Would you pay £13,000 for this bag? Thirteen grand? For a handbag? Burberry's latest model may not be for everyone, but even in these uncertain times, there'll be no shortage of eager customers.Susie Rushton gets carried away Published: 09 January 2008 Burberry Warrior Bag - Gold Alligator It is called the Warrior and it costs £13,000. It is not a small car, nor an artwork. And by this time next year, its owner will want a new one. This is the latest handbag by Burberry, a British fashion house previously best known for classic trench coats. So what could possibly justify this stupendous price tag? Well, let's have a look at this baby. A nice slouchy crescent shape, the Warrior has drawstrings and snazzy armour-plating. It's cut from gold alligator skin – gold-painted, one assumes, although if Burberry had chosen to plate it with the 24-carat stuff, they wouldn't have been the first to bejewel a bag. In December, Chanel introduced its Forever bag, which is not only cut from alligator skin but has a clasp studded with 334 diamonds. Its price? A shade over £100,000. Last year, there was the Louis Vuitton Tribute Patchwork bag, a creation that earned the nickname "Frankenstein's monster" in the fashion press but still carried a £23,484 price tag. And sold out. These are what the fashion industry, with atypical understatement, term "luxury bags". But who is buying them? As the American economy wavers and the credit crunch bites, you might assume that the demand for exorbitantly priced reticules will plummet. But the super-rich who buy bags like the Warrior – and, though fashion houses are notoriously discreet, they do admit that most orders come from the Middle East, Russia and Texas – seem immune to anything as banal as belt-tightening. They feel no guilt when the likes of Harriet Harman thunder, as she did on Newsnight last year: "Do we want to be a divided society where some people struggle and others spend £10,000 on a handbag?" They just want a bag that will make their girlfriends really, really jealous. Burberry won't say how many Warriors will sell, but it confirms that several have been ordered already and there is a healthy interest from clients who "don't seem to mind such prices". What those clients do mind, apparently, is shopping with the plebs. The "luxury bags" are sold either at private appointments or at special invitation-only events attended by women whose credit is matched only by their love of alligator skin. Burberry says it held such a party at its London store, where ladies chose their bags and had them engraved with their initials. The bags were later delivered to their homes in quilted boxes. Similar events were held in Las Vegas, Beverly Hills, Milan, Rome, Madrid, Kuwait and Moscow. The allure of these bags is their scarcity. So, yes, they're made from alligator, ostrich or snakeskin, and might be studded with jewels – but, more than that, they're produced in tiny numbers. When every other woman on the street owns an "entry level" Prada nylon bag or totes a fake Balenciaga Lariat on her arm, the customer with more ample financial means turns her nose up at mere off-the-shelf It bags. "That whole phenomenon has changed," Julie Gilhart, fashion director of Barneys New York, told The New York Times. "Our customers seem to be looking for something more interesting. They don't want to spend money on something everyone else has." Spending £13,000 on a handbag might seem offensively profligate, but it is emblematic of a bag mania that has gripped women of more average means. According to recent surveys, British women own between four and 14 handbags and are prepared to spend, on average, up to £380 per bag. A more conservative survey by Mintel showed that 55 per cent of women have bought a handbag in the past 12 months. Handbag sales in the UK have gone up by 146 per cent in the last five years. The reasons are straightforward; handbags convey status both financial and fashionable, do not require a size four figure, and are utterly frivolous. "People want to spend their money on frivolous things," says Pamela Danziger, author of Why People Buy Things They Don't Need and founder of the research company Unity Marketing. "Handbags definitely fall into that category." No wonder the handbag has become the top fashion signifier. There had long been expensive bags, courtesy of the likes of Chanel and Hermès (whose classic designs were born in the 1950s). But the It bag pandemic began in 1997 with the Baguette, a small, squishy bag by the Rome fur and accessories house Fendi that was designed to be carried under the arm like a stick of bread. Celebrities started carrying the little clutch, and the It bag's concomitant irritation, the waiting list, also arrived. The Baguette's designer, Silvia Venturini Fendi, has since said she could never have predicted that it would be a hit – although she managed to follow up with the Spy and the B bags. This year, the company has produced an anniversary model of the Baguette, in canvas – and, predictably, there is a top-end made-to-order model. This time, amusingly, it's the box (in snakeskin, or any rare leather you choose) rather than the bag that pushes up the price, which starts at £21,000.