For fashionistas, a designer handbag is what a sports car is to petrol-heads; the ultimate head-turning blend of beauty and function that has become a form of expression. A subtle mix of status, luxury, quality, and pedigree comes with every piece. Some will pay tens or even hundreds of thousands just to have the right bag on their arm.
Why Are Designer Handbags So Expensive? Combining expensive and sometimes rare materials with tricky manufacturing techniques are only partly why they are so expensive. Desirability is a major factor. Many are limited edition, thus the principles of supply and demand also come into effect. The designer handbag has become a status symbol for those wishing to celebrate and showcase their success.
Of course, there are those who simply don’t understand the attraction. They feel that paying for a name brand makes no sense because the name is precisely what you’re paying for, nothing more. This debate can leave everyone in between scratching their heads in confusion. Thankfully, a little research can go a long way, so come with me and dig a little deeper.
Why Are Designer Handbags So Expensive?
For those who know nothing about the process of designing and producing handbags, it can be hard to know whether splurging hard-earned cash on an ‘it’ bag is worthwhile. Whether its the enduringly popular Michael Kors or a top tier Chanel, designer bags like these don’t come cheap thanks to a mix of quality materials, design, process, and, yes you guessed it, desirability.
So, while status and pedigree do have a lot to do with the cost of your favourite designer bags, they’re not the only factors of consequence. Why Are Designer Handbags So Expensive? Here are 16 hidden elements that you’re paying for.
1. The Brand Name
So, there is some truth to what the detractors of brand name bags say; above and beyond all else, you are paying for the name and logo of the fashion house which produces it. More specifically you’re paying for the right to carry and display that name and brand, as well as everything they represent, in the form of a handbag.
This is also why it’s common to see certain types of people carrying certain brands; Dior, for example, is seen as a classic brand for mature people with elegant tastes, and Gucci has recently reinvented itself as the brand for youthful fashionistas and celebrities (thanks to the #GucciDrip trend).
2. The History of the Fashion House
The history of the brand goes hand in hand with the name and is why houses with long histories and big reputations, like Gucci and Hermes, can charge more than relatively new designers like Michael Kors. Houses with long pedigrees can charge a premium because of their longevity and their significance in previous eras.
3. The Designers Reputation
As with perfumes, the name on the bag isn’t always the name of the person who designed the specific bag you are holding. Just as Dominique Ropion is a superior perfumer, Alessandro Michele is an expert creative director; as a result, handbags designed or overseen by him generally command a higher price.
In this sense, buying a handbag can be rather like buying a painting; and unknown artist could paint as well as Van Gogh, but there’s no substitute for the ‘real thing’.
Designers in big fashion houses are looking to make their mark with innovative new designs, not copies of older designs. This is one of the more substantial reasons that designer handbags cost so much; you’re paying for the training, experience, and creative skill of the designer as well as the time that goes into the design process.
5. Desirability Is A Huge Factor
A somewhat hard to quantify, but nonetheless important; this is why some designer bags, like the ‘classic’ Gucci, are more expensive than newer bags from the same designer. What makes a bag desirable, however, is hard to pin down because it has as much to do with how much press coverage it gets and which celebrities favour it.
6. Celebrity Status
Celebrity endorsement is not always a big factor in the popularity of a fashion house overall, though for older houses a young, fresh celebrity can bring them back into touch with new generations.
Celebrity influence, however, can do a lot for a specific bag; if Mila Kunis or Angelina Jolie are seen sporting a specific Hermes or Dior clutch, for example, the desirability and price of that bag can rise exponentially.
The exclusivity of the bag in question also impacts its price. This is why limited-edition bags can sell for tens, or even hundreds, of thousands (even if they are second-hand!). After all, rare commodities have always commanded a higher price; why should bags be any different? If the bag you have your eyes on is one of 300 you should be prepared to pay a little more than if it was mass-produced.
Because they have a reputation and name at stake, designer houses do not cut corners to save a few bucks here and there. Most designer handbags are made from expensive materials to enhance the feeling of luxury and exclusivity. Some designer bags even use precious metals and stones as adornment!
9. The Quality of the Finish
As you would imagine, extra care is taken to ensure that the finished product is not only beautiful and functional but durable so that each bag reflects well on the fashion house that produced it. This means that you’re unlikely to find a frayed edge or split seam in your Dior tote bag! This extra peace of mind, and the time it takes to ensure it, accounts for some of the cost!
The people who construct and finish designer leather bags are trained craftsmen and women who command a higher rate of pay than the average factory worker.
As a result, the cost of making bespoke or niche designer handbags is significantly higher than factory or mass-produced handbags. The craftsmen and women involved in this process can range from leather workers to jewellers and even professional embroiderers!
11. Manufacturing Process
Part and parcel with the labour costs is the overall manufacturing process. When using specialist materials, creating fine detailing, and embellishing the finished product increases the amount of time needed to manufacture each bag exponentially. Intricate bags may also require a more complex process requiring multiple machines and artisans.
12. Handmade Parts
Many designer bags have handmade parts and embellishments, while others are entirely handmade. These bags tend to be the most costly of all as they can often take a full day, or even multiple days, to produce (for just one bag!). In these cases, you are paying for the craftsmen and women who put the bag together as well as the materials, embellishments, and the prestige that the designer label brings.
13. High Status
As with everything in life, even designer handbags have a tier system; the bags that afford a higher ‘status’ to the wearer cost more. So, just as Ferrari and Mercedes both make good cars, but Ferraris are more expensive, Dior and Michael Kors handbags are just as functional and beautiful as each other though Dior handbags ten to cost more.
This is because of the intangible ‘status’ which is connected to each of them; this is made up of the brand name and history, of course, but also the people connected with the brand and their current public image.
For example, Gucci accessories have risen in popularity recently, thanks to their connection to young, pop culture icons. As a result, even second hand Gucci merchandise is selling well at higher prices.
14. On-Trend Accessories
For the fashion-conscious, staying on trend is important, and so the current seasons’ clothes, accessories, and bags are more costly than out of date or older items.
In this case, you are paying to make an impression; being the first person you know to have the on-trend Gucci clutch or Hermes tote is a big deal and can win you approval in the right circles (if that’s something that’s important to you then make sure that you research this season’ hot items before buying a bag!).
15. More Personal Service
Unsurprisingly, designer brands and fashion houses put a lot of energy into keeping their customers happy; they know that word of mouth is often the best advertisement, and reputation is everything in their industry. As a result, you are more likely to get a personal service from the staff; any issues or problems are sure to be resolved quickly, though they’re less likely to arise.
16. High-End Branding and Marketing
Finally, when you buy a designer handbag, you’re paying for the high-end branding and marketing that goes into keeping these fashion houses relevant and on-trend.
It may seem that big houses like Yves Saint Laurent and Louis Vitton need no introduction, but this is because of the clever ways in which they manage their marketing campaigns to be both subtle and pervasive. They hire the best, of course, so that they can be the best, and that costs a lot of money!
Are Designer Handbags Worth It?
So, as you can see there are reasons why designer handbags command such huge prices; high-quality materials, the input of skilled craftsmen and women, and less quantifiable factors such as reputation and desirability (as well as the rarity of a handbag) all come together to make the perfect storm.
However, whether or not any handbag is worth the price tag is entirely up to you. Of course, there are those who think that having the best, on-trend bag for that season is worth any price that they can afford, while there are others who look for a little more from a handbag.
If you’re new to the world of designer bags, but you want to invest in a good first purchase you should consider your tastes, your needs, your budget, and, of course, the image you want to project. Here are some of the main concerns when buying a designer handbag;
Is The Bag Suitable For Everyday Use?
If you’re investing in a designer bag as a treat for yourself, it makes sense that you should choose one that you can get regular use out of. Choose a bag that will fit either your everyday essentials, or be a good go-to bag for dinners, parties, and nights on the town.
Is It Durable?
Think about the climate you live in and ask yourself how well the bag will fare. After all, suede is beautiful, but it may not stand up to cold, wet, and snow for long, Likewise, fabrics which bleach easily in strong sunlight may be a poor choice for those living on the equator,
Do You Like It?
This is most important! There’s no point in spending huge sums of money on something if you don’t like it. This seasons ‘must-have’ may well be what most fashionistas are drooling over, but if it’s unsuitable (or you find it downright ugly) then you’ll be getting nothing in return for your hard-earned cash.
At the end of the day, a designer handbag is one of life’s little luxuries and only the consumer can truly decide what these items are worth. Choosing to invest in a Gucci, Prada, or even Michael Kors bag is something that you should do to please yourself first and foremost. Things like trends, reputation, status, and designer pedigree should never come before your own taste and style… after all, fashion is about expressing yourself.
Before you go, I have put together a review of the most elegant perfumes ranging from timeless classics to modern day sophistication that I think you will enjoy.
Discover Your Perfect Designer Handbag
Please take a moment to browse through my hand-picked collection of elegant designer handbags.
There may just be the perfect bag waiting there for you!
Ingrid is an avid perfume collector, experienced Youtube fragrance reviewer and prolific writer who has been working in the fashion industry for over 30 years. I love nothing more than losing myself in the Harrods fragrance department to discover something enticing. Ingrid’s Full Bio.