Interesting WSJ article on mid-range designer bags!

  1. Has anyone else noticed the plethora of articles on bags recently on mainstream media? (ie, NYTimes, Time, WSJ, etc.) Bag obsession is becoming a trend! I wonder if we owe this (dubious?) pleasure to the recent culture of celebrity-ism and their penchance for bags. It's leading to purse prices rising faster than ever! :amazed:


    A Rally in Mid-Cap Purses
    Soaring prices for top brands give lesser-known labels cover to charge more. How to buy smart
    By CHERYL LU-LIEN TAN
    March 11, 2006; Page P6

    A new battle is under way in the world of high-end handbags.
    Fendi, Prada and other makers of luxury bags have attracted a lot of attention lately for stratospheric prices that run thousands of dollars. But prices of less-expensive bags are also rising as more companies move into the $400-to-$700 price range that two or three years ago was dominated by top luxury brands. With spring bags now hitting stores, some of these companies are charging double or triple what they used to -- even though high-end bags tend to depreciate quickly.
    Some are even pitching their wares as stylish, but not so over-the-top that they will be flashes in the pan. Kooba's Sienna bag, for example, has trendy stitching on the straps and small metal rings, but the hardware is minimal enough so the bag can look trendy for a few seasons.
    The brands include lesser-known names such as Kooba, Botkier and Lolli, as well as more-established labels like Kate Spade. Coach pioneered the approach by successfully selling trendier bags in this price range along with less-expensive styles. Some makers of $1,000-plus bags are keeping a foot in the market too, often with canvas or nylon bags.
    FINDING VALUE

    [​IMG] Two fashion experts critique some bags that cost less than top luxury brands.

    Designer Monica Botkier, a former fashion photographer, says she got into the business in 2003 because she was frustrated by how much she was spending on bags. Her Trigger bag, priced at $465 to $575, quickly took off and has continued to sell well in new colors each season. She now makes 20 styles priced from $595 to $950 for a python hobo. And she is targeting women who buy luxury brands as well as those who want to but can't afford to.
    Kooba also started at a lower price point, charging as little as $250 in 1999. But last year its best-selling bag was its new Sienna, named for actress Sienna Miller. The price: $595 to $650.
    While most women spend far less on bags, $1,000-plus purses are selling surprisingly well. The category accounted for 7% of handbag sales at department and specialty stores last year, up from 1% three years ago, according to market researcher NPD Group, which predicts the bag's share will rise to 10% this year. Retailers expect Fendi's B. Fendi bag, which starts at $1,430 and goes up to $27,700, to sell out this spring because media coverage has prompted women to reserve bags at several stores.
    Prices for European imports have risen sharply in recent years, partly due to a weak dollar and high oil prices. And that has changed the equation for retailers. When the cost of $400-to-$500 bags it bought from small Italian and French companies jumped 37% two years ago, Searle, a New York boutique chain, began looking for American suppliers of bags in that price range, says spokesman Rick Weinstein.
    But few trendy bags retain their value. One indication is how they fare at consignment shops and the news isn't good. There is little demand for less-established brands and few bags sell for their original price, says Ina Bernstein, owner of an eponymous chain of consignment stores in New York. Two exceptions: Hermès Kelly and Birkin bags in good condition, she says. Leslie Weinstein, who manages the Philadelphia branch of the Buffalo Exchange consignment chain, says designer bags typically fetch 20% of their original price.
    Brenda Kauffman, fashion director at Bag, Borrow or Steal, an online purse-rental firm, says many bags in the $400-to-$700 price range are made of materials similar to what top brands use. "A lot of these bags don't have $1,000 prices not because of the quality," she says. "A lot of times, it's the name."
    Lauren Merkin, who four years ago started her business with a clutch and two totes priced from $165 to $300, says she targets people who want designer bags but balk at the price. "The standard seemed to move from $600 to $1,000 for a bag" she says, adding that she personally couldn't justify spending that much. "It's just a handbag -- it's not rent." She nevertheless just added a $575 lambskin tote to her line.
    Shon McCarthy, co-owner of Lolli, says she started designing $300 to $398 hobo bags in 2003, betting that there were a lot of people around the country like her who didn't want to pay $1,000 for a purse. Recent orders on her Web site have come from Arizona, Texas and Kentucky. But she says her prices have risen because she now uses pricier materials such as Italian distressed leather on a new $520 bag.
    Stylists say bags like these can look fashionable longer because they tend to be more understated than trendy higher-priced bags. The $398 Lolli double-ring lambskin bag, for example, has brass rings on the strap that touch on the metal-hardware trend. "But the rings are not so in your face that the bag is going to feel played out very soon," says Alle Fister, stylist for online retailer Shopbop.com, which has carried the bag for 1½ years.
    Write to Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan at cheryl.tan@wsj.com
    [​IMG]
     
  2. Interesting article - thanks much for posting it!
     
  3. I was just thinking the other day how a year ago you could get something nice from Isabella Fiore for around $300 but every since Katie Holmes carried the Audra, their prices have just gone crazy! The average IF hobo is now in the $500-$600 range or higher.

    It's really too bad that brands like Kooba and Botkier and even Coach are aspiring so much towards the top luxury brands, that soon the customer they started out selling to won't be able to afford them.

    True, sometimes it's because they make something special with more expensive materials, but that's not always the case. They're just going up to see how high a price they can get away with.
     
  4. Well, as long as the market can bear it right ?

    No worries though, I'm sure there will be new, rising handbag stars from new companies and they'll be cheap ! (hopefully !) ;)
     
  5. Thanks for that most interesting article!!! Let's face it, we do spend more for the right name - we just do!!! We say it's a quality
    issue but is it? I am as guilty as anyone - I wanted a "Mulberry" and I got one but boy did I pay for it!!!!
     
  6. name definitely equals more desirability and more power...and I think designer purses have better resale than what they say, unless you beat it to death of course. Genuine LVs get far more than 20% back (I WISH I could find a real, used Speedy for $100!).

    and yeah, there will always be inexpensive it bags. Look at the GD stuff.
     
  7. I think it's funny that all these past "up and coming designers" (like Botkier and Bulga) all started out because they found designer bags too expensive, and they thought there was a place in the market for stylish, affordable bags. Or so they say, but they're now milking it just like the designer brands just because they can! OH capitalism. :suspiciou
     
  8. There's always going to be a ceiling price but it's always an open competition out there so more labels will come in and current labels will eihter go up up to a certain point and that's it or lose all their customers. As long as the market can bear it, the price will go up. It will be a pretty saturated market of labels and brands though.
     
  9. Great article. Thanks for posting it. :biggrin:
     
  10. One of the my most recent purchases was a fabric bag that I paid bookoo $$$ for. Now beside the guarantee and the brand name I can't help but think that I spent that much money on a mostly fabric bag that has less material than most of my shirts.
    But the thing is that it was not my first time that I've spent more than the "value" because of my love :love: for the design, the brand, the logo, or the style and it won't be my last time either :wacko: !!!
     
  11. I agree with Kathyrose, these brands have ceiling prices. Where you might have happily paid less than USD500 for fancier coach and kooba and botkier, I have now noticed lots of threads where we go "For USD700 it isn't worth it, just put the money towards an LV/CHloe/Bbag, etc" or something similar.
     
  12. Interesting article. Thanks for sharing.
     
  13. Nice article :biggrin:
     
  14. not to be in defense for the rising price of handbags...but the euro has really changed the face of leather costs, and just about anything that comes from "euro contry". It is one thing to make a bag of fabric with a little bit of leather trimming, but today, anything from Europe causes the cost of the goods to go sky high...look at Coach's leather bag prices, so much higher than two years ago(when they use Italian leather), and that goes for the smaller designers who don't even get a "deal" on their leathers, because they usually cannot make the minimums to get a better price. I am not sticking up for the higher pricing that is occurring, but it seems that most leather bags cost more today than they did a year ago. That goes for practically everyone, unless it is made of pleather, or some synthetic something....

    sometimes you pay more just because it is a big brand...for example, there is no more leather in a chloe bag than someone else's, but because of the brand and the advertising and the celebrity status, guess what? you pay more....etc. etc...it is all calculated...
     
  15. Prices are always going to go up. In 10 years time, we'll all be saying: "Remember in 2006, when you could get a _____ for ____?", wistfully!