Not long ago, a friend who works for a major fashion brand asked me, out of the blue, which handbags designers I thought sold the best at department stores. For some reason, it was a question I had never quite thought about in those terms before; so many of the most sought-after accessories labels don’t retail through third parties that it’s hard to gauge where the rest of the pack ranks without solid facts and figures in front of me. Thinking about handbags while disregarding Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Hermes (all of whom control their own retail outlets, even within department stores) seemed entirely foreign.
My best guesses at the time were Celine and Proenza Schouler. Those are the brands who get the most slavish response from fashion people, and I know from personal experience how hard it can be to put your hands on the Celine bag of your choice. As it turns out, I was right – Women’s Wear Daily reports that Celine and Proenza are still a huge highlight in an accessories market that has grown by double digits in the last year. Who else is popular? Some of the names might surprise you.
The WWD article, penned by Rachel Strugatz, is worth a read if you have a subscription and are interested in such things, but the upshot of it is this: an It Bag helps, but a brand doesn’t need an It bag to continue to move handbags. Beyond Celine and Proenza, which were somewhat predictable because both can be difficult to find in particular colors or fabrications unless you move quickly, Saks Fifth Avenue handbag and accessories guru Elizabeth Kanfer also singled out Yves Saint Laurent, Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney as top performers. Beyond the fact that they’re all highly known brands, none of the three has had a huge bag breakthrough in the past year. The Yves Saint Laurent Cabas Chyc seems to do well, but I haven’t heard the same type of buzz about it as you hear for the latest Celine bag. Or that you used to hear from the YSL Muse, for that matter. Meanwhile, both Kanfer and Barneys New York executive vice president Daniela Vitale singled out 3.1 Phillip Lim as an emerging bright spot.
As far as trends goes, Kanfer cites one that we’ve already told you about in great detail – pastels! Yes, people really do buy mint green and ice blue handbags, which makes me inexplicably happy. The accessories business in general seems to be thriving, with some stores reporting as much as a 23% increase in year-on-year business. I’d tell you guys to keep up the happy shopping, but it seems like you don’t need to hear it from me. Read the entire article via Women’s Wear Daily, which includes lots of fun info about shoe trends as well. (Hint: Isabel Marant.)