15 October 2005

bags, bags, bags!

My friend Susannah (check out a blog she contributes to StyleIntelligence) recently sent me this article in the New York Times about the craze for "Over the Shoulder, Over the Top" handbags and purses. (You may know that I have a bit of a handbag fetish myself, but it's more of the voyeuristic thing) The most interesting part of the article (besides the sticker shock-like feeling) was how it pointed to some market research that shows women under 40 who earn $50-70K are the most likely to drop the big bucks on luxury bags.(e.g., $975 for a Marc Jacobs Sofia bag; $1500 for a Prada bowler bag). A funny quote:
"Those women are the most likely to be extravagant," said Ms. Danziger, the author of "Why People Buy Things They Don't Need" (Dearborn Trade, 2004). The tend to sacrifice vacations, restaurant dinners and other designer fashion in favor of a luxury bag. "They are the consumers who have something to prove," she said.

Luckily, I am way too poor...I mean pragmatic...to buy into (ha!) this source of self-esteem. Based on my casual observation and personal experience, I would have to agree that some people feel like they have to get the latest designer duds just to prove something (they may say it's just for themselves, to feel good, but you have to wonder...) And the Marketing Machine seems to prey upon these insecurities, enticing the middle-class folk in buying that designer brand/luxury option so they can impress their friends and neighbors and feel good because they can buy it.

There are some days when I just feel so sick at all the excess there is all around us. From SUVs to the overwhelming number of "choices"of everything at the supermarket (premium brands are often just the regular brand jazzed up w/ a new label and perhaps a fragrance)....But then I think about my own habits of excess and desire for the unnecessary, and I feel so pathetic and helpless because at the end of the day I really do want that Marc Jacobs bag! I guess I'm just human.


Elaine said...

Learning that people who make between 50-70K are the biggest spenders when it comes to designer bags reminds me of Thorstein Veblen's "conspicuous consumption" theory--the idea that people openly consume to prove something about their social or economic status. I personally don't see why someone would get a designer bag when there are so many knockoffs, except in the case where the bag is practical, attractive, and will be used for a long time. (Granted, I still don't have the money for a more "practical" investment like that). So often though, people just buy the new designer trend. In fact, it seems like people have become slaves to trends and the designers that create them; witness the mass wearing of velour sweatsuits by Juicy Couture. I can definitely understand being into bags, but I think there's a sense in buying a designer item that the item is okay by virtue of it being expensive.

Steph said...

I'll definitely have to check out the Veblen theory...it sounds like a very influenctial principle in middle-class marketing. You're right about the availablity of knockoffs, though I tend to be of the school that believes spending a lot on one classic staple is worth it.

I can't wait til tacky Juicy stuff goes out of style...ugh, terry cloth???