As the fall fashion weeks slowly draw to a close, once again the
runways from New York to Paris were as much about the handbags and
other accessories as they were about the clothes.
accessories taking center stage at shows such as Ralph Lauren, Michael
Kors, Marc Jacobs, and Badgley Mischka, Americans still have a lot of catching up to do, according to an article in today’s WWD.
clearly dominating handbags right now," said Robert Burke of Robert
Burke Associates, a consultancy based in New York. "It’s hit or miss in
the American market and I feel as though designers are pushing it all a
little too hard. It’s like I’m being force-fed."
Europe has had
the luxury handbag market locked down for years. Louis Vuitton built an
empire around the handbag, as did Hermès and Gucci. The firms all own
and operate their own tanneries and factories in Italy and, with their
deep pockets, can buy the best skins to produce bags for Dior, Vuitton
and Givenchy, owned by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, and
Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta, Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, owned by PPR.
if the runway is any indication, American designers — from the
old-school to the new — want in on the luxury handbag market in a big
way, even if competing in the category means new strategies and
branding efforts that distinguish their bags from their clothes and
those of their competitors.
Marc Jacobs is one of the
most successful American designers in the handbag field, having
generated buzz in the category since he launched accessories in the
year 2000. That he had been designing for Louis Vuitton three years
before launching his Collection handbags set a high bar for his
Ed Burstell, senior vice president and general
merchandise manager of jewelry and accessories at Bergdorf Goodman, feels that American RTW firms need to separate the businesses, but
also figure out their place in the market. Jacobs is successful because his accessories line is not an extension
of his ready-to-wear. One
mistake American RTW designers make is by making it a part of their RTW
and it’s not. Accessories need to stand by themselves. Bags are sold
and bought through accessories buyers and sold in another part of the
Another potential issue
is that a majority of American designer brands have added lower-priced
lines as opposed to European houses that offer single luxury
collections. While the broader price offering can widen their
distribution, it also can muddy the image of the brand in the
competitive accessories world. Luxury has to do with
exclusivity. If everybody has access to a label, then certain people
aren’t going to want it and the price tag isn’t going to be worth it."
Mulberry is one
example of how British firms are becoming contenders in the handbag
business. Anya Hindmarch also has seen strong growth in the U.S. and
abroad. Like Mulberry, the British firm started out with handbags and
only recently began adding a small selection of apparel.
invested heavily into our accessories business in terms of production,
design, luxury and innovation," Zac Posen said. "Bags can be designed
anywhere, but it’s about creating classics."
Read "U.S. Designers Covet Bigger Bag Business"
Source & Photo: WWD