A handbag? That will be £23,484-News-UK-TimesOnline From The Sunday Times February 25, 2007 A handbag? That will be £23,484 John Elliott and Laura Myers STAND by for handbags at dawn. Status-conscious women are fuelling a boom in demand for designer bags that has pushed up the most ostentatious items to prices above that of a Mercedes car. The top-priced arm-wear includes a Louis Vuitton Tribute Patchwork bag costing £23,484, followed by a Fendi bag made from chinchilla and sable and priced at £20,000. More budget-minded buyers could opt for a crocodile-skin Carolyn from Marc Jacobs for £13,000 or Valextras Carla, made of alligator hide and priced at £11,160. The bag frenzy has taken off in the past few years and is not confined to the highest end of the price range. Selfridges, the department store chain, reports that the average price tag on designer handbags at its shops has risen by 55% to about £850 since 2005. Fashion experts say women are increasingly seeking bragging rights through owning a handbag that will be the envy of their peers. Francesca Marotta, a 32-year-old fashion designer from west London, said: I know a lot of women who will starve to get a handbag. Ive got a lot of friends like that. For many, bags have replaced the craze for high-priced shoes from designers such as Jimmy Choo and Manolo Blahnik. Some retailers insist owning a bag costing more than £1,000 can make financial sense to middle-class women they may scrimp on clothing, but the same expensive bag can be carried daily, adding a touch of glamour to different outfits. Items such as the Tribute Patchwork, made from cut-up bits of 15 handbags from Louis Vuittons ranges and incorporating rare feathers and alligator skin, serve as flagships for the new trend. Only one of these bags will be available in Britain, according to the fashion house. Its cost is nearly £3,000 higher than the £20,630 tag for a Mercedes C 180 K Coupé SE. Abigail Rainer, a fashion executive at Harrods, said: Historically, English women were quite mean about handbags now weve got into it. Its an investment and a status symbol. Python-skin bags have become quite a mainstream thing, and £1,000 is pretty average. Lorna Rhodes, 30, a make-up artist who owns more than 200 handbags, said: When I wear a designer bag, the way I walk is different, the way I feel is different. It makes me feel good to have a designer bag.