Old NYT article on Handbags but still interesting

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  1. Credit to BorsaBella who had this on her blog. Hope you don't mind that I lifted it.

    Ruth La Ferla the New York Times Posted November 10, 2005

    "How did this happen?" Nina Collins asks as she settles down to a lunch of miso soup and salad in downtown Manhattan recently. "When did we get to this place where we spend $1,000 on a bag?"

    The question is rhetorical. Not long ago Collins, herself, arrived at that place, succumbing, she confides a bit sheepishly, to a yen for a handbag styled like a saddle bag from Mulberry, a British luxury brand in high demand at stores such as Barneys New York and Bergdorf Goodman. The price, about $1,200, struck her as an affront to reason. But she had to have it.

    In buying the handbag, Collins, a literary agent, joined an ever-widening circle of status-driven, selectively acquisitive consumers whose purchasing habits have buoyed the luxury market this year -- despite steeper gas prices, inflation and a weakened dollar. A sense of optimism, which industry executives and analysts say is being fueled by a strong stock market and a desire to trade up without regard to price increases of 20 percent to 35 percent over a year ago, has propelled shoppers to stores in ever greater numbers.

    In their pursuit of the season's most coveted bags, many are giving common sense the slip, parting with, say, $975 for a best-seller such as the Marc Jacobs Sofia bag, which last fall commanded $895, or $1,445 for a leather Prada "bowler" bag that, a few seasons back, cost $940 or $990 for similar models.

    Shoppers' infatuation with handbags has lent that category significant clout, to the point, retailers and industry analysts say, that bags have supplanted shoes, jeans and even jewelry as consumers' choice signifier of affluence, social standing and hipness. Never mind that some models, in the battered and fringed styles now popular, look as though they belonged to a tramp."

    It seems that each year what we're seeing in the women's fashion luxury market [is] a migration from one category to the next," says Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst for the NPD Group, a market-research firm in Port Washington, N.Y. "A few years ago it was shoes. Last year it was jeans. This is the year of the handbag."

    Handbag sales, which were $5.34 billion in 2003, were projected to climb 8 percent for 2004, the latest figure available from Accessories Magazine, a trade monthly. Women who bought bags last year spent on average only $40 to $65, according to NPD. Ultra-luxury designer bags -- from $650 to about $15,000, which account for an estimated 5 percent of the market -- are important because the designs invariably filter down, setting the trends for the mass market.

    One reason for the rise of these bags is that the rest of fashion has moved toward a more dressed-down look, so that even jeans may be appropriate for a dinner party. A four-figure bag imparts the corrective message: I am not a graduate student."

    You can go out with blue jeans and cowboy boots, and that high-priced bag makes it all OK," says Cece Cord, a social figure in New York who sells her crocodile handbags at Bergdorf Goodman. "A bag is sort of like a portable house. It represents you."

    Making choices

    Luxury analysts say the new handbag aficionados aren't necessarily middle-age or rich, and that some may defer other purchases in order to splurge. "Bags are selling to women in a wider age range than we've ever seen before," says Dana Telsey, a retail analyst with Bear, Stearns, citing customers from their 20s to their 60s and 70s. The youngest are willing to make a tradeoff, Telsey says. "Maybe it's their lunches. Or maybe it's their living quarters. They'd rather wear their paycheck."

    Pamela N. Danziger, president of Unity Marketing, a consulting firm specializing in the luxury market, maintains that the majority of women buying luxury bags tend to be younger than 40 and to earn from $50,000 to $75,000 a year, or in rarer cases just over $100,000."

    Those women are the most likely to be extravagant," says Danziger. They tend to sacrifice vacations, restaurant dinners and other designer fashion in favor of a luxury bag. "They are the consumers who have something to prove," she says.

    Even when they know better.

    "Do we really need another bag? No," says Gillian Miniter, who runs a small jewelry business from her home in New York and is married to an investment banker. Recently, Miniter, 37, splurged $3,500 for a crescent-shaped Hermes bag for reasons she is hard-pressed to explain.

    "It's almost like how you feel when you buy a piece of jewelry or something that just speaks to you, and when it speaks, you have to have it," she says.

    Like oxygen?

    The ubiquity of clutches, totes, oversized carryalls and weekend bags on designers' runways, on store shelves, in magazine ads, on the arms of celebrities and on city streets is propelling the trend. Open any fashion glossy this season, and there are pages upon pages of ads for bags, more than in recent seasons, enhancing the perception that a bag is the fashion accessory most worth having.

    In department stores, handbag departments that a year ago occupied no more than a few counters of real estate, have muscled their way into full rooms, or in some cases, a significant part of the main floor's selling space.

    "For some women, finding the right bag is as important as oxygen," says Wayne Mahler, fashion coordinator for Linda Dresner boutiques in New York City and Birmingham, Mich. Like other retailers interviewed, Mahler fielded hundreds of calls last season for the increasingly elusive Paddington bag, a pliant, hardware-embellished satchel made by Chloe. "It was cuckoo," he recalls. "We had people weeping on the phone, pleading: 'This is really important to me. Isn't there something you can do?'

    "In contrast to some past years, there is no single "It" bag that seemingly everyone wants. Demand is more diffuse, encompassing a varied array of fall hits such as an oversized black velvet carryall from Marc Jacobs ($2,900), a countrified fringed suede carryall from Hogan ($995), a subtly weathered-looking Lanvin shoulder bag suspended from a chunky chain (about $1,200), and the Fendi Spy bag, a multipocketed style available this fall in tulle ($4,830).

    Paradoxically, even such studiously shabby materials as denim -- which has found its way into one of the year's most sought after bags, the so-called Speedy from Louis Vuitton, ($1,280), a denim carryall emblazoned with the company's "LV" mongram -- seem at times to elevate a bag's worth in the eyes of luxury shoppers. Never mind that a bag's most distinctive features -- a profusion of pockets, padlocks and chains -- are readily knocked off at every level of the market.
  2. That's an interesting article. Thanks for sharing Intl and Borsa!
  3. Thanks for posting that - I do often wonder how high is my own ceiling? When did it become the norm to drop $900+ on a bag?

    Yikes, I still get mad spending over a hundred dollars on good sheets (and I will buy them at Steinmart to get 600+ thread count at a discount); and I sleep on those for at least 7 hours a day. :wacko:
  4. Loganz, yeah, I'm really really curious about why it is that we choose purses to spend our money on. Like, why we think it is absolutely worth it to drop $1K on a handbag... and in most instances, we have more than one $1K bag! We have a slew!

    I wouldn't spend a thousand dollars on another item. Not a coat, not a dress, and definitely not sheets!!! My sheets are from Target and I think they might be polyester! lol
  5. What that article fails to mention is that many of these $1000+ bags have a lifespan of twenty years or more. It also doesn't mention their resale value. It can definitely be seen as a legitimate investment.
  6. ^^ I tell my husband that the bags are an investment and they may be; but, I highly doubt I will still use some of these bags in 10 years; most of us don't stay in the same house in the US more than 5 years. :amazed:
    I also learned a valuable lesson when I tried to sell my paddy on Ebay, one man's treasure is another man's trash - now, when I buy a bag I tell myself there is no reale value in this purchase. (i have kept the paddy and am glad I did; but, at the time it was a good lesson learned)

  7. Jane, reality is that spending this much on bags is RIDICULOUS!!! PERIOD!!!!! And investment is something that you would FOR SURE get more money out of then what you paid for it. Purses are not that. Maybe a Hermes bag that was once owned by Princess Diane but in a regular situation....no. That's why (at least for me) I don't talk about my bag purchases to ANYONE outside this forum. They would just think I am nuts. (Which I understand). If someone asks me why I do it... I would just answer because I wanted it.

    I say don't try to find a way to justify something you are going to do no how outragous it may be. Just do it.
  8. Not neccesarily. Investing almost always involved a degree of risk. Sometimes it is greater (the stock market), sometimes less (diamonds and gold), but the value of any material good will fluctuate.

    Although, I definitely agree with the overall tone of your post. Dropping thousands and thousands of dollars on handbags is NOT a sound investment and should only be done if the person has enough money to and gets real pleasure out of the purchase. I'm not against anyone buying anything that they can afford and that brings them happiness. Handbags can do that. There is no reason to justify the purchase, it really can't be done logically. Just have fun with your bags.
  9. I wouldn't phrase it so strongly, but I don't think "investment" is necessarily the right term for handbags. It's an investment item relative to your wardrobe, but certainly not in any realistic matter of real money and return.

    I like that last part! Just do it!
  10. Here is how I look at it. I bought a laptop less than two years ago, it cost me $2000. Its resale value at the end of this year will probably be about 25% of that, at best. But, I will say that I have gotten a lot of use and value out of it, though I wish that it didn't become so obsolete so quickly.

    Do people raise so much of a stink about electronics that costs thousands and lose huge amounts of value within a few years? We saw some televisions this weekend at Best Buy that cost $5000, it seemed appalling to me. In five years those exact same models will not be worth $5k.

    We also bought a $50 DVD player this weekend. When I got my first DVD player in 1999, my ex paid $600 for it. THAT is an example of prices being driven down, something that doesn't happen in the luxury handbag market unfortunately.
  11. Those women are the most likely to be extravagant," says Danziger. They tend to sacrifice vacations, restaurant dinners and other designer fashion in favor of a luxury bag. "They are the consumers who have something to prove," she says.

    I am obsessed with designer handbags but I have nothing to prove and I don't sacrifice anything. If I can't afford it at the moment I don't buy it!
  12. Yeah that stuck out to me too. I budget my money wisely and don't think I am sacrificing or suffering in any way for my bags. Maybe I am in the minority?

    Lately I have also been selling a bag to make room for a new one. For me that is what makes sense. And I never buy impulsively. I usually have a bag on my radar for at least a week or two, usually more, before I buy.
  13. If you buy a thousand dollar handbag, it is well made, fabulous materials, then enjoy it, take good care of it, then sell it to buy another, I think that makes sense. Are you going to come out ahead? Probably not (maybe Hermes or a rare LV), but at least you enjoyed it, then put that money towards another one. (Sorry for the ill-constructed sentances) I think that is what alot of us do.
  14. Coming out ahead or not, I think as long as we enjoy the bags it's well worth the cost and loss. I definitely am stingy about some parts of my life: I don't buy expensive sheets but I buy expensive clothes. I buy groceries on sale but I also buy Chanel. I don't know if I could call that sacraficing for a handbag. It's just regular give and take.
  15. I agree. I often think twice about a starbucks because I feel I can just brew it at home or at work. But I just love my bags. I think if I can stay sensible, not go into debt, still put money away in other savings and investments, then why not?