The Handbag That's Worth More Than The Average British Income

  1. [​IMG]
    The world's most expensive handbag


    Divorcee Lisa Voice had a fire recently in what she tellingly describes as "the master bedroom suite".
    The place was virtually gutted, and she and her two children had a miraculous escape. "We are lucky to be alive," she admits. So why the long face and air of bereavement?
    She believes every woman will understand her plight.

    "I'm mourning the loss of my handbags," she explains. "About 200 of them are gone and I feel bereft. There were around 80 Chanel bags - all bespoke or one-offs. Some cost £10,000."

    Once, women such as Lisa - who spends more on a single bag than many of us have ever spent on a car - would have been regarded as oddities - extraordinarily rich oddities, granted, but nonetheless barking mad. Suddenly, however, she seems quite normal.

    Outrageously, expensive handbags are everywhere - leaving those of us who still balk at a £120 price tag, or regard Accessorize as a legitimate place to shop, to wonder if we are the ones out of step.


    Selfridges has just reported that the average price of its designer bags is now £850 - up 55 per cent since 2005. Even Topshop, that bastion of no-nonsense shopping, is charging £80 for one of its leather bags - one that is, rather bewilderingly, flying off the shelves.


    This week, things got even more insane in the keepy-uppy world of handbag purchasing. The world's most expensive handbag got that little bit more expensive - overtaking the price of a Mercedes car, no less. And, in time, we will surely all suffer.


    The Louis Vuitton bag in question - the Tribute Patchwork, should you need to know - retails at an awesome £23,484, nearly £3,000 more than a Mercedes C180 Coupe SE. It justifies its price by being made from cut-up bits of 15 different Louis Vuitton bags and incorporates rare feathers and alligator skin.

    Only one will be sold in the UK, but all indications are that it's not likely to be languishing on a shelf for too long. For those who will be disappointed, there are plenty of consolation prizes.

    The second most expensive bag in the world is now a Fendi one, made from chinchilla and sable, and priced at an eye-watering £20,000.

    Next, way down the "affordable" list, is a £13,000 crocodile-skin Carolyn bag from Marc Jacobs. Or what about a Valextra Carla - made of alligator hide - for a piffling £11,160?


    They are truly extraordinary prices for an item that was once regarded as little more than something in which to carry your lipstick and keys.

    But who are the women who will be scrabbling for these bags? And more importantly where do they get that sort of money from?


    Lisa Voice describes herself a self-made music and property millionaire. She was the girlfriend of Fifties rock n' roll star Billy Fury - and freely admits that she regards her handbags as pieces of art. Until the fire, she had 200 bags, estimated at £100,000.


    "I like beautiful things, and I consider a wonderful bag to be a work of art. I work hard and play hard. I also choose to buy expensive items. If I see a bag I like, I buy it, simple as that. I buy in bulk, too, as I don't have time to shop. I'll get one in black, one in red, one in pink."

    The price tag, then, doesn't really come into it. "I can't remember the first expensive bag I bought - it must have been in Biba - but I was still a child. Now, it isn't really about money. I like the quality and the hard work that goes into a wonderful bag. It's an indulgence but I've earned it.
     
  2. On special occasions, when I've spent £10,000, especially on bags from Chanel, I have stopped to think about the money involved, but I wouldn't buy it if I couldn't afford it."


    Is she snobby about bags that don't come with a heart-stopping pricetag? "I would buy a High Street bag. I have done - but only for the beach."

    Lisa, however, is not typical of the new breed of handbag buyer. Worryingly, it is the 16-35 year olds who are being wooed by the luxury brands.

    The influence of the IT-bag obsessed football WAGs has filtered down to department stores up and down the country. Bags are now the ultimate status symbol and every young woman worth her salt wants her own Brigitte, Emmy or Edith.

    Donatella Panayiouto, 23, is an actress and TV presenter, and one of that curious breed that defines her whole life by the often tiny scrap of leather on her arm. She is dismissive of those who don't - or won't - "do" designer. "I wouldn't dream of going into Marks & Spencer or Accessorize to buy a bag. You can always tell if a bag is cheap, and I don't like that look.

    "They have to be designer, and they almost invariably cost well over £1,000. To me, it's about the quality of the bag. I can always tell if someone is carrying a cheap one, or a fake, and I think they define you. If you have a classy bag, you just look better. Also, you can wear the simplest outfit with a stunning bag and look amazing."

    Not that she does, of course. Her clothes are at least as expensive as her bags.

    "My first designer handbag was by Gucci, and was a present for my 16th birthday. That got me started on my obsession. I buy a new one every month - even though I know that I don't need any more.

    "It drives my boyfriend mad, but I think that once you have started buying designer handbags, you get sucked in and you feel that you need to get the latest one, no matter what. I don't like to feel that I am missing out." She has 150 bags, worth around £100,000.

    And the very thought that she might be missing out sends her into a panic. She laughs about how she buys so many bags that stores such as Fendi and Louis Vuitton must have her on speed dial - then stops abruptly when she realises no one has yet contacted her about the Patchwork bag.

    "Perhaps my name is already down on the list - they know what I am like. I'd just love to own one."

    Donatella's most expensive bag is the classic Kelly bag by Hermes - designed in honour of the film star Grace Kelly - and it cost over £10,000.

    "I treasure it so much I barely take it out of the house. I once lost a Fendi bag and the memory still haunts me.

    "I was in a nightclub with girlfriends and my brand new Fendi Spy bag. Hardly anyone had them at the time and I was proud to have got one. We had put all our bags behind the table while we danced, and when I went to get it, it had gone. Imagine! I was devastated."

    But even Donatella isn't daft enough to believe that the current must-haves - which are often woefully out of date by the time the "ordinary" buyer gets her hands on them - are lasting investments.

    "Sometimes I wonder if I am doing the right thing," she says, in a rare moment of insight. "I bought three Chloe Paddington bags, which of course no one carries any more. And I bought a Dior saddle bag in every colour available. Again, they aren't fashionable any more, so I can't use them. But in a few years, I'm sure they'll come back in.

    "If I get that Louis Vuitton patchwork bag, it'll be worth twice what I've paid for it one day. And when I have it on my arm, everyone will envy me."

    The tragic thing is that she is right. Weekly fashion and lifestyle magazines such as Grazia, First and - the newest addition - Look, are positively groaning with the latest must-have handbags. Suddenly, you don't have to read Tatler or Vogue to be made painfully aware of what you should aspire to carry.

    Olivia Owen is 19 and studying film and TV at Kingston-upon-Thames University. Her father Chris runs a model agency and her mother Huggy is a fashion photographer. She epitomises the new generation that worships at the altar of the handbag.

    "For me, they are the ultimate fashion accessory. Mum and I always sit down with Vogue and pick out what we'd like - and with me it's always the bags. A designer bag is more important than a designer dress. If you have a dress, you have to have the perfect coat to go with it. With a bag, you just sling it over your shoulder and go."

    So far Olivia has 35 bags worth a total £18,000 and she and her mother recently bought a £12,000 Balenciaga handbag, ostensibly to share. But Olivia has had the lion's share of use.

    "It's lot of money, yes, but so much stuff is expensive these days, like cars and houses. We thought of it as a similar investment. When it was delivered, I squealed with joy, and hugged the bag like a new puppy.

    "The leather is so soft. The design, the detail, the style - all perfect. The stitching was flawless, the outside was padded, the silk lining was sturdy. And best of all there was a little padlock on the outside and a key for it. I loved that - it was worth every penny."

    If the thought of a teenager owning a handbag which costs more than half the average national income horrifies you, it seems you'd better get used to the idea.

    Suffice to say the bag has had more attention than any puppy would have. It is not even allowed to sit on the floor, lest it get dirty. Olivia doesn't think this is in the slightest bit odd.

    "If I go out, I put it on a chair of its own, and even then I wipe it down first. At home, I have a special outer bag to keep it in, to protect it.

    "I think of it in the same way as a diamond ring - a touch of glamour on my arm. I definitely wouldn't think twice about buying the Tribute-Patchwork bag if I had that sort of money. When you see a bag that's right for you, it's like falling in love - money is no object."
    Olivia is currently learning to drive. So what happens when it's a toss up between buying a car and new handbag? She says the bag will win, every time. "I'm in no doubt that my Balenciaga bag will be worth more than my car!"

    It's a sentiment shared by Jasmine Lennard - the 21-year old who came to fame via the TV programme Make Me A Supermodel.


    She thinks it quite understandable that she had to be physically removed from a New York airport by police after a fracas over her Hermes bag.

    "Anyone would have done the same," she says. "As they dragged me screaming from the airport, all I could think of was my beautiful Kelly bag, languishing somewhere in a hold."

    Jasmine's handbag saga began when she flew to the U. S. for New Year, complete with two suitcases and a red Hermes bag with a lock on the side. It had cost her £10,000.

    Quite why she didn't have it chained to her arm, then, is unclear, but somehow the bag ended up in the hold along with - the horror! - the sort of battered old suitcases that are held together with string. And the inevitable happened.


    "When we arrived, we were told our luggage had gone missing. Two hundred and fifty people were told to write their details on bits of paper and pop them in a box. Well, this was unacceptable. I had a missing Hermes Kelly bag. I'm afraid I started to cause a bit of a rumpus - shouting and screaming - and the police were called."

    Jasmine reckons she has well over 30 bags that are worth over £1,000 each. She "tries" to count them sometimes, or categorise them into summer and winter sections in her wardrobe, or day and night.

    Mostly, though, she just likes to look at them. Her favourite is a leopardskin Dolce & Gabbana bag which cost £1,800. A few weeks ago, she threw another hissy fit when she saw a gold envelope bag in the Louis Vuitton shop window - and was told it wasn't yet on sale.

    "I rang their head office and told them I had to have it. It was like a deep burning inside me. Eventually they agreed. It was only £500 -not very much at all.


    "I will go to any lengths once I see a bag I need. I have a vast mortgage and on occasion I have even spent money that should have gone on that. So, yes, I have jeopardised my house for a handbag. If I had to choose, I'd happily starve to death rather than forsake a bag."

    With millionaire parents, she's probably not in any immediate danger, but plenty of others are. A 2006 Mintel report states that British women spend £350 million a year on bags, with sales up a staggering 146 per cent in the past five years.

    Yet at the same time, young woman are amassing record levels of debt and making up the fastest-growing sector of bankrupts in the country. The proportion of female bankrupts rose from 32 per cent in 2000 to 44 per cent today.

    Even those whose job it is to convince us that we need more - and more expensive handbags - are staggered by what is happening.

    Stuart Vevers is creative director for Louis Vuitton, Givenchy and Bottega Veneta, so clearly a man used to luxury. But he is shocked by what we are prepared to spend.

    "I remember when handbags were £500, and I thought no one would ever go above that. Now they're well over £1,000 and there's no sign of it stopping."

    Perhaps it never will. As soon as she has cleared up her firedamaged home, Lisa Voice is off shopping again, having found a peculiar silver lining to her cloud.

    "The thing about handbags is that they are replaceable," she says with a huge smile. "You can always buy more - and now I've got plenty of room in my cupboards
     
  3. I thought this was an interesting article.
     
  4. very interesting! it is controversial, especially here!

    some people cant justify 1000 on a bag.
    i understand...
    but i must admit, the patchwork bag is not only the most expnsive bag, but the ugliest...
    it is beautiful as ART. not a purse.
     
  5. Well, I know Hermes had a $128,000 alligator, gold, and diamond handbag here in Chicago a month or two ago--I think they are shuttling it around the country to different stores.

    All I really have to say is I sure HOPE she had insurance!!
     
  6. Wow... really interesting article! Thanks for posting!
     
  7. man that bag just makes me shudder.... [​IMG]
     
  8. Your welcome.
     
  9. Please please please DON'T flame me but for some reasons, that patchwork Louis Vuitton reminds me of the Hermes Himalaya bag ... but the Himalaya doesn't cost as much.
     
  10. Yeah that's twice my income!!! ugh!
     
  11. Thanks for sharing :smile:
     
  12. Spending so much on handbags is all very well if you can afford it or save up for them, but these girls are crazy that are keeping up by getting themselves in debt!

    I'm also shocked that Topshop bags have gone up to that much!
     
  13. Wow. Interesting article. Did a PFer buy that expensive LV? :smile: So many diehard LV fans here!
     
  14. Where oh where do you get your emoticon?? They are hilarious!
     
  15. "If I get that Louis Vuitton patchwork bag, it'll be worth twice what I've paid for it one day. And when I have it on my arm, everyone will envy me."

    I won't be, lol...nothing against LV, but that bag looks like Frankenstein's monster. It reminds me of the mutated monster from multiple horror movies in bag form. I wish it had eyes, I'd laugh so hard :biggrin: