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last decade
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Is It The End For Designer Handbags?
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Over the years there have been some iconic designer bags that have become famous not only for the designer and the quality of the work, but also the status that they afforded the buyer. Although not the first status bags the Hermes Birkin (named after the actress Jane Birkin), and The Kelly Bag (named after the late Princess Grace of Monaco) remain instantly recognisable and very popular, though beyond the means of many women.

Starting in the 1990s and continuing through the last decade there was an explosion in the bag market as designers rushed to produce ‘The Bag’ of the season, that every woman would want to buy. These new status bags became known as ‘IT’ Bags. Popular ‘IT’ bags included the Lariat (Balenciaga), Chloe’s Paddington Bag, the Fendi Baguette, Mulberry’s Bayswater to name just a few. The designer bags became the ‘must have’ fashion item for fashion forward women who couldn’t afford to buy designer clothes. Instead of prices going down as more women purchased them prices steadily increased to ensure that they maintained some of the exclusivity.

Not unexpectedly there was another growth bag market and that was the production of fakes. Some were very poor and easily spotted, but then the people who deal in fakes became more sophisticated and produced bags that were far closer to the originals and seemed to come from reputable websites. By the time some people realised that they had been duped there was very little they could do about it. Of course there are people who are happy to buy fakes and are just glad to get them at a cheap price.

Two things have recently changed in the handbag market. There has been a worldwide recession, which some countries are still trying to come out of. This hasn’t meant that there is no longer a market for designer bags. There is, but the designers have changed their attitude to bag design. Bags have become less ostentatious, less buckles, buttons, zips, padlocks etc. It has been a lot less obvious which is the ‘It Bag’ of the season. There have been beautiful bags from all the usual suspects, Chanel, Chloe, Fendi, Balenciaga, Mulberry, Jimmy Choo etc and more recently from the likes of younger designers like Alexander Wang.

The second change in the bag market is bags known as “designer inspired bags”. They are not fakes, but they have clearly been influenced be specific designs. They come at very different price points, from the designer originals, but they do offer a real alternative for woman who want to be stylish and look up to date without spending a fortune.

So is it the death of the designer ’ IT bag’. No actually I don’t think it is. Fashions tend to come round again, and as the world economy strengthens and people flaunt their wealth in a more conspicuous way again, and as different fashion icons arise I guarantee that bag designers will once again start producing an IT bag that captures the imagination of the masses. Until that happens, those who can afford it will continue to buy bags that catch their eyes, others will look at them with a little bag envy and keep their money and others will quite sensibly seek out an acceptable alternative a designer inspired bag.


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