If one can name drop a “Kelly” or “Jackie” and have it immediately be known that it’s the bag — not the namesake, or the girl next door — that one’s referring to, well then, the world of handbag marketing, has taken on a life of its own.
Not only did a study by the Boston Consulting Group find the prices of handbags from seven major luxury brands to have risen by an average of 14 percent each year from 2002 to 2012, a recent report by Exane BNP Paribas notes that personal accessories — dominated by handbags — now accounts for almost 30 percent of the total global luxury market, a significant jump from 18 percent in 2003.
With competition in this increasingly crowded segment heating up, some luxury brands are conversely cutting back on launching new designs. The reason? The proliferation of social media has resulted in overexposure, creating premature consumer fatigue.
Instead, to refresh their offerings and prevent alienating aspiring consumers, luxury brands such as Fendi and Givenchy by Riccardo Tisci have rolled out sought-after miniatures of their iconic models instead. Likewise, Louis Vuitton launched its first Nano collection of heritage handbags last year, fitting downsized signature models — such as the Speedy, the Lockit and the Alma — with shoulder straps. For Pre-Fall 2016, the brand created a baby bag charm replica of its City Steamer in the exact new-season colours.
This season even witnessed the birth of a crop of next-gen designs based on items introduced only the season before — namely, Hugo Boss’s Bespoke bag and Celine’s Trotteur and Belt Bag.
It’s a win-win situation for both the brand and the consumer. Minis have a scaled-down price tag to match, thus encouraging sales especially among aspiring fans. At the same time, with the core originals still safely placed atop their pedestals, their exclusivity and prestige remain uncompromised.
The unceasing enchantment with It bags has also spilled over to the creation of a new department of accessories: Add-ons such as charms and decorative shoulder straps that have become entry-level status symbols with high margins and long waiting lists.
Fendi’s wildly successful Bag Bugs created new buzz in accessories when it debuted in Autumn/Winter 2013. Buoyed by the phenomenal success of the furry trinkets, the brand launched Karlito, a bag charm that resembles Creative Director Karl Lagerfeld, a year later.
The Bag Bugs have since spawned various guises: Full-fledged bags, shoes, a chair (by the Campana Brothers) and even watches. Likewise, the Karlito evolved into a limited edition capsule collection of small leather goods this season, punctuated with black mink details. Before we knew it, Fendi was at it again, launching Strap You, a range of decorative shoulder straps, for Cruise 2016. It showed up in the Men’s Spring/Summer 2016 collection soon after.
Another approach to accessorising our favourite bags emerged with Anya Hindmarch’s playful line of leather stickers in fun prints, ranging from smiley faces to cartoon thunderbolts. “When I was at school, I was in uniform all the way down to the shoes and so you would sticker up your notebook. That was the fun element — it was the only form of personalisation available, the only type of fashion when you’re sitting in an all-girls boarding school,” Hindmarch recalled. Her fun and easy means of customisation was an unexpected hit that continues to see new designs since its initial release in Spring/Summer 2015.
“Each season, we do very well with the stickers from Anya Hindmarch and the bag charms from Fendi. They are very decorative and become conversational pieces that are mini collectibles,” affirms Cassie Smart, bag and shoe buyer at MatchesFashion.com.
“What is clever with both Fendi and Anya is that each season, the category evolves. Our customers respond well to these pieces as they can continue to invest in newness from a brand at a great price point, and update their own handbags and accessories,” she adds.
When bags take a backseat, does this mean that accessories (charms, shoulder straps and stickers) for accessories (luxury bags) are now the new It?