The phrase “purpose-built” is not a bad one, but it will cost you.

I fancy myself a bit of a DIY-er, or frequently an oh-this-one-is-just-as-good-er.  I attribute this to having parents born in the 30s and 40s, who had themselves been raised by parents who remembered the Great Depression all too vividly when it came time to teach life lessons to their young.  I believe this also made me a low-grade hoarder, but that is a blog for another day.  As such a person, I would rather hack or re-purpose something than lay out large amounts of cash.  I frequently hear my father in my head saying, “You’re only paying for the name brand on that.”

When I needed to upgrade my road kit for work, I was stunned how many dollars the words “makeup artist” in front of a rolling bag or case added to its final price.  It seemed a little crazy to me that boxes on wheels would go for so much money.  I found a few huge ones priced a little lower than their brothers, but some weighed up to 20 pounds completely empty.  Yeah, pass.  Reviews on the large, modular, more reasonably priced ones were disheartening, too, citing how quickly the fasteners holding the sections together would randomly give…some, regrettably, while someone was carrying them up a flight of stairs.  Lipstick tubes everywhere.  Following a tip from a friend, I wound up at Michael’s in the scrapbooking section.  A $24 roller bag and about $20 worth of plastic craft boxes later, I felt as though I had beaten the system.  Hautelook was selling a cloth roller in their Beauty section that was identical to the one I had just purchased, only theirs was $200.00 because it had a makeup brand name.  “Take that,” I thought smugly.

There was a learning curve, to be sure–what goes in what box, how it gets packed, how it gets unpacked, etc.  Things I couldn’t learn my way around were items like small wheels that tripped up all too often on uneven pavement, an unbalanced frame, and handles which were not made to handle the demands of clients without elevators.  The bag was also wide (a trait shared by some of her makeup kin) and made doorways and enclosed stairwells awkward because lifting it was bad enough, but 2x worse when my elbows also needed room.  Over the course of a couple years, what would be obvious to some slowly dawned on me:  This bag was designed for scrapbook or craft supplies, possibly wheeling from room to room or occasionally traveling to someone’s house as a hobby bag.  It was not designed to hold some 35+ pounds of makeup, take stairs, wheel around city sidewalks, and otherwise be someone’s workhorse.  Its right handle is currently ripped nearly all the way off, the wheels are worn, the metal backbrace is dented like mad, the paint is chipped, there is a hole on the outside of one of the pockets from how it sits in my car, and the feet on the backrest cut through the thigh of my jeans the last time I needed to use my leg to heft it.

I have a new respect for the label that raises the price of the bag.  Not in all instances, as the one on Hautelook would have undoubtedly met the same fate, but the branded ones with the aerospace aluminum frames, double wheels, removable nylon insides, and other such features–the ones I thought were ridiculously overpriced–make much more sense to me now.   A bag of that sort knows I am going to tough on it.  It taunts me, as though we’re in some demented makeup deathmatch.  “C’mon, show me what you’ve got,” it seems to say.  It is ready for the demands of this job because it is what, my friends?  Purpose-built.

But it is still going to cost me.


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