Kirstie Clements: So small, and so very expensive

Even Chanel's ubiquitous 2.55 handbag is up around the $10,000 mark.

Even Chanel's ubiquitous 2.55 handbag is up around the $10,000 mark. Photo: Getty

I was speaking with a friend recently, who happens to be a handbag designer. A very good designer, who has worked with Calvin Klein in  New York, and has had her own business for many years.

I asked her if she was working on any new designs and we discussed what we thought might be lacking in the handbag world at the moment, if anything.

That started an internet deep dive into current designer bags and – apart from the sheer plethora of them – I must admit, despite all my years working in luxury fashion, I was slightly shocked at the prices.

I discovered a super cute handbag called the Mini Jodie from Bottega Veneta, a gorgeous squishy model made from gold and silver woven strips, just big enough to carry your mobile. $7730. That’s a lot for a small evening bag.

We know by now about the astonishing prices people will pay for a particular Hermes Birkin or Kelly bag, the ne plus ultra of status bags.

The rarity and exclusivity of these items is all part of the brand’s marketing, and the reason why clients are prepared to part with millions of dollars for one bag, made of mythical Himalayan dragon scales studded with plutonium or whatever.

But back on planet Earth, the evergreen Chanel 2.55, the classic black quilted handbag with its long chain handle, the practical yet chic bag we fashion editors cheerfully told every woman she should have in her wardrobe back in 1990, is now about $10,000.

Chanel prices have basically doubled in the past few years. It hard to reconcile these sky-high prices, especially when your handbag designer friend can drill down on the exact cost of goods and micro differences between good suede and treated leather and you work out the ludicrously high profit margin.

There seems to be a prevailing idea that certain designer bags – like those from Chanel, Hermes or Louis Vuitton – gain in value, appreciating year by year. And that may be true, but not if you actually use them. Which, call me crazy, is supposed to be the point.

I have one designer bag I bought in 2018, which I love to pieces, and use at least five times a week. It was looking a little worse for wear, so I took it into the store to inquire about the possibility of refurbishment. I was told it could be done, but it would cost more than $1200 (and take 14 weeks).

While I was processing this information, the very lovely sales assistant politely suggested that I just replace the bag instead. She didn’t need to hear a rant, but I was fuming inside.

The whole message from the luxury industry is to buy once and buy well, that quality is worth the big price tags, that these items are lifetime purchases.

But apparently not, because the brisk notes that the appraisal team wrote about my bag were that it looked “worn”. Um, yeah. Worn almost every day. If we want to go by the cost-per-wear rule, I plan to carry it daily for at least another 10 years. And love it.

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