The bag ladies

Khairiyyah Sari describes herself as "a big fan" of eBay, the granddaddy of online shopping. The former model and beauty editor at a major women's magazine scours the site for bargains and also to keep up with fashion and online purchasing trends.

This was where she encountered Kim Kardashian, the American model and reality TV star - or at least her online sales persona. She admires Kardashian's shrewd selling of the bags and fashions she wears in public and on her show.

So one thing led to another for Sari and Dewi Rezer, a former MTV VJ and a friend from their modeling days in the mid-1990s. Sari, 35, and Dewi, 30, came upon the novel idea for Indonesia of selling bags that once belonged to celebrities but from the convenience of an online store. In doing so, they are marrying Indonesia's obsession with all things seleb (celebrity) and the zeal for branded goods.

"Well, it sounded like a good idea, and we both love bags," says Dewi of Sari's proposal. "It was my dream to have a business, like to have a boutique selling secondhand bags, because I love going through vintage bags at boutiques; I could stay there all day."

They also knew from their shared network of celebrity friends and acquaintances that many had bags to spare.

"Celebrities are part of our community, and Sari has interviewed and knows many of them," Dewi says. "And being celebrities they have a lot of bags, and they don't know what to do with them once they are used, they just pile up. So why not sell them instead of letting them get damaged from neglect, and have money to buy new ones?"

After several months of planning, in early 2011 they launched the online website www.bebelian.com, its name an acronym for "berkat berlimpah dari Tuhan" ("Blessings in abundance from God" in Indonesian, although Sari notes that it also means "shopping" in Sundanese).

"We decided to go online because we are new to business, we didn't know what the response would be. The investment can be small online, but the risk is smaller, too," says Dewi.

The big-name brands include Louis Vuitton, Miu Miu, Marc Jacobs, Christian Dior and Fendi, with prices ranging from Rp 1 million to Rp 20 million. The connections of cyberspace have enabled them to reach beyond Jakarta to the moneyed classes of the provinces.

"We thought to ourselves, there's already a lot of secondhand stores in Jakarta but for celebrities there must be people in the regions who want so much to have a bag from Shanty, for example," says Sari, referring to the Indonesian singer.

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