Thursday, November 30, 2006

Let's Chat....

in the new Bagaholics Anonymous forums. Just click the Visit Our Forums button to the upper right and let's start talking!

Hilary Duff

How did she just turn too cool for school overnight? Lady Duff can pull this off like the Marc Jacobs E/W Stam in black quilted leather just happened to be the first thing lying around on her big chair with the clothes she didn't hang up from the day before. (Oh wait, that is me - not her.) Fierce she looks but I have my eye on that bag.


Derek Lam named Creative Director for Tod's

We are thrilled to hear that Derek Lam has been promoted to Creative Director at Tod's. It is clear that Tod's has had a fresh direction of late and it is one that we have been loving. He has revitalized this legendary house by giving it back some much needed youth but still keeping in mind the impeccable feel that is Tod's. Our only concern is that he tends to be a little embellishment happy in his bags but let's just hope that that is something he strickly keeps for his eponymous line. We obviously love the Bensonville so we are not too concerned. So how did he get here? He graduated from Parsons and went to work for Michael Kors for 12 years. We see that Kors has not recovered from this loss. He started his own line in 2002 and in 2004 won the Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation Award for new designers and won the CFDA Perry Ellis Swarovski Award in 2005. Certainly with this resume he can get a job anywhere but we feel Tod's is the perfect fit for Derek with his flirty girly designs and we cannot wait to see what he has in store for us now that he has total control and power!!


PVC by Marc Jacobs

I predict the next step for Marc Jacobs is licensing his name to Sears for a line of polyester elastic waist band pants in mousy colors. At least that's what it feels like the direction is going based on this crap. First we saw his leather shopper, which was gross but could have been construed as humorous. But this!!?? It is black PVC, otherwise called plastic, with contrasting top stitching to make it look even cheaper and to top it all off, shiny gold hardware. It is a plastic tote with no design behind it (Vivienne Tam did fiberglass fabric bags that were well designed and super chic). I am offended that Marc thinks we are all so stupid as to follow whatever he puts out the way his celebrity pack dogs do. By the way, this bag is $1400 at Neiman Marcus.


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Out of the Box reports on the most wanted spring accessories. Click here to go to the interactive slide show. Some of my favorites:


Bag Ladies

At first glance, you might think these women are carrying trash bags. Well, they’re not. It’s the latest Chanel plastic carryall, about $1,000, with chain handles and a signature double-C charm. A few are in leather, and, one, below, is a rare satin one. The bag, first spotted in Paris last month, above, is the superstatus bag carried by shoppers on Madison and Fifth Avenues. There is a waiting list of months to buy one.


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Bag – that which a girl can not live without; short for handbag; almost as essential as oxygen

Bag-a-licious – a handbag so hot it could only be called bag-a-licious; the combination of bag and delicious, because some bags are so good, they look delicious

Bagista – one who works at or is a loyal member of

Bagtionary™ – a bible for any bag lover; a dictionary with only bag terms – a fun fashion website devoted to all things handbags

Barrel bag – a bag shaped like a wooden log with a zipper closing and handles attached to the sides

Chanel 2.55 – made of quilted leather, this classic shoulder bag was designed by French couturiere Gabrielle Chanel in 1955. The distinct interlocking gold c’s and chain strap ooze class and sophistication.

Clutch – a bag that doesn’t have a handle and is held in the arm or clutched under the arm; typically worn in the evening, though lately it has been making appearances on the arms of chic starlets during the day hours

Doctor’s bag – a large bag with two handles that is shaped like a physicians bag. A great style for work.

Duffle bag – canvas bag with drawstring top that’s great for traveling because of its many compartments both inside and out.

Fanny pack – a pouch-like monstrosity that’s worn around the waist. Avoid at all cost unless you are 7-years-old!

Grommets – a reinforced eyelet through which something may pass. Often used to pitch a tent, but much more practical to use as a fashion embellishment

Handbag – a word that sounds like sweet music to our ears. The handbag has been around for centuries. However, it gained fame and became an accessory must in the roaring twenties thanks to stylish flapper girls.

Kelly bag – the Hermes bag, made famous by Grace Kelly in the 1950’s and then named after her. It has a rectangular shape and comes in a variety of colors and textures, though us girls at love the crocodile Kelly in chocolate. Some day, we hope to pool all our money and purchase a bag for community use.

Louis Vuitton Speedy – The doctor’s bag with the LV monogram pattern was created in 1959, though the shape itself was introduced in 1933. Always a classic, the Speedy can be seen on the arms of many starlets and chic women around town.

Manbag – a bag for men that usually comes with a shoulder strap or a wrist strap. The style gained popularity in the early 1970s.

Marc Jacobs – the king of handbags. Between his own lines, Marc Jacobs and Marc by Marc Jacobs, and his work at Louis Vuitton, Mr. Jacobs deserves a round of applause from all bagaholics. So we dedicate this spot on our bagtionary to him, the man who makes us save a months salary for a little piece of heaven.

Messenger Bag – A large bag with an envelope compartment that closes with a snap and has a flap over the front that clasps with a buckle. It's very comfortable and is surfacing as a big trend for Spring/Summer 2006.

Purse – another name for our favorite word, bag

Saddle bag – pair of soft leather bags joined to central strap handle

Safari bag / caravan bag – a double handled bag with a zippered closing and numerous pockets on the front and side

Satchel – a leather bag with a structured bottom and sides that slop upward. The handles tend to be rigid. These days, many bagaholics accessorize their satchels with of-the-minute charms.

Shoulder Bag - a large handbag that can be carried by a strap looped over the shoulder

Tote/Carryall – a large, utilitarian bag that can carry all your “in the bag” goodies; usually has inner zippers and two handles for easy carrying

Umbrella tote – a tote with a side pocket for an umbrella.

Wristlet – a clutch shaped bag that comes with an attached leather, bracelet-looking strap allowing you to hold your bag and dance freely.


Monday, November 27, 2006

Through Jacobs' Eyes

Handbags and modern art may not always go hand in hand but for Louis Vuitton’s Marc Jacobs, excitement always lies in the road less travelled.

NINE years ago, a certain Marc Jacobs was asked to be the creative boss of Louis Vuitton. He of the boyish charm and hair ever so casually mussed up. He wears clothes an average man would: T-shirts, sweaters, crisp white shirts.

Designers who shout rebellion play with stark looks or riotous colours. Think Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons and you get the picture. So you’d be forgiven — just by looking at Jacobs — if you thought him a conformist.

But consider this. A few years before Jacobs joined the French fashion house, he designed a grunge collection for Perry Ellis. The clothes were loathed (before they were loved, much later). Jacobs lost his job.

So... conventional? Hardly.

Jacobs is a lover of all things modern. Brazenly, he pairs loud modernism with Vuitton’s super-conventional, super classic print — the monogram.

He embossed the monogram on patent leather and weaved it on denim and satin.

The result could be a little shocking. But as you see these creations more frequently, you will slowly understand this notion of beauty — of old and new, convention and rebellion —that he tries to project.

He collaborated with Stephen Sprouse for the graffiti bags. Prim Vuitton users were appalled when paint-brush graffiti was sprawled across the bags. But youngsters were intrigued. Suddenly the traditional Louis Vuitton didn’t appear so old.

With Japanese artist Takashi Murakami came the vibrant prints with little eyes — or at least that’s what they look like — interspersed on multicolour monogram. And then the graphic cherry blossoms with yellow smileys in the centre.

And what about those little cherries in the Cerises collection that seem to have comical expressions?

By now the world has seen beauty through Jacobs’ eyes. And Louis Vuitton bags, while always classic, suddenly packed a little more attitude.

This year, Louis Vuitton takes the pairing of carriers and modern art to another level with the Icons exhibition at Espace Louis Vuitton in Paris. (I know we all cannot afford to fly to Europe for the show, so I’m “bringing” the exhibits to you.)

Here’s how it evolved. Nine “artists” were chosen by Louis Vuitton for the show, among them architects, artists and designers. Each was given the liberty to interpret the house’s nine iconic bags. (See sidebar)

Among those involved are Iraqi-born British architect Zaha Hadid, the only woman who has won the Pritzker Prize (the architecture world’s Nobel counterpart, if you like) in 2004.

She is known for “intertwining supple forms and taut lines, acute angles and superposed planes”.

True to her daring approach, Zaha created several versions of a futuristic Bucket bag — twisted and deformed, rounded and sharp, that she grouped together in an archipelago.

Reminiscent of Salvador Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory” (the one with melting clocks), Zaha’s re-imagination of the Bucket is like a white rounded vase, adorned with different facets of the monogram.

Another architect, Tokyo-based Shigeru Ban, is famous for his paper tube structures which allow him to escape technical constraints and structural tensions in favour of dynamic spaces.

Unsurprisingly, his take on the Papillon had him covering his paper tubes with monogram canvas.

Imagine 10 Papillons arranged vertically on their sides to make a pillar and maybe 15 more to form what looks like a bicycle tyre.

All this takes place at the Espace Louis Vuitton, a rotunda under which visitors can enjoy a bird’s eye view of Paris in its autumn shades.

Artist Bruno Peinado, meanwhile, is inspired by record sleeves, video games and comics.

He said there’s a pop dimension to his work because he reuses images found in magazines.

For his reinterpretation of Speedy, Louis Vuitton’s quintessential city bag, he decided to present forms cut with water jet from aluminium in white, black and green. The whole display evokes the myth of great journeys.

If there is such a thing as a literal reintrepretation among the exhibits, it has to come from artist Sylvie Fleury.

Known for her connection between art and society, Fleury takes certain “highly symbolic products” and reproduce them in sculpture form, mainly in chrome-finish bronze.

So she remade the Keepall, Louis Vuitton’s soft luggage. Under her hands, the cabin bag has embossed monogram in patent leather. The colour? Chrome-finish bronze.

You can almost see the bold stares of your fellow passengers at the departure hall as you walk by with your shiny bag. You don’t care. That attitude Louis Vuitton gives its bags? It has has rubbed off on you.


Carried Away

Earlier this year, something rather seismic happened in the world of retail. On a quiet street in west London, a boutique moved its front door. Tom Chapman, owner of the designer chain store Matches, decided that, after several years of the front door opening into the clothing department, it needed to be moved a crucial couple of yards to the left in order to open into the shoes, bags and sunglasses. A minor adjustment, certainly, but this architectural shift reflects and echoes one in the fashion industry: clothing is now the afterthought; it's bags and shoes that come first. "There's been a real shift to accessories for customers and so I realised that it was important for the customer to be confronted with a lovely big wall of shoes and bags as soon as they come in, like sweets in a jar," says Chapman. It's no surprise that he is so keen to celebrate his "lovely big wall": in just two years, his total profits from those sweets has doubled.

According to Mintel, the accessories business, particularly handbags, is the fastest growing sector of the luxury fashion market, "outperforming the other aspects of the market with ease". Claudia d'Arpizio, a partner at the consultancy Bain & Co Inc, was quoted on the Dow Jones newswires last month as saying that the leather goods market alone grew to €15.5bn (£10bn) last year, up from €11.9bn in 2001 and far exceeding growth in the overall luxury market.

The current trend for oversized bags, goggle-like sunglasses and clumping great wedges and boots reflects the way accessories have become the main focus. Next season's catwalks were filled with more of the same: bags decked with clanging chain handles, so large you could carry your child in them, owlish shades, and tottering wedges and platforms causing more than one Naomi Campbell-esque catwalk tumble. At the Louis Vuitton show, one of the bags was simply printed with images of other Vuitton bags, apparently the most aspirational image that designer Marc Jacobs could think of. A headline in the International Herald Tribune above a story reviewing Paris fashion week simply read: "Baubles, bangles and bags: Who cares about the clothes?"

There is now even a slew of websites in the US, including and, where people unwilling to pay £1,500 for a bag can hire one for an evening or so, reflecting the levels of desire handbags have acquired.

Cosmetics, in particular perfume, have long been seen as the oxygen that keeps the fashion industry afloat, mopping up the clothing sector's frequent heavy losses with its more commercial affordability. But although perfume is still a £15bn annual industry, it has become tainted with tacky duty-free associations and sales have been slowing dramatically: for the past two years the sector has grown only by about 3% worldwide, whereas the bags sector is predicted to grow at about 11% over the next five years. According to Cathy Horyn, fashion editor of the New York Times: "Accessories are absolutely the new perfume." Last month, Versace credited its accessories for pushing the company back into profitability after last year's losses.

Just 10 to 15 years ago, the words "designer handbag" were redolent of bouffanted stuffy Sloanes, clutching on to their Chanel quilted bags as they lunched at Le Caprice. Now, announcements heralding this season's It bags make front covers of fashion and gossip magazines, and news of which bag Kate Moss or Sienna Miller is carrying this season causes mass waiting lists. Ask a woman why she would shy away from spending £700 on, say, a Balenciaga jacket but will save up for a similarly priced Balenciaga bag and you get the same answers: you use shoes and bags more than a jacket, accessories don't make you feel fat, you don't have to bother with a changing room to try on accessories in a store, they go with everything and dress up everything.

"I can buy clothes for work, parties and weekends on the high street, which is great. But I then want something, like a bag, to lift my look above that of my friends' teenage daughters, and I can afford it as I save on clothes," says Teresa Lawson, 39, who recently bought a £900 Mulberry bag. "Because high-street clothes are so good it seems profligate to buy designer clothes. But to invest in an amazing bag somehow feels clever because you can't get that kind of quality from Zara. I save up for them, so it feels like a real treat, which is not a feeling I get from Mango, or wherever," agrees Ellen Hoffman, a lawyer who earns £35,000 a year and admits to one Gucci bag (£600), one from Chloé (£800) and a growing yen for a Chanel handbag (£1,000). But none of these is exactly a new development, so what started this trend?

First, there was the emergence in the late 90s of designer brands - such as Marc Jacobs, Chloé, Balenciaga and Luella - that targeted younger customers and made the accessories to match. Sofia Coppola featured in the adverts for Jacobs' bags and he named one after her. This naming of bags has also proved to be a clever and successful tactic as it gives the bags a kind of identity and it is now done by almost all fashion companies. Luella and Marc Jacobs name their bags after models and celebrities (respectively, Giselle and Stam, after the model Jessica Stam) while Mulberry and Chloé give their bags names that conjure images of sassy, if imaginary, women (respectively, Roxy and Edith).

As just the names of the Hermès Kelly and Birkin bags prove, celebrity endorsement of an accessory isn't anything new. What is new, though, is the numbers of bags competing for the endorsement, with every season bringing more, and the fact that they are aimed at younger celebrities and, by extension, younger customers. "Bags and shoes are everything in fashion now. At the shows [in Paris last month] I saw about 20 different new It bags," says Rachel Zoe, the celebrity stylist who has particularly encouraged the accessories craze, thanks to her penchant for oversized bags and sunglasses now sported by her clients including Keira Knightley, Lindsay Lohan and Nicole Richie.

Stuart Vevers designs the successful accessories division of the British label Luella and is the creative director of one of the biggest accessories success stories of the decade, Mulberry, which last year increased sales by 44% and whose first US shop opens in New York next week. But even he admits to being taken aback by how sharply accessories sales have risen: "I was really surprised when this craze took off a few years ago. There have always been successful handbags but British women didn't seem to have that desire for high-end bags before. Maybe it has something to do with the way women dress, in that now they dress much more casually so a designer bag has become a way to show that you are fashionable."

Every designer brand is, to use the industry parlance, focusing on their accessories. Bulgari, best known for jewellery, announced last month that it was doubling its accessories stores by the end of this year. Chloé and Balenciaga have made dozens of bag styles for this season. Alice Temperley, the British designer best known for floaty dresses and delicate blouses has launched a line of bags and sunglasses for next season costing on average, respectively, £700 and £178. "The bag business is very different from what it used to be. It's so much faster, faster, faster, and the bag you carry has become a statement. If you are building a brand then branching into accessories is definitely something you have to consider as these create a stronger brand image," she says.

The linking of accessories with fashion and a company's brand image has also played a part. It was Tom Ford in the 90s who first realised that in order for an accessories line to be desirable, it had to be connected to clothes. When he was creative director of Gucci he emphasised the previously all-but-ignored clothing line of the house, which had been known primarily for its accessories. It is a telling sign, though, that after Ford left Gucci and was under pressure to start up his own successful line, instead of launching a menswear line, as was widely rumoured, he brought out a range of sunglasses.

Fashion houses are happy to own up to the fact that accessories are an important part of their business. Prada concedes that they made up 63% of last year's profits, Gucci owns up to 54.3%, but they try not to make them sound too important, as that will give away the game that the brand is actually more about accessories than clothes and therefore detract from the brand name's cachet. "If you focus too much on the accessories you risk losing the image but at the same time, in terms of business, you really want to focus on the accessories," says Tomaso Galli, Prada's director of external relations. In other words, the clothes give the bags the image but the bags earn the money to make the clothes.

Traditional accessories labels, such as Louis Vuitton and Hermès, have made huge investments in their fashion divisions, installing respectively Marc Jacobs and Jean Paul Gaultier to give their bags and shoes the kind of high-fashion sheen that accessories need these days, but it is widely accepted that clothing accounts for only a small amount of their annual revenue. Many industry insiders suggest that some big brands massage their accessories sales figures downwards and the clothing ones up. "Everyone knows that most Italian labels make their money from leather goods, some up to 90%," said one fashion editor who asked not to be named.

Accessories have always been a key part of the fashion industry, now they dominate. Last spring's Prada show featured models in simple clothes dragging great wheelie luggage down the catwalk. At the Chanel show in Paris, Karl Lagerfeld seemed to have been so distracted by making gold, quilted bags and hulking great shoes that he forgot half the clothes, leaving the models with nothing to wear on their bottom halves other than hotpants. But then, what's the point in bothering to design a tweed skirt when you know that what everyone's really going to be looking at is the bag? "It's not that we don't concentrate on our ready-to-wear - we do invest in it and grow it - but accessories are more profitable," says Galli.

The appeal of accessories for retailers is obvious: on pretty much every level, they are easier to sell and more lucrative. "The margins are always better with accessories than clothes. You don't have to think about sizes, you need less space to store them than you do with clothes, you don't need as much space to show them off in shops and you don't need changing rooms," Galli points out. "For us, handbags have the highest margins because our sunglasses are licensed [to another company] but their margins are good, too."

Now that accessories have become so popular, prices have skyrocketed far above what anyone could have predicted just three to five years ago. A Chloé bag is £800, a Marc Jacobs is anywhere upwards of that. Back at Matches, you can find Balenciaga bags for up to £8,000. "We've actually sold quite a few of those to a mix of people. They are serious purchasers who want a collector's piece that isn't all that recognisable," says Tom Chapman.

"Our prices have been going up in recent years but they are reasonable for luxury products and prices are no longer what they used to be," says Galli. Perhaps more surprising than the hoiking-up of prices is that the only effect this has had on sales is to increase them. "It's not that price is irrelevant to customers, just that it is no longer the most important variable," he adds.

Prices have risen partly because manufacturers can get away with it - if there are customers who will spend anything on a bag, why sell it for £500 when you could get £800? - but also because accessories, bags in particular, have become so much more complicated. As anyone who has been inadvertently hit in the back of the head with the padlock dangling from a Chloé Paddington can tell you, superfluous hardware has become unexpectedly popular; ditto gold chain straps, oversized snaps and fastening and quilted leather - and all this has raised prices. But even those in the industry are shocked by how much women are prepared to pay: "I am surprised at how the prices have risen in the past five years. But women today seem to want so much more from their bags," says Stuart Vevers.

Another factor contributing to the accessories phenomenon is the success of the high street. Zara, Topshop et al may be adept at tricking out a Chloe-esque tunic dress but it is harder to copy a bag or shoes and it is on this front that designers have been fighting back. This is why most accessories are still made in Italy instead of China and developing-world countries, as fashion companies know that it is only on the quality front that they can keep aspirants at bay.

However, the high street is retaliating. In 2004, Topshop opened its first stand-alone shoe store in Manchester, reflecting the investment the company is now putting into accessories and, thanks to a similar financial focus on shoes and bags, New Look's shoes have garnered a similar reputation for high quality, despite the £20 price tag (one pair is sold every three seconds). But ironically, this has probably driven designers' prices up even more as they add yet more chains, buckles and expensive handiwork to distinguish their cashcows from the high-street versions.

More worryingly for designers, many of the bags are losing their aura of exclusivity and desirability. As customer demand has risen, so have the number of places you can buy the bags. Just a year or so ago, you had to get on a waiting list to buy a Chloé bag; now anyone with the desire and the funds could walk into a department store and buy one. Balenciaga was so horrified at having become associated with the footballers' wives and girlfriends due to their love of its Lariat bag that it changed the bag's name.

So is the designer accessories market reaching saturation point? An interesting indication of this was, in fact, revealed at the fashion shows. While nearly all the editors in the audience and the models on the catwalk swung around their identikit supersized bags, it was notable that some of the most influential figures in the business were bare-wristed. "I don't get [the It bag phenomenon], I find them clunky," says Cathy Horyn dismissively. Anna Wintour, editor of US Vogue, never carries a handbag to the shows, suggesting, as some have pointed out, that she has that even more desirable accessory - a chauffeured car - waiting outside in which she can leave all her important papers. With every Wag worth her oversized sunglasses carrying a designer handbag, and copies being sold on any street corner, it may well be the biggest statement bag a woman can carry is no bag at all.

The bags of the season

Early 1990s - Prada's nylon knapsack
With its plain style and designer label placed on the outside, the nylon knapsack let people who thought they were too cool to show off to - show off.

Late 90s - Fendi's Baguette bag
Too small, too expensive, too flash by half, the baguette was the inevitable bag of 1999, warning us all of the bling-bling apocalypse to come.

2000 - Christian Dior's Saddle bag
Shamelessly ritzier sorts paid out hundreds of pounds to wear a saddle on their backs. Yes, a saddle. An ironic homage to Helmut Newton or the nadir of misogyny as fashion? The jury is still out.

2001 - Balenciaga's Lariat bag
Small and simple, and with an appeal utterly incomprehensible to anyone not obsessed with fashion, this bag became a victim of its own success when the Wags adopted it.

2004 - Mulberry's Roxy bag
The bag that made the once staid fashion label into one of Britain's trendiest and most successful designer brands.

2005 - Chloe's Paddington bag
It has got a pointless padlock that weighs more than a small dog and it doesn't shut properly. None the less, this became the object of desire for fashion-obsessed twentysomethings around the world.

2006 - Marc Jacobs' Stam bag
Named after model Jessica Stam, with its quilted leather and chain strap this bag bore more than a few resemblances to styles one generally associates with Chanel.

2007 - Marc Jacobs' Sonic Shopper
Another guaranteed winner. It's cute, it's pretty, it's covered with crystals. That it will cost more than £4,000 is a downside negated by the fact that it will be very easy for the high street to copy.


Why does the fashion industry thrive in spite of rampant IP "piracy"?

In a forthcoming Virginia Law Review paper, entitled "The Piracy Paradox: Innovation and Intellectual Property in Fashion Design," two law professors investigate how the fashion industry manages to thrive despite rampant copying of clothing designs.

The paper's authors, Kal Raustiala of the University of California, and Chris Sprigman, start by observing that the fashion industry has what they term a "low-IP equilibrium," in which clothing designs enjoy almost no copy protection and designers frequently turn large profits by copying each others' work. In spite of the lack of IP protection for clothing designs—or rather, because of this lack, the authors argue—the fashion industry remains vibrant and profitable, exhibiting none of the negative effects on creativity that advocates of strong intellectual property (IP) rights would predict in the absence of government-enforced monopolies on creative "content."

Part of the overall reason for undertaking this investigation of the fashion industry is to question the standard assumptions about the relationship between intellectual property laws and incentives to create that underly all of modern intellectual property law. The standard theory goes that if a creator's exclusive right to profit from the distribution of her work is not protected by law, then creators will lose the incentive to create, as "free riders" drive down the price of the work by filling the market with copies.

This theory may hold true for books (the original "intellectual property" of Renaissance IP debates), inventions, and music, but it's apparently a poor fit for the fashion industry. If it weren't for widespread copying of clothing and accessory designs, there would be no such thing as a "fashion trend." The fashion industry, it seems, has settled into a relatively stable state (an equilibrium) in which a large amount of intellectual property "piracy" effectively drives the market.

Note: I'm going to keep putting the word "piracy" in those annoying scare-quotes because it's a terrible term for IP infringement. If pirates hijack a shipload of cannonballs in the Mediterranean, then the owners of that shipment are now short a few tons of cannonballs. If I download a copy of a song from a P2P service, then the owner of that IP may be out some money (assuming I would otherwise have bought that track elsewhere), but they're still in possession of the IP for the song; I haven't taken anyone's property from them, and it's not even clear that I've cost them any money if I wouldn't otherwise have purchased the track. Infringement, though illegal and possibly costly to an IP owner, does not equal piracy or theft, and the misuse of the term in this paper is unfortunate.

Anyway, Raustiala and Sprigman locate the roots of the fashion industry's successful low-IP equilibrium in two factors: induced obsolescence and anchoring.

Induced obsolescence

Because clothing is closely tied to status, especially in the realm of fashion, every design eventually becomes obsolete (i.e. it goes out of style) when it loses its ability to confer status on the wearer. When is something well and truly out of style? When everybody is wearing it, and that's where the open nature of fashion copying helps drive the fashion market. The authors write:

As Miucci Prada put it recently, "We let others copy us. And when they do, we drop it." The fashion cycle is driven faster, in other words, by widespread design copying, because copying erodes the positional [ed: or "status-conferring"] qualities of fashion goods. Designers in turn respond to this obsolescence with new designs. In short, piracy paradoxically benefits designers by inducing more rapid turnover and additional sales... What was elite quickly becomes mass.

So rampant, unauthorized copying drives the fashion cycle, and in doing so it spurs designer creativity; this is the opposite of what the standard assumptions about the relationship between unauthorized copying and incentives to create would predict.

It's important to include the authors' caveat about the importance of trademark law in this scheme. A genuine Prada purse confers more status than a Prada knock-off, so designers must protect their trademarks aggressively, even if they don't protect the designs to which those marks are attached.


The second phenomenon that Raustiala and Sprigman identify at the root of the fashion industry's low-IP success is what they call anchoring. Anchoring describes the process by which the industry converges on a few major design themes, or trends, during a fashion season—whether skirts are fitted or flowing, or cuffs are wide or slim, and so on. Anchoring is also the mechanism by which the fashion industry signals to consumers that trends have changed, and it's time to update the wardrobe.

While the industry produces a wide variety of designs at any one time, readily discernible trends nonetheless emerge and come to define a particular season's style. These trends evolve through an undirected process of copying, referencing, receiving input from consultants, testing design themes via observation of rivals' designs at runway shows, communication with buyers for key retailers, and coverage and commentary in the press.

Copying helps to anchor the new season to a limited number of design themes, which are freely workable by all firms in the industry within the low-IP equilibrium. A regime of free appropriation helps emergent themes become full-blown trends; trendy consumers follow suit. Anchoring thus encourages consumption by conveying to consumers important information about the season's dominant styles: suits are slim, or roomy; skirts are tweedy, or bohemian; the hot handbag is small, rectangular, and made of white-stitched black leather, and so forth. Thus anchoring helps fashion-conscious consumers understand (1) when the mode has shifted, (2) what defines the new mode, and (3) what to buy to remain within it.

So unrestrained copying not only drives the production of new designs by making older designs obsolete, but it also helps shape the new designs around themes so that consumers can easily identify what looks are "in" or "out" at the moment.

What does this mean for Big Content's crusade against peer-to-peer copying?

Probably not much, at least in the near term. The two phenomena identified above are at the very least peculiar to markets involving "positional goods," and may well be peculiar to the fashion industry in particular. The models developed in the paper aren't really that generalizable to other IP regimes, and the authors acknowledge as much.

Nonetheless, the paper may be a good first step in moving beyond traditional, blanket assumptions about the relationship between copying and innovation, and it may spur legal scholars to develop more detailed models of intellectual property that fit specific industries. The paper also suggests that when technological and market conditions change dramatically, as they have in the wake of the P2P revolution, the relationship between unauthorized copying and incentives to create may change dramatically as well.

Further reading Source:

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Chanel Round Bowling

Meet the new love of my life! I am so in love right now. Chanel came out with the Round Bowling collection for Fall to lure a new generation into Chanel obsession. Although I am already Chanel obsessed, I sometimes find myself wanting something slightly younger and more casual. That is why as soon as I saw this bag, I knew it had to be mine. We are always preaching to invest in classics and this is a bag that is definitely a classic without the hard to wear formality of a totally classic bag. The calf leather is less precious but also makes it lower maintenance than the uber luxurious lambskin that scratches and stains easily. The stitching gives it the timeless touch, it is not quilted so it is less "stuffy" and more run around chic. It comes in 3 sizes but the large one is almost the size of a carry on at 9" x 15"; there is also a cute little cosmetic bag in the collection. In either black, white or dark beige, you can be sure this bag will be a staple that will last you a lifetime. $2195 for medium, call Chanel at 800-550-0052 to locate a bag at the Chanel boutique closest to you.


Topshop's Leather Zip Top Holdall

There's been a lot of talk lately about Topshop and it's rising prices, but I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a real leather bag of this size for less than the £45 they're currently charging for it. This holdall comes in a lovely colour which Topshop describe as "berry red" and which I'd probably call "plum". Whatever you want to call it, though, it's a nice, roomy bag for the price, and the leather has a nice, slightly aged look in the close up. It's also machine washable: what more could you want?


Luxury handbags boost for Burberry

Fashion house Burberry today said that "outstanding" demand for its new range of luxury handbags helped it to a 7% hike in half-year operating profits.

The London-based firm said the handbags, modelled by Kate Moss, ensured revenues for the six months to September 30 rose 11% to £392 million, while operating profits before one-off costs were up to £84.2 million.

Retail sales rose 23% as the firm, famous for its black, tan and red check design, also benefited from the celebrations surrounding its 150th anniversary.

The company said it enjoyed international sales growth, with strong trading at its Hong Kong stores lifting Asia Pacific sales 17% to £75.8 million, while sales in new markets including Russia, eastern Europe, the Middle East and South America surged 39% to £8.9 million.

However, the sales boost failed to prevent a slide in pre-tax profits as the firm was hit by the cost of its Project Atlas restructuring initiative.

Profits for the six months fell from £78.1 million to £73.4 million as restructuring costs climbed from £3 million last year to £9.6 million.

Alongside sales at its 300-plus stores, including sites in Regent Street and Knightsbridge, Burberry added that wholesale revenues climbed 1% but warned that production delays for key outerwear and handbags and its limited ability to respond to repeat orders had curbed wholesale growth.

Chief executive Angela Ahrendts said: "Led by excellent retail performance, strong outerwear sales and enthusiastic demand for new accessories collections, Burberry delivered a 10% gain in adjusted operating income in the first half.

"The management team moves confidently into the second half as we continue to execute our strategies."

Burberry raised its interim dividend from 2.5p per share to 2.875p per share, but the fall in pre-tax profits sent shares in the company down more than 1% today.


South Africa: Fantasy Handbags And Fabulous Tales

Lana Marks has a good story. Perhaps too good. Born in East London she now lives in Palm Beach, Florida, and sells expensive handbags to the world's rich and famous. "After about 15 years of business I've sold to most of the royalty of the world, the celebrities of the world and the wealthy of the world," she says matter-of-factly. "I marketed myself very well."

Her handbags, some of which sell for the price of a suburban South African house, have an impressive following. US first lady Laura Bush and actresses Jennifer Aniston and Kate Winslet carry her bags. So, too, did Princess Diana, who even has a Marks bag range named after her.

Marks, perhaps, had her greatest moment of public triumph when actress Charlize Theron carried Marks's most expensive bag -- the Cleopatra Clutch, made out of white gold, with 1500 diamonds set into the frame and a price tag of $100000 -- on the red carpet to the 2004 Academy Awards, when she won the Oscar for her role in Monster.

Her company, Lana Marks, has stores in Palm Beach, in New York, in Beverly Hills and in Dubai. How she came to this stage is a story Marks purrs out down the phone line from her Madison Avenue office.

The woman who was born Lana Bank in 1953 has a refined voice that oozes confidence. She comes across as a person of quality, as polished as her collection of handbags that offers 150 designs available in alligator, ostrich, crocodile and lizard skin.

"I went to very fine schools," she says of Sterling Primary School and Clarendon High School in East London.

"I did ballet with the Royal Academy of Ballet's South African affiliate in East London. I started my tennis career in East London. I have played in Wimbledon, the French, and South African Open."

After what she describes as a whirlwind romance, in 1976 she married Neville Marks, a British psychiatrist who was working at Cape Town's Groote Schuur Hospital. The marriage cut short her commerce degree studies at Wits and they left SA. After a stay on an island she is not keen to name -- "just one of the islands where he helped in a medical capacity" -- they settled in Palm Beach, Florida, in 1987.

Do I know Palm Beach? She then describes it.

"It's the most exclusive part of the US. It's a small enclave, an island north of Miami. One-third of the world's wealth passes through Palm Beach in season. The crème de la crème of the world lives there."

Her entry into the world of accessories, she says, came about after she was unable to find a suitable alligator skin handbag to take on board the royal yacht Britannia, for a cruise to celebrate Queen Elizabeth's birthday.

"I looked up Palm Beach's main avenue where all the luxury brands have shops. I came back unsuccessful. There was nothing in my style and the colour I wanted," she says.

This gave her an interest in making bags for people like herself. She says she spent two years learning about the industry.

"I researched all top factories, persuaded them to do business with me and teach me. I'm extraordinarily persistent and love people and fortunately I have good taste," says Marks, above.

Having made her first bags, the next step was to market them.

"I persuaded the then magazine European Travel and Life -- similar to Vanity Fair -- to print a page in colour of the large pink alligator skin lunchbox -- the first handbag I created -- and then I persuaded the buyer of Saks Fifth Avenue -- after more than 60 phone calls -- to let me do a small show in their regional store in Palm Beach for two days, with no fanfare, and only to display the five handbags which comprised my first collection, on a counter," she recalls.

"The show was to be from 2pm until 4pm. I arrived at 9am and left at 6pm both days. At 5.45pm on the first day someone passed by the counter and ordered three handbags, for her and her two daughters, and paid $15000 up front, and a similar purchase happened at 5.50pm on the second day for $16000. Saks Fifth Avenue sat up and took notice; the rest was history."

It is a mistake to ask Marks how she competes with big-name brands such as Louis Vuitton, the current must-have bag.

"I don't compete with them. Louis Vuitton's market is not mine at all. Mine is a much, much more upscale brand. My customer isn't carrying Louis Vuitton. They don't own one."

Rivals do exist, but Marks says her bags are better value.

"My prices for my quality styling are the best internationally. If you compare a handbag by Hermes, an alligator skin Hermes Kelly bag, in crocodile, it's $25000, while my Princess Diana will be $8000. If you compare, ours is a third the price."

Having on the other end of the phone the Official Handbag and Accessory Consultant for the 2000 Academy Awards, it is a good opportunity to ask a style question. Do handbags have to match clothes these days?

"Absolutely not," she replies. "I'm working with top Hollywood stars and they're getting my bag and choosing their clothes based on that.

"I have a new handbag, the Positano Tote (pictured below), which costs $9500 or $12500. I'm wearing it with fuchsia pink as a neutral and training all my customers to wear a hot colour as a neutral, eg hot pink, and wear it with everything and treat it as a fashion accent."

It is strange to hear of someone "training" their customers rather than the other way around, but Marks makes it sound the most natural thing in the world.

"They trust my fashion and style sense. Because I've been doing it for quite a while."

Marks's story is fascinating. Verifying the details of that story, however, is harder. Her husband, who is listed in Groote Schuur's 1974 and 1975 annual reports as a full-time psychiatrist, came to SA to be involved in heart transplant work, Marks initially says.

"He came out to help Chris Barnard with the heart transplants," she says.

When pushed for further detail on this in a conversation yesterday, however, she gives a different answer.

"I never said he worked for Chris Barnard. He was seconded by Chris Barnard to see the patients post-operatively after the transplants."

Her tennis career is also hard to find evidence of. The East London Daily Dispatch newspaper has no archived stories of her and a search of records on the WTA Tour website of professional women players yields no record, even though it has record of her contemporaries, Linky Boshoff and Ilana Kloss. When asked for details of her apparent appearances in Wimbledon qualifiers and first round of the French Open, Marks' memory is hazy.

"In the French Open, I played at Roland Garros, and lost in the first round to an Australian, Ann Smith. It could have been '70s or '80s ... probably the '80s."

The French Open website has no record of her on its 1970s or 1980s tournament lists.

Johannesburg-born Ilana Kloss, winner of the Wimbledon junior title in 1972 and US Open junior title in 1973 and now the New York-based CEO and commissioner of World Team Tennis, also has no recollection of Marks' international tennis career.

"As far as pursuing a professional career, she was good but not great. For the most part, I used to beat up on her. I don't recall her having any great success outside of SA," Kloss says.

"I think she's a great self-promoter and my hat's off to her."

It does turn out that Marks did play international tennis -- for Bermuda. She also represented the US in tennis at the Maccabi Games and won two bronze medals, although she says she cannot remember the years.

Marks represented Bermuda in the Maccabi Games in 1985. This Atlantic haven for the wealthy was the island she does not mention and was home to Lana and Neville from 1976 until 1985. He had worked there in private practice since the early 1970s and returned there with his newly wed wife.

The Marks' stay on that island turns out to have been controversial. The couple were convicted of breaking Bermudan immigration laws in June 1982, for hiring a South African nanny illegally, but the conviction was overturned on appeal the following year. However, the Bermudan immigration department refused to renew Neville's work permit and the family was forced to leave the island in 1985, local newspaper reports say.

When asked yesterday if that was the reason she left Bermuda, Marks's response is blunt.

"I have no idea."

You don't remember?


Controversy also dogged Marks' appearance in the 1985 Maccabi Games. The island's tennis body, the Bermuda Lawn Tennis Association, said afterwards she had participated in the games without their knowledge, the local Royal Gazette newspaper reported in August 1985.

Her recollection of details may be hazy, but Lana Marks has successfully convinced the rich and famous to buy her handbags and marketed herself on that basis.

In November 1997, three months after Princess Diana's fatal car crash, the now-defunct Personality magazine published an eight-page article in which Marks wrote about her 11-month friendship with the late princess and published handwritten notes to her written on Kensington Palace stationery.

"I want to tell the world about this friendship -- the most exciting dream of a lifetime," Marks says in that article. "Had she not passed away, my lips would have remained sealed."

Marks has a great story. She has built up a successful brand. As for the rest of her story -- that's quite a brag, lady.


Handbags can make a fashion statement

It's all in the bag.

And this season, that bag is a big one -- and all the rage.

Not to mention pretty versatile, as well. Consider: It's a mobile office and day-care center, and, for some, a roving abyss for all those necessary doodads of life: lipstick, stray Tic Tacs, the lonely Sharpie or two.

Still, despite its propensity for being a carry-all for everything, the big bag is also an, er, big fashion statement this fall.

Ranging from affordable (20 bucks or so) to astronomical ($5,000), from denim to leather, and in this year's must-have shade of black to sporting multicolored patterns, admittedly much of the big-bag frenzy is driven by images of celebrities carrying their 2-foot-tall purses at the behest of the designers who created them.

"Women who are very fashion-conscious pay attention to the collections, particularly in magazines and on the Internet," says Irenka Jakubiak, editorial fashion director at Accessories magazine. "The celebrity thing still seems to influence their purchases."

(So much so that the "It" bag of the season -- Chanel's shiny $995 black vinyl shopper -- was pre-sold by the Chanel boutique in San Francisco before any of them ever reached the store.)

But big bags have a practical, universal appeal all their own.

For one thing: Age and dress size don't matter. Big bags look great when carried by most women; just don't let them overwhelm you.

Plus, they make a big impression.

"(Little bags) don't get noticed from a distance," says Marshal Cohen, chief analyst for the NPD Group, which tracks consumer spending.

On top of that, bigger bags suggest luxury.

"Bigger bags are often equated with how much you're willing to spend," Cohen says. "That's because handbags are one of the few things women have convinced themselves are a worthy fashion investment."

Women love their handbags; most buy about three a year. And sales of bags in the United States are estimated to reach $6 billion in 2006, according to a report from the market research firm Mintel International Group.

Of course, price tags correspond to labels. For example, you can grab a Mossimo riveted satchel at Target for $29.99 or a $3,350 crocodile satchel by Nancy Gonzalez at Neiman Marcus.

Cohen adds that the dynamics of handbag buying have changed. Women often charge through stores with a particular purse in mind.

Nothing else will suffice.

A new book, "It's in the Bag" (Harper-Collins, $19.95, 128 pages), traces how this everyday object has become such a focal point of women's lives. Author Winifred Gallagher admits she "had a ball" getting to the bottom of bags.

"In the process, I found out several important things," she says over the phone from New York, including:

A purse parallels a woman's emergence into the larger world.

"In the 1920s, purses became a big accessory. Women were out and about -- not necessarily in the workforce -- but they needed something for their money, a compact and a lipstick," Gallagher says.

Women needed a status symbol.

"Spend $1,500 and up on a handbag, and that's like a Rolex or a BMW to a man," Gallagher says. "It says, 'I'm working and successful enough to buy myself this fancy bag that people will recognize.' "

Credit the French fashion house of Hermes for generating some of the label-dropping trend.

In 1956, actress-turned-princess Grace Kelly appeared on the cover of Life magazine, using a Hermes bag to disguise her pregnancy.

The "Kelly" bag, as it came to be known, still fetches upward of $10,000 to $25,000 today; Gallagher says an auction in New York saw one go for more than $50,000.

In the 1980s, Hermes struck gold again with the Birkin bag, which was designed for actress Jane Birkin because she complained about having to rummage through her purse. That bag moved into pop culture via shows such as "Sex and the City."

In 2006, handbags are having even more of an impact from a fashion industry perspective.

"Most couture (clothing) designers hadn't been designing bags until Miuccia Prada's 1988 black backpack purse came along," Gallagher says. "She made a ton of money for her company and other designers followed."

As a result, bags started popping up on runways. Check out the recent shows from New York to Milan, where models routinely carried handbags.

No matter where you live, however, there's instant access to the hottest handbags, especially online.

"In the past, if you wanted to see what was popular in Paris, you had to wait a couple of months," Gallagher says. "Today, the electronic media explosion has accelerated that trend cycle."


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Balenciaga Red Patent Bowler

This is quite a departure from the distressed leather motorcycle Le Dix bag we've come to associate Balenciaga with and we absolutely love the change. The red patent leather is slick as laquer and the rounded kelly shape is adorable. Unlike the B Bag, the logo on the polished hardware is subtle and tasteful. It is the perfect bag to wear to a luncheon with this season's Balenciaga bubble skirt suit. We usually don't like modern interpretation of the kelly bag but in this case, it works beautifully. $1095 at Barney's New York 212.826.8900.


Wild about Thomas Wylde

Former model Paula Thomas has been a lot of things: Bond girl, Playboy model, Julian MacDonald’s muse and even CEO of his company. But the one thing she has never been is unfashionable. She continues that trend with her Thomas Wylde line. You might recognize the signature skulls from the heads and arms of Hollywood’s fashion elite (her skull print scarf was everywhere in the last year and Sienna Miller rocked a Thomas Wylde dress at the Academy Awards.) The Kings Cross Skull bag is not a typical bag for the Bag Snobs but it appeals to our rebellious side. The signature skull details are subtle enough where you won’t look like you’re trying too hard (Ahem. I’m talking to you Lindsey Lohan), but they add a nice rock 'n roll twist to a classic shape and color. But buyer beware - Thomas sells her line in “limited capacity” only, and trust us, they go quickly! At Barneys for $2360.


Hermes Lindy

This is the fabulous younger cousin to the Birkin that you may not have to wait years for (though you should keep your name on the Birkin list cuz by the time you get it, you will finally be old enough to carry it). The Hermes Lindy is a stylish and super functional bag with double sided compartments so you can keep your stuff separate and organized. I love how it collapses in the center when empty but expands to hold all the essentials a girl needs to look gorgeous throughout the day. Available in leather or canvas with calfskin trim, this is THE bag I'm obsessing over for Spring (pink please, it will go with all of my Hello Kitty accessories). Just when I thought I couldn't love the House of Hermes more (though not so much that I'd name my son Hermes like that skanky has been Kelly Rutherford. Who is she you ask? Exactly) they delight me with a bag that will certainly earn a coveted place in my bag wardrobe. The Lindy is destined to sell out so call your local Hermes boutique quickly: Ask for Craig at Highland Park (214) 528-0197 or New York (212) 751 3181. Choose from size 30cm or 34 cm, prices range from $4300-$4800.


Why Does This Bag Cost Money?

This bag should be free. When I buy a Marc Jacobs bag for $1,200, they should package it in this shopping bag and it shouldn't cost me any more than I've already spent. Like at a department store. But instead, this bag is $750!!!!! I don't care if it's leather, from afar you look like you are toting your stuff in a shopping bag. I know I save all my shopping bags for certain things like dry cleaning or a trip to the post office but would I spent $750 on a bag specifically for those errands? Do I seem like a moron? Cuz that's the only ones who will buy this. It comes in silver metallic which is slightly better, but only slightly. At eLuxury.


Victoria Beckham's Giambattista Valli Handbag

Victoria Beckham has been flashing some serious arm candy lately, and it's not her matching husband or bestie this time 'round! Good ol' Posh may have lost the kudos of a few designers, but evidently not all. Word has it that this swanky patent doctor's bag she's been toting is from the Spring / Summer 2007 line by Giambattista Valli. Ah, the perks of celebrity. We mere plebs will have a while to wait - until its official debut next year!


Chloe's 'Betty' Tote

A new Chloe 'Betty'! A new Chloe 'Betty'! Hold your horses girls, it's a pricey one, at $1,995, and remember, none of you actually liked the 'Betty' when it first came out, did you! This is a new season 'Betty' tote, you can see the addition of the chain shoulder straps, and that the front pockets are slightly deeper than on the original. Do we still not like it? I'll let you be the judge on that.

Or for the more budget minded

Dune's Chloe 'Betty' Inspired Bowling Bag

Where would we be without Dune? Certainly missing out on sparkly numbers for our tootsies, and last-minute evening clutches on a Friday afternoon. Don't just stop there at buying last-minute items however, take a look at this leather-effect bowling bag, which looks suspiciously like Chloe's 'Betty', with the two front pockets and side pockets. Heck, it even has the coin purse dangling off the strap! A great find, at £45, although it would be much nicer if it were real leather.


Stuart Weitzman Launches First Handbag Collection

Stuart Weitzman, normally a name synonymous with shoes will be launching his first handbag collection in January 2007 (so not long to wait). He has assured his customers that this will not affect the quality of shoes that he will produce, in fact he'll now be able to add coordinating handbags to his collection. So, just to whet our appetite he has put forward the Cargo Small Tote as a taster of what is to come. If you can't wait and have $495 lying about you can reserve it now.


Mischa Barton: Mirror Mirror on the Wall - Who Carries the Fairest Bag of All?

Mischa Barton spent the day traveling the town with her new Zac Posen Alexia bag. She went to the movies, out for a latte and even did a little shopping at Urban Outfitters in L.A. (I should know, I was there too.) (Just kidding.) This mirror frame-like bag comes with a signature Zac Posen name plate dangling from a metal chain where you can tuck the logo away for safe keeping. Mischa Barton definitely knows how to match her killer vintage style with a trendy vintage inspired bag. This bag is by far my favorite for the fall. (Maybe she will let me borrow it when we swap clothes for next Friday night out?)


Take note of this season's handbag hot list

From wild prints to polished perfection, this season's must-have handbags all have one thing in common — they're sure to turn heads! Bobbie Thomas, “Today” style contributor and author of “The Buzz” for In Touch Weekly, is here to help you find the perfect carryall companion with this handbag tutorial.

Lesson one: Animal instincts
If you're afraid to jump into this season's jungle of ferocious fashions, tame this trend with a tote. Take a walk on the wild side and hunt down a handbag that will liven up any outfit. While some of the most exotic styles are made up of skins, fabulous fauxs are also catching the eye of many fashionistas. Bebe’s Snake Embossed clutch ($89; and Rampage’s Tabloid Hobo ($68; will charm any PETA activist with their look-alike luxe feel, while Moo Roo ($665; and Freda LA ($45; flaunt various forms of faux fur.

Prowl for printed bags like Coach’s Legacy Zebra bag ($798; 866-262-2440), Nine West's In Your Dreams cow patterned tote ($145; or Bebe’s Signature Jacquard Leopard Trim hobo ($239; to help unleash your inner-trendiness. And of course, the designer kings' roar! Louis Vuitton’s signature monogram has mated with a leopard look this season, while both Prada ($2,850; 212 327-4200) and Derek Lam ($990-$2,150; Intermix; 516-627-5840) have opted to ornament their designs with dragons and rams respectively. But rest assured, chasing and capturing a couture-like creature can be easier than it appears, as stores at your local mall are following the pack and stocking their shelves with fierce handbag finds.

Lesson two: Heavy metal
Mohawks and pleather pants may be trying to climb back up the charts on the fashion hit list, but it's metallics and hardware that are taking center stage this season, with easy on the ears (er … eyes) styles that are sophisticated and simple. From classical listeners to rock star ravers, everyone is part of the chain gang. While Chanel’s classic chain styles are hotter than ever, their newest designs have an edgy twist ($1,225-$2,285; Meanwhile contemporary line Kooba has its own loyal fans, all of whom are cheering loudly for the Haydon chain handle bag ($295; Neiman Marcus stores).

Carryalls with zipper details like the Cynthia Rowley Zipper Bag ($385; are helping to seal the deal on hardware as a must-have for fall. But if actual metal is too tough a trend for you to take on, seek out some shine with a metallic bag. Yves Saint Laurent’s Double Bag ($995-$1,195; 212-980-2970) is a two-in-one designer deal, with a metallic side for your star moments, and a matte reverse for discreet days off. And finally, Lotta Stenson’s boutique has hit a high gold bar with their hard case metal clutches ($89-$110; Lotta 323-852-0520). So whether you're touring from town to town or setting up for a studio session, you'll be sure to have a hit with a heavy metal handbag!

Lesson three: Framework
Hallelujah for handbags that are literally taking shape this season! With layers of knitwear and volume galore waiting to be worn, why not add some form (and chic contrast) with a fab frame bag? As slouches are being left behind in favor of more defined designs and top handle totes, it's the granny-chic elements that are sure to inspire you to add structure into your life! Styles like Hunting Season's quilted leather bag ($1,295; 212-249-2254), Tod’s T Bag ($1,245; and Marc Jacob’s Maggie bag ($1,650; 212-924-6126 or are leading the pack with perfectly polished examples of this trend.

And for those who like to clutch more than a cell phone and lipstick for an evening out, it’s time to celebrate because your little companion has just gotten bigger! That’s right, it’s time to size up your evening accessories with a clutch that carries a whole lot more than it used to. Amici ($57; and Nine West ($65; are just a few brands who offer affordable oversized options similar to the super-sized celebrity versions you’ll see on the red carpet.

Lesson four: Patent and a pop of color
While black and gray ruled the runway for fall, a burst of color on a shiny patent bag provides a fashion-forward look that is both brilliant and bold. Hot hues like purple, red and green are gearing up to be the surprise shades in handbags this season, and designer dream bags like the Gucci shoulder bag ($1,790; 800-234-8224 or and the Goldenbleu Parker Collection ($270-$960; are putting the ‘pop’ back into patent. Affordable options like the Maxximum Zhivago bag from Maxx New York ($135; make a bold bag decision less intimidating. But no matter which style you choose, with an eye-catching handbag as your arm candy, it’s safe to say that your future is definitely looking bright and shiny (even on a rainy day).

Class dismissed.


Handbags: Pocket History

Unlike clothes or shoes or jewelry, handbags add nothing to a woman's appeal; no man was ever won by a beautiful Gucci slung over the back of a restaurant chair. And notwithstanding the ingenuity of designers in creating fancy clasps and adjustable straps and cunning inside pockets for cell phones, the function of a handbag could be filled almost as well by a shopping bag—with the difference that shopping bags don't tend to accumulate loose aspirin tablets, crumpled tissues and leaking pens.

The history of the handbag parallels that of the women's movement, says Winifred Gallagher, author of a small, engaging appreciation called "It's in the Bag." Purses were invented in the Victorian era, when women began to travel on their own, and widely adopted in the 1920s for stashing the new mass-produced cosmetics (and cigarettes). In the 1980s they took on a new function as auxiliary briefcases, and grew in importance as fashion accessories and luxury objects and status symbols; Gallagher notes that runway models now commonly carry a couture purse, which was rare a couple of decades ago. These qualities come together in the "It" bag for all time, the Hermès Birkin. (The "It" bag of the moment, according to Gallagher, is the Yves St. Laurent Muse.) Yours for $6,000 or more, depending on materials. Or, not quite: there's a waiting list, and it can be as long as two years.


The Bag Lady: Top 100 Bags of 2006

I love it! A countdown of the year's best bags! You've got to watch the winners as they are slowly revealed three at time. Go to and be sure to bookmark the page as more posts are added.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006 Discount Designer Purses Gives the Gift of Savings 'til Year End

Starting today through December 31st will feature additional markdowns of 10-30% on select designers and free shipping on $100 purchases. With the additional designer handbags and purses markdowns, shoppers can receive up to 90% off their favorite designer brands, including Juicy Couture, Coach, Prada, Gucci, Fendi, Chanel, Marc Jacobs, Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Celine, Chloe, Tods, Burberry, Kate Spade, Furla, Diesel, Tano, Latico, and hundreds more of 100% authentic designer handbags and accessories.

"We have a Holiday Sale Plan posted on the website plus we'll be running unadvertised specials for our private email list members. Currently, we are running an additional 25% off all Yves Saint Laurent designer fashion accessories, and tomorrow our additional 15% off the 'Sale Section' begins," said Anna Miller, owner and operator. "We wanted to live up to our reputation as People magazine's 'Best of the Web' for discount designer handbags and purses. So, we're passing on as much savings as possible to our shoppers for their holiday purchases."

The following is a list of some of the Holiday Specials shoppers can look forward to at

• Extra 15% off Sale Section
• Extra 10% off the Entire Site
• Extra 15% off Cold Weather Accessories
• Extra 10% off Gucci, Prada and Fendi
• Extra 20% off Entire Site
• Extra 30% off Clearance Section

To take advantage of the current and future sales, shoppers can visit and click on the Daily Discounts link. Plus, shoppers are encouraged to register for "Free Gift News," which allows email sale notifications and the corresponding coupon codes to be delivered to their in-boxes.

In addition to receiving sales updates, customers who register for Free Gift News will have the chance to win a free designer handbag each week throughout the holiday season. Winners are listed at on the Free Handbag Offer page.


Anna Miller is the President of, Inc. She operates the website and sells high-end authentic designer handbags and accessories at off-retail prices. was named BEST OF THE WEB by People Magazine Fall 2006 StyleWatch for Discount Designer Handbags and Purses. should not be confused with any other website selling a similar product or using a similar name. is the home of five fashion ecommerce stores: BrandsBoutique, LuxuryVintage, DesignersLA, ItalysOutlet, and ValueBags. Anna is considered an Internet Pioneer and has been reselling Designer Merchandise online since the early 90s.


Take our new quiz: Bag a Celebrity Look

Go to the link at right under the Polling Place and take the quiz. Record your results in the poll below the link.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Fashion Matchmaker: Designer Handbags

Women and handbags. They're like men and sports. We know the key players of the season, we know how much they cost and we recognize potential when we see it. Some of us are more educated than others on the topic, though. One woman might be a die-hard Gucci fan and know every single bag from the past five collections, while another might be well versed in all designer handbags. How knowledgeable are you? See how many bags and designers you can match up.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Tiny baubles -An odd but growing fashion niche these days: accessories for accessories

Many women covet a $6,000 Hermes Birkin bag. But for Amanda Miller, who carries one to work, the appeal lies not in the exclusive bag but what's on it.

Hanging from her Birkin are unusual charms, including a skull from Prada and a plastic bunny in a space suit that she bought from a vending machine in Tokyo.

The doodads convey "not only do I have style and a perspective on history, but that I have a real sense of whimsy," says Miller, a 28-year-old travel-industry publicist in New York.

An odd but growing product niche in the luxury-goods business these days: accessories for accessories. The items, first popularized in Japan, appeal to an increasing appetite among consumers — and often younger consumers — for personalizing the way they look.

With luxury-goods companies now making handbag charms, they also provide consumers with a lower-price entry point to the world of Coach, Louis Vuitton, Hermes and Prada.

Other accessories are getting accessories too. For Christmas, Bottega Veneta is introducing a shoe with a change purse attached to it. La Loop, which sells $85 to $500 necklaces to hold sunglasses at Bergdorf Goodman, will unveil a lower-price line at J.C. Penney early next year. And Kodak last week started selling jeweled wristbands and necklaces to hold its cameras, along with camera clutches in pink and green.

But brands say the importance of these doodads is out of proportion to their size. Creative displays of the charms and other small items like iPod holders spruce up stores and broaden the product line.

"We don't want the whole store to be just handbags," says Reed Krakoff, president and executive creative director at Coach.

Following the success of last year's $28 alphabet charms, Coach this fall added 23 new styles, including the 12 signs of the zodiac, peace symbols and heart-shaped picture frames.

Prada, which calls its charms "tricks," just started selling crystal-encrusted versions priced as high as $195, in shapes like skulls, hearts and bears.

And Hermes charms in the shape of its signature bags have shown up lately on the outside of the bags themselves, instead of on necklaces and bracelets as the company intended. "People want to put a signature statement on their bags," says Robert Chavez, chief executive of Hermes U.S.A.

Also on the market are nonluxury items like Jibbitz, $2.49 studs in shapes like pilgrim hats, stars and American flags, designed for inserting into the holes on Crocs rubber clogs. (Crocs bought Jibbitz earlier this month for $10 million.)

And Pepper Face of Chicago sells pepper spray canisters that look like charms for handbags and key chains, including a $295 Swarovski-crystal style in an argyle pattern.

The trend also represents a reaction to the ubiquity of "It" bags, says Clare Sauro, assistant curator, accessories, at the Fashion Institute of Technology's museum in New York. "We are all very much aware of the latest handbags because we see celebrities carrying them in magazines," she says. Having a charm on an expensive bag "is like saying, 'I have this little extra bit added.'"

Some of the doodads function as leashes to retrieve small items, reflecting the increase in the size of handbags in recent years. Tomas Maier, creative director of Bottega Veneta, says he added $170 woven lariats to his large $3,900 Cabat bag a few years ago because they were necessary "from a functional standpoint."

For Alexandra Mathews, 24, hanging items she finds at street fairs on her Prada bag is more of an academic exercise. She views items like the feather, silver money clip and antique Tibetan coins that adorn her bag as "the quintessential random expression of the postmodern era."

The trend began in Japan, where street fashion emphasizes "kawaii" — or cute — style. Several years ago, teenage girls started attaching figurines of Hello Kitty and other characters to their backpacks, cellphones and bags.

Le Sportsac, known for nylon bags that sell for under $100, last year introduced a pricier collection called Tokidoki, which feature different Japanese-style cartoon prints and come with plastic charms.

"It's really important to have a personal identity to your accessories," says Elizabeth Kiester, chief creative director at Le Sportsac. "People need to feel special and unique."


The latest in little things


Price: $170

Braided leather leashes attach to cellphones or wallets for quick retrieval from big handbags.


Price: $290

Hermes says sales of charms have exceeded expectations, partly because people are buying them for their bags.


Price: $28

Signs of the zodiac can dangle from the handle or zipper of a handbag; they also provide a lower-priced entry point for the brand.


Price: $2.49

To draw more attention to the colorful rubber clogs called Crocs, these studs from Jibbitz can be inserted into the shoe's holes.


Price: $370

La Loop's necklaces, with a loop for hanging your glasses, sell for $85 to $500 at Bergdorf Goodman and Fred Segal.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

It's big, Big, BIG - The latest gotta-have-it handbag can stop a train in its tracks

The purse that ate the rent -- and the utility bill and the phone bill and more -- The Chloe Paddington is no longer an 'It' bag, but it still costs $1,540 at Saks Fifth Avenue.

J. Sadie Lawson thought about it long and hard before pulling out the credit card. She could have used the $550 toward rent. She may have been able to get a month ahead on her car payment.

Instead, on a recent business trip to New York, she splurged on her latest dream bag, a mini Chloe Paddington in a steel gray.

"I just had to have it," she says. "I love the shape, the hardware."

The clutch is now the prize in her growing collection of handbags -- along with her Louis Vuitton Speedy, her Coach satchel and her Mulberry shoulder bag -- that have come to define her style.

"I don't spend a lot on designer clothes," says Lawson, who is 37, lives in North Raleigh and works as a pharmaceutical sales representative.

"But my bags, I love my bags. I want to be known for my bags."

Once just a functional accessory in basic brown, taupe or black, handbags are bigger than ever. And we're not just talking size -- these days they're built to fit everything from lipstick to lunches -- but also popularity and price. They've become the focal part of many women's wardrobes.

Instead of owning one bag to get through a season, women now have a collection: A shopper for day, a clutch for evening; an oversized tote for a long flight, a sleek baguette for an evening out with the girls.

"Handbags have become a fashion accessory just like shoes are," says Kate Leser, owner of A Distinctive Image, a image-enhancement-consulting business in Raleigh. "Bags are becoming much more creative, more stylish. They can spice up a wardrobe."

The bag frenzy has sparked a kind of treasure hunt among high-end shoppers. The more fashion-forward the woman, the more expensive the brand she wants: Coach, Kate Spade, Gucci, Chanel, Marc Jacobs, Chloe, Tod's, Fendi, Balenciaga or Hermes.

Local malls sell a few Coach or Kate Spades for under $350. But the reality of designer handbag shopping these days is this: The average bag costs about $1,200, and only some of the top brands can be found in North Carolina at high-end speciality boutiques or luxury department stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue or Neiman Marcus.

Even more exclusive? The newest "It" bag. These latest, greatest, most-sought-after designer bags (usually photographed first on celebrities) have for several years had some women scrambling to get on a waiting list just to get a shot at buying them. Most recently on the "It" list: the Fendi Spy, the Chloe Paddington and the Marc Jacobs Stam.

But like a hot stock, the "It" list can be fickle. Ask any collector and they'll scoff at the notion of buying a Chloe Paddington today. It's so over.

Jean Schnitzer, 35, of Raleigh, has been on countless "It" bag lists -- often once she gets a bag, she uses for a few weeks, then sells it on eBay.

"Once you have to wait and get on a list for a bag, then going to a store to get one, the thrill is gone," she says. "Until you get your first bag like that, where you think about it, ponder it, wait for it. It's game over. You've crossed a bridge that you can't go back."

Shoppers who can't or don't want to pay for a designer label needn't be left out of the fun.

Target, Old Navy and many mid-tier department stores often re-create the latest "It" styles with cheaper leathers and hardware. Target has several faux leather hobo styles for under $30. Macy's has several Balenciaga and Marc Jacobs-like styles heavy in hardware and tassels for under $90.

Still, more women in the Triangle are opting for the designer splurge.

When Ashley Vermillion Harris opened her Vermillion clothing store in North Hills, she knew handbags had to part of the mix to offer shoppers a head-to-toe designer package. Now she stocks expensive, exclusive bags by Balenciaga and Bottega Veneta -- some that cost $1,500 or more.

"It's like buying a piece of art," she says. "Just that it's a wearable piece of art."

The cost has as much to do with brand as it does quality. "With the more expensive bags, they're better made," she says. "A really good bag wears better with time. As the leather gets more worn in, it should get better looking."

Winifred Gallagher used to have a hard time understanding that mentality. About $75 or $80 was as high as she'd go for a handbag.

Then one day she spent $250 on a bag, prompting her husband's shocked reply: "But you already have a purse."

A typical male response, to be sure, but it got her thinking about women and their relationship with handbags. She began exploring why women love handbags and why they're willing to spend so much to have the latest, designer model.

In her new book "It's in the Bag. What Purses Reveal -- and Conceal" she shows how a designer bag has become a symbol of how far women have come. Her research shows how closely the rise of handbags parallels the emergence of women in the world.

Until the 1920s, when women started traveling and leaving the house alone, women didn't carry purses.

"Women suddenly became a lot more liberated," she says.

And with that liberation, they needed some sort of bag to carry their compacts, lipsticks and money.

It wasn't until the 1980s -- when women began cracking the glass ceiling and figuring out how to juggle a career and motherhood -- that handbags became a true fashion accessory and designers began tempting them with more expensive leathers and exclusive designs.

"All these women had more complicated lives," she says. "They needed a nice-looking vehicle for their multitasking lives."

Along came the "It" bag -- a status symbol for women much like a successful man's BMW or Rolex watch.

"Now, if you see a woman with a Balenciaga, it says 'I'm a professional woman,' " Gallagher says. "All of these bags are designed to be instantly identifiable."

Today, the "It" bag has translated into multiple "It" bags. Women want one for every outfit.

Gallagher says she doesn't see that changing any time soon.

"I think as long as women are in the work force and they need something nice to carry, the handbag is going to be a noticeable item," she says.


I admit that I am powerless over handbags, and my life has become unmanageable

Well, not too badly anyway. Last month I took over a couple of shelves in the linen closet for my collection and as part of that, I auctioned off the gently used and gave away the rest. I decided that a woman's MPD was equal to the number of years in her age and reduced myself to that figure.

Well, the auctions are done and there were a few that didn't sell, but that at second glance I couldn't give away either, so oh well on the MPD (Maximum Purse Density). I also completely cleared out the closet and took it over. So my "final" tally? 54 (maybe 55 if I win a certain auction). You can see the inventory to the right under "What's In Your Closet?" Not too bad, even still. I know many and have reported on more that have far more than I (thank goodness!)