Outshouted by Prada and Gucci, Goyard Quietly Attracts the People Who Count PARIS -- In the world of fashionable accessories and luggage, where the recognizable brands of Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Prada scream luxury, Goyard only whispers the word -- but it whispers into the ears that count. With only one fully owned boutique, in Paris, and without spending a euro on advertising, its $855 chevron-patterned St. Louis PM tote bag is on the holiday wish lists of many American socialites and celebrities. New York department store Bergdorf Goodman dedicated a prime corner of its ground-floor accessories department exclusively to the brand this year. Barneys New York is featuring one of Goyard's $2,005 blue, rectangular Comores tote bags in the retailer's Andy Warhol-themed holiday catalog. Fans of the brand include film director Sofia Coppola, French chef Alain Ducasse and Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld, who owns a Goyard trunk painted with his initials. In blue: Goyard's Comores tote (crown logo is for royalty only); in red: the Ambassade briefcase. "The whole world is wearing Louis Vuitton," says Mindy Retblatt, an outerwear-company executive from Roslyn, N.Y., who recently spent $1,500 on two Goyard totes. "This brand was a little more in the closet." Reticent it may be, but Goyard has endured. Founded in 1853 as a maker of trunks, it has equipped grand dukes, moguls and movie stars with all manner of luggage over the decades. The current craze for Goyard totes and bags is welcome but could fizzle out; previous "It-bags" like Yves Saint Laurent's Mombasa and Celine's Boogie did little to lift their labels' fortunes in the long run. Goyard declines to discuss its finances. But according to public records, sales at its Paris boutique alone last year soared 90% to $4.81 million. Operating profit more than tripled, and the company's 29% operating margin is one of the highest among luxury-goods brands. The company's low-key approach also suggests that to boost brand image, there's an alternate path to the marketing-driven strategy of most luxury companies. Most fashion brands spend millions on advertising, fashion shows, photo shoots, red-carpet placements and big parties. Over the past decade, the template used by companies like LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton and PPR SA's Gucci Group, to rejuvenate the smaller labels they snapped up during the 1990s has been to ramp up advertising and open big stores around the world. In the U.S. market alone, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Dior and Gucci collectively spent $74.3 million on ads in the first nine months of the year, up 33% from the same period five years ago, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus. By contrast, Goyard not only shuns advertising, but also employs no well-known designers. It doesn't make apparel -- the tactic many brands use to get themselves onto the catwalk and into fashion magazines. Instead, the label tries to provide customers with a personalized service. Goyard bags can be monogrammed with initials, colorful stripes or other symbols the buyer may want. Linda Fargo, senior vice president and fashion director of Neiman Marcus Group's Bergdorf Goodman, says that between 30% and 40% of Goyard buyers customize their bags, paying $155 for stripes and $95 for monograms. "You feel a kind of authorship in the process," says Ms. Fargo. Goyard only draws the line for its crown symbol, which is reserved for royalty. A year ago, according to Goyard, the company forbade Barneys from painting the crown onto bags for customers who couldn't prove royal lineage. Goyard's approach "increases the allure of the product among the most sophisticated customers because it maintains its insider status," says James Hurley, the managing director of luxury consultancy Telsey Advisory Group in New York. With brands like Goyard, Barneys and Bergdorf Goodman are also trying to capitalize on the nascent consumer backlash for omnipresent brands. Bergdorf Goodman, for example, stocks bags by little-known designers such as VBH, designed by an ex-Valentino executive. Barneys, a unit of Jones Apparel Group, is expected to carry a dormant French apparel brand Vionnet starting next month. Barney's women's fashion director, Julie Gilhart, first discovered Goyard in Paris during the 1990s when she walked past the brand's then-frumpy store on Rue St. Honoré. The first time she stopped in, she was looking for a bowl for her cat. About five years ago, Ms. Gilhart walked by the store window and noticed a distinctively fresher look. "I thought, maybe we should explore to see if there's anything we could do," she says. Behind the boutique's transformation was Jean-Michel Signoles, an entrepreneur who created French children's clothing brand Chipie. In 1998, Mr. Signoles decided to buy the 150-year old Goyard brand from descendants of its original founders. Slowly, Mr. Signoles started to introduce new colors -- such as white, blue and pink -- to Goyard's collection, livening up the dark colors that had characterized the brand's luggage. He also rummaged through the company's archives and reintroduced classic handbag styles. Then he freshened up the store and hired the former president of fashion brand Chloé, Mounir Moufarrige, as an adviser. Ms. Gilhart was quick to jump on the refreshed Goyard, offering Mr. Signoles one of the best real-estate locations in Manhattan for a luxury brand. When Barneys expanded its accessories department in 2002, Goyard unpacked its bags in a 400-square-foot corner right inside the Madison Avenue entrance. Barneys organized a two-week launch exhibition featuring vintage trunks owned by former Goyard clients such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Mr. Signoles isn't rushing to expand. So far, Goyard is sold in 12 stores around the world, including the Isetan department store in Japan and a boutique on Union Square in San Francisco. Forty percent of sales come from the U.S. Sales per square foot average $9,000 to $11,000, according to a person close to the company -- significantly higher than other accessories stores. Next year, Goyard plans to open a new Paris store for pet accessories, offering such items as a $1,970 collapsible dog bowl. Says Mr. Signoles: "We don't want the brand to become too disseminated, which could trivialize it like the big French and Italian brands."