The “It bag’s” death knell may have been clanging for a while now, but the recent spate of fantastic new bag brands suggests that our craving for arm candy remains alive and well. Strategy consultancy firm Bain & Co recently estimated that the global sales growth of accessories such as handbags and shoes has been decelerating, rising by only 7 per cent in 2013, compared to 16 per cent in 2012. It says that sales of personal luxury goods like handbags and jewellery grew 2 per cent in 2014 to €223 billion (compared with a 9 per cent compounded annual growth rate from 2009 to 2013). Bottom line, growth in handbag sales is still happening – just a bit slower.
In an increasingly competitive marketplace, much of the growth in bag sales is now fuelled by niche brands that make a virtue of their peculiarities and rarity. Here are just two new perspectives, each coming from very different backgrounds, but both offering high-end alternatives with an obsessive’s eye for craft.
Peau De Chagrin
Mesh Chhibber, a fashion industry insider who has worked for, among others, John Galliano and Stella McCartney, and Sofie C. Guerrero, an ex-dancer, got together with a simple idea: find craftspeople from around the world who could help them create objects of beauty and quality. With a name originating from a Balzac novel, their aim is to create functional objets d’art using only the finest artisans.
The pair’s first creation is a large handbag, based on a vintage doctor’s bag that Guerrero cherished. Crafted in a traditional tan brown using chrome-free leather (to lessen the environmental impact of the tanning) and with beautifully sewn contrast stitch darts on the side, the bag practically yells thoughtfulness, quality and care.
The bags, of which there are just 100, are only available from the Peau De Chagrin website. Prospective customers must email their request for one, pay €3,500, let a leather-maker in Switzerland craft it by hand for six to eight weeks, and then wait for the bag to arrive on their doorstep. Once those 100 orders have been placed, that’s it.
“I had so many friends who were buying bags worth £2,000 and yet they’d break within a couple of years,” Chhibber tells me. “I thought our industry had gotten quite cynical about luxury – consumers were getting charged a lot of money for nice-looking bags that were badly made.”
Peau De Chagrin’s aim of keeping luxury special and limited means that once a product is sold out, you won’t ever be able to get that exact model again (though they may re-issue it in a different colour or new shape). A great way to use FOMO as a reason to buy.