Women love luxury handbags which are produced by the top brand fashion houses. If you go onto some of the purse forums such as "Purse Blog" you will see that some women are really obsessed with them. Some women own dozens of luxury handbags which are probably worth many thousands of dollars collectively. If you follow social media you will also see that celebrities and royals carry a large range of them – one to match each color and style of their outfits.
Can you afford a branded luxury bag?
For celebrities and royals it is easy to own a menagerie of luxury handbags. But what about the average working woman or the stay at home mum. How can she afford to pay such extravagant prices in order to fulfil her whims? Well the fact is that most women will go without other things in order to realise her purse dream.
What sacrifices would you have to make to afford the gorgeous Hermes Birkin which sold at auction recently for over $200,000 made of exquisite pink crocodile decked with gold hardware and real diamonds? And forget this exceptional price because the average Hermes will cost you around $8000 and you may have to be on a waiting list to get it!
You probably will not be able to get hold of any luxury handbags for much under $500 and the low end luxury bags have the brands logo plastered all over them - Tacky!. Most exclusive brands will be over $1000. So the bulk of us need to save our pennies just to afford one of these extravagant items.
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Luxury handbags are the ultimate 21st- century object of desire, not just for supermodels and celebrities and royals, but for working women from all walks of life as well. These days, women of all ages are willing to spend more on a designer handbag than a holiday or even a car - and they hope need everyone else will notice it as well.
The message often portrayed in advertising campaigns is clothes are redundant - it's all about the bag! At fashion parades and advertising campaigns, clothes regularly take second place to a luxury handbag.
But why do women find luxury handbags so desirable? It's somewhat because they've become a distinctive fashion statement of a woman's wealth and status. They also reflect how fashion savvy a woman is, and demonstrates her position and earning power. It is also due to the rising popularity of large purses over the last 100 years has followed the increasing social independence of their owners.
Two hundred years ago, a woman's role was largely domestic and she would keep her belongings in a purse tucked into the folds of her clothes or in a small handbag she carried discretely in her hand.
But as women started leaving the home, both for leisure and work, larger bags became a useful way of carrying their possessions and daily needs. In fact it was Eleanor Roosevelt who started the fashion trend of carrying large purses as an acceptable style.
As access to rail and sea travel became easier, there was an explosion in the popularity of fashionable luggage such as suitcases, dressing cases, hat and shoe boxes - out of which the modern leather handbag developed.
It's no accident that many of today's most luxury handbag design houses, such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada and Hermes, originated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as travel became more common. Then, as women gained financial independence, so the handbag industry flourished out of all proportion to its humble origins.
But the way the right bag can make us feel goes far deeper than just being a way of carrying our possession. Both revealing and concealing, it also epitomizes something intensely private to its owner. This stems mainly from the fact that the handbag was first developed from a silk purse or pocket worn next to the body for safe keeping. In times past pockets were seen as items of underwear - secret places hidden under opulent material and assessed only by an intimate slit in the skirt.
These intimate undertones remained when the first example of luxury handbags were developed in the late 18th century. Called reticules, they were exquisitely embroidered, pouches with handles in damask, satin or velvet, in which a woman would could carry cosmetics, a fan for flirtation, smelling salts and cartes de visite, all without compromising the slim-line fit of the newly fashionable Empire-line dresses.
Initially, the idea of a woman exhibiting her personal belongings in a visible pocket was as scandalous to many aristocrats as if she had taken off her knickers and waved them in the air. As a result of this attitude reticules were labelled "ridicules" for a while.
For some time, luxury handbags were seen as sexual items. The expression "old bag" was used to describe a woman who was past her sexual and the saying is still in use today to describe a woman with no emotion or compassion.
These days, luxury handbags still have their sex appeal and remain an accessory that is still very closely associated with all of our most intimate possessions. A large purse carries our survival kit for daily life - from mobile phone, tampons, make-up, money and keys, to hair straighteners, laptops, I-phones, chewing gum, condoms or a change of clothes. As a result, its mysteriousness remains intact. Many men find the intricacies of what a woman carries in her handbag excitingly incomprehensible and would never venture to invade its privacy.
Most women would feel naked without their luxury handbags. It is in your bag rather than your clothes that you can make sure you stand out from the crowd. Even if your outfit is old and outdated an exquisite bag makes you look and feel good.
This trend which has driven the incredible growth of the handbag industry in the past few decades. By mid-2000's sales of bags were growing at twice the rate of clothes. Now a big fashion houses make millions of dollars a year from the sale of luxury handbags alone.
So what are the features that make luxury handbags desirable? The most obvious feature is a outstanding design. It needs to be immediately recognized as a renowned brand - Fendi, Gucci, Chanel, Hermes, Louis Vuitton or from other established fashion houses. Many fashion houses have their signature styles and this also helps in recognition of the brand itself.
The concept of an "It Bag"
Another essential element for a luxury bag is glamour and the concept of the "It Bag" Usually this comes from the charmed connotation between a particular brand and a celebrity - such as the famous Hermes Kelly bag.
First produced in 1935, it was not until 1956 that the bag's status shot to global bestseller status. And this happened all because the newlywed Princess Grace of Monaco was legendarily photographed for the cover of Time magazine shielding her pregnant belly with a classic Hermes bag. The bag in question thereafter became known as the Kelly in her honour. Fashion commentators at the time were quite clear about the association of bag and star: carrying a Kelly bag screamed class and old money, both then thought to be highly desirable.
The Kelly top - the Birkin bottom
After the Kelly Hermes developed the Birkin. The infamous Birkin was created by Hermès who modified another of their designs, the Haut à Courroies (originally created around 1900) to create a bag for the actress and singer Jane Birkin. The Birkin has since become one of the most desirable, most widely recognised bags ever mad.
In 1994, the Lady Dior became a sensation when Princess Diana took to wearing it around town after she separated from Prince Charles. This bag is a seductive combination of briefcase and handbag which has distinctive gold charms. It depicted a serious woman who was nonetheless glamorous and sophisticated.
And these days, social media can raise the status and demand for a particular bag just by been photographed on the arm of a style icon, celebrity or royal like Princess Kate Middleton.
Astute marketing certainly also plays a vital part in creating a must-have bag. While celebrities may always be able to get their hands on the latest luxury handbags, for the woman in the street it's much more of a challenge, regardless of how much money they are willing to spend. The fact that many high-status bags are unavailable makes it more desirable. Some luxury handbags have waiting lists stretching up to three years. The Hermes Birkin is in this category.
Women's natural competitiveness is cleverly managed by the top bag designers. For example. In 2005, Alexander McQueen stimulated customer demand to a frenzy when he publicized the launch of his new designer bag. He stated that it was a limited edition with only 200 ever to be produced, and so it became the ultimate fashion trophy, selling out before a waiting list was even compiled. This bag was called the Novak after Kim Novak, the legendary blonde actress who starred in Alfred Hitchcock's 1958 masterpiece Vertigo. Prices started at £550 and went up to a whopping £6,000 for the deluxe crocodile version.
It seems a price tag does not stop a unique luxury bag from selling well. In fact, fashion houses believe that an ever-increasing price tag seems to add more desire to own it. There seems to be an endless willingness to splash out on designer bags.
Luxury bags will last a lifetime if cared for properly. Some of these styles may come and go, some retain their value and some increase in value. But it is only a handful of handbags have the magical qualities to become iconic. To become iconic a bag is not just outstandingly designed but it also transcends the time in which it was fashioned.
Luxury handbags which have earned the right to be called iconic are the Hermes Kelly, the Fendi Baguette, the Marc Jacobs's Stam, the YSL Muse and the Mulberry Roxanne. All of these bags share a clear, clean line; nothing fussy or over-designed, with a combination of functionality and luxury.
An iconic bag owes its status to the finest traditions of pedigree, quality and craftsmanship to look as good decades later as it did the day it was first created. And, for a true bag-lover, that is almost beyond price.