Fashion / Profiles

The Bag Snob Tells All About Internet Superstardom, Being a True Entrepreneur and Besting Pajama Baby Bloggers

BY // 10.06.15
photography Mindy Byrd

“When I was 15, my mother gave me my first Gucci bag and matching wallet. That was it. I was done for,” says Tina Craig, the petite and powerful Dallas-based fashion phenom known across the globe as Bag Snob for her penchant for luxurious carryalls.

Craig, whose relatable persona and quick wit define her as anything but a snob, catapulted to stardom when she and college bestie Kelly Cook took to the Internet 10 years ago, launching a website that first served as a conversation about bags between two friends but quickly morphed into the Snob Essentials brand, covering all realms of fashion and offering attainable handbags for sale online and through HSN. (Craig attributes the duo’s early success to the fact that she owns most of the bags she reviews, unlike bloggers she dubs “pajama baby” bloggers: 18-year-olds at home in their PJs with little knowledge of the subject.) Craig, whose pre-Snob career included a gig as an MTV Asia VJ, also pens a weekly column for Vogue China’s Mini app while prioritizing her favorite roles of wife and mother.

“My son and husband come first,” she says, “but when I have to work at 2 am because I’m waiting for China to wake up, I love it.”

This fall, Snob Essentials celebrates its 10-year anniversary with a chic collection of iconic pieces in collaboration with seven top designers — Paul Andrew, Valextra, Vita Fede, Rag & Bone, Mark Cross, DL1961 and Derek Lam — available at Freshly home in Dallas from New York Fashion Week, where she showed the 10th Snobiversary Collection in the Lexus Lounge at Milk Studios, Craig dishes on her fashion empire and the importance of remaining authentic.

Milk Studios
Tina Craig at the Snobiversary collection presentation during NYFW. Her Mark Cross for Bag Snob Grace box bag sold out within seven days of the collection’s launch. (Photo courtesy BFA)

In the beginning.
Ten years ago, I’d just moved to Dallas from L.A., left the entertainment industry and had a line of jewelry that I designed. Kelly and I both had newborn babies. We became friends at the University of Southern California — where I received an international business finance degree — because of our love of Prada bags. We started the website with $20 and never put another penny in. Two months after starting, we made $400 off of Google ads that Kelly’s husband, Richard, put up because he’s a software engineer. We were the first blog that Barneys New York bought an ad on. Because of that, Neiman Marcus started contacting us to do affiliate ads. Today, we’ve made over seven figures, are ready for our first round of funding and are in talks with serious investors.

We wanted to celebrate the fact that we’ve been in business for 10 years and are still hugely relevant and setting the pace for the industry. We thought, why not get some of our favorite designers and do a very exclusive, limited-edition collection that speaks to true luxury buyers, the ladies who fly to Paris three times a year to buy? They’re not there to be Instagrammed or hoping that a street-style photographer will take their photo. One of their major complaints is that from the time [they are] waiting for a very expensive bag, it’s been put on social media so much that it doesn’t feel special by the time they get it. That’s a huge problem, and that’s why I buy Hermès — I know it’s not a brand that’s handing out bags like candy.

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Snob collabs.
I reached out to [shoe designer] Paul Andrew first. We’ve become really good friends. Without any extra details, he said, “Yes, whatever it is, I’ll do it for you.” I think it’s because for 10 years, we supported so many designers and have stayed authentic in our voice. The site is selective editorial on things we love, and this is as selective as it comes. I reached out to Derek Lam, and he said, “Absolutely!” I wanted an iconic item from each designer that showcases what they do well. I’d been begging Paul to do the platform shoes forever. With Derek, we went with the very iconic blouse he has every season. We knew everyone would love it. And who’s more iconic in the United States as a bag brand than Mark Cross? Then I was in talks with Rag & Bone because I have their fedoras in literally five colors. Whenever a new color comes out, I’ve got to get that fedora!

Fall wish list.
I want Prada everything for fall! And Narciso Rodriguez’s Mia platform mules. I’m obsessed with the Junya Watanabe motorcycle cape and the Céline chunky loafers. I’ll be carrying our Mark Cross for Bag Snob bag.

Three timeless handbags.
The Hermès Constance, the Prada Galleria — I love that shape — and the classic Chanel Flap bag. Everyone from an 18-year-old to an 80-year-old wants the Chanel.

Milk Studios
Paul Andrew for Bag Snob Bellevue platforms in Mercury Grey and Snob Pink, on display during NYFW. (Photo courtesy BFA)

Dallas shopping.
I love Forty Five Ten and, of course, Neiman Marcus. For vintage, I love Vintage Martini and Dolly Python. I really like shopping at Highland Park Village. It’s a very unique space. I’m not a big mall person. I liking pulling up to a store I love. I love Hermès. That’s my favorite store in the world.

Dallas cuisine.
Sushi Sake is so good, always an hour wait. They don’t take reservations, but it’s worth it. I love going to Bistro 31, and a new favorite is Mercat Bistro. Dallas is home to some of the best Vietnamese food in the country, like Saigon Block in Richardson. My favorite place for Chinese is Yao Fuzi in Plano. The chef, Alex Yao’s son, Chris, is a friend of ours. Alex’s wife hand-makes all of the dumplings. My son and husband can literally eat 50 each. I have to stop them.

Fave travel destinations.
Asia — Taiwan and Shanghai. My grandmother is from there. And I love going back to L.A. I recently went to Asheville, North Carolina, to the Biltmore. It’s beautiful.

When you need a local escape, you go to…
Cooper Spa at Craig Ranch. I’m obsessed with it. They have this quiet room and humongous, amazing chairs that lean all the way back. There’s a water wall — you can hear the water and it’s like you’re in another place. Marcia does my nails. That’s my oasis.

Milk Studios
Kelly Cook (far left) and Tina Craig with Marchesa designers Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig (right). (Photo courtesy BFA)

The boy.
Of all the hats I wear — mother, wife, fashion blogger, editor, designer, entrepreneur and sometimes short-order cook — I treasure being a mommy most. I never say my son’s name or put his images on my site or my Instagram. He’s just referred to as “the boy.” When it comes to my son and my husband, I’m so private. If you want to know where I bought this or that, I’m happy to share. My son, now that he’s older, says, “Mommy, are you famous? Why can’t I be on your Instagram? Not fair!” You know, because he’s 10. I find it very exploitative in nature when people use their kids as a way to get likes. Being a work-at-home mom and experiencing priceless moments like his first lead in the school play, or just picking him up from school daily and witnessing his excitement about each day is a very special privilege.

On authenticity.
I do a lot of speeches and talks around the country. I did one recently where people asked, “How do I get to be you? How do I get to be doing what you’re doing? How do I become that?” You’re never going to become that if that’s what you start off thinking. [Kelly and I] love bags so much. We started a journal to look at the latest bags because we didn’t want to miss out. That’s what I always tell people: If you want to do this, find something you love. Don’t blog about something just because you think you’re going to make money, because you’re going to lack that authentic voice. Readers and consumers are savvy. They’re smart. They know you’re linking [to products] because you’re going to get a commission, so it’s always about authenticity.

Southern hospitality.
I don’t think I would have enjoyed the same success had I not moved to Dallas. It’s a very metropolitan city, but a very small town and friendly in culture, so when people discovered I had this blog they were very supportive. I don’t think, had I stayed in L.A., I would have had the same support. Dallas embraced me. People were very accepting. I think that had a huge influence on my success today.

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