain! I came across italist and immediately snagged the bag. Since my first purchase, I have bought several handbags and accessories from italist.

Q: What do you like about italist and what do you think could be improved?

A: I love the variety and the deals. It can be very hard to find brands like Celine and Dior on sale but italist manages to do it. I would love to see a better return policy as it can be hard to know exactly what size you are in each fashion house and do not always have the ability to go to a store to try the item on. 

Q: What is your personal style philosophy? Any principles you live by and would like to share?

A: So I have one: only buy what you love; liking something is not good enough. 

I implemented this about two years ago when I realized I was buying too many pieces because I thought they were “classics” or pieces that a luxury lover “had to have.” In doing that I was missing out on items or pieces I loved. For example, I love dark green but was hesitant to buy pieces in that color as a neutral color, like black or beige, was more classic and that’s what I thought I should buy. I ended up disappointed with my selection and never using it, despite the cost that went into purchasing that item. So I learned, to only buy what you love.  

Q: Which items are on your italist ‘wishlist’?

A: A Celine Classic Box Bag. There was one the other day on the site in a light blue color. I put it in my basket but someone snagged it before I could check out! 

celine classic box bag light blue italist

Q: Are there any emerging brands or designers that you particularly like or plan to watch? 

A: I must admit I like to stick with the traditional fashion houses. I will say though I have recently been drawn to Polène, the Parisian handbag brand. I was able to visit their store in Paris and their pieces were beautiful and well priced. 

Q: As an insider, what are your favorite spots in the SF Bay Area to eat, drink, and shop? Favorite bars, restaurants? Are there any places you would suggest our readers not miss if they visit? (assuming life returns to normal in the short term)

A: To eat: Milagros (Redwood City), Sushirrito (Palo Alto), El Charro (Lafayette), Tomatinas (local chain but I really like the one in Walnut Creek).

Shop: Stanford Shopping Center (Palo Alto), Valley Fair (San Jose), Broadway Plaza (Walnut Creek).

Places: Alcatraz, hike Mount Diablo or Twin Peaks, visit Half Moon Bay, and the Westchester Mystery House.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy!

shop heron preston on italist

Discover more stylish italist customer Q&As: Cameron LeSiege (celebrity hairstylist), Xavier LeBron (Hollywood wardrobe stylist), Sabina Jacobs (expert luxury authenticator), and Stacie from the Luxe Hunt blog (another great luxury deal-hunter).

Shop italist for up to 40% off on over 200,000 up-to-the-minute luxury fashions for women, men, and kids from leading brands like Golden GooseFendiGucciMiu Miu, and many more—direct from Italy’s finest boutiques to your door.

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