Economic problems? Debt ceilings? Political tensions? What are those things? The luxury industry has surely never heard of them, if double-digit sales increases from LVMH, Hermes and Burberry, just to name a few, are any indication. The rich only get richer, naturally, and when they do, they buy clothes. Lots of clothes. And handbags. Louis Vuitton is even reporting waiting lists, a thing that most pundits seemed to think would never be seen again after the economic crash of 2008.

And yet, I put my name on a waiting list myself at the beginning of the year in order to wait for the apparent privilege of buying a bag that cost nearly $2,000. Having been in college during the rococo days of the mid-2000s, the opportunity to queue up to buy an It Bag like the original Chloe Paddingtons and Fendi Spy bags passed me by while I stared in envy at the people who were buying their way into the “ungettable get.” Are we headed back there again?

Perhaps this sentiment is unexpected coming from someone whose living is predicated on the lustworthiness of the season’s accessories, but I sure hope we’re not going to see that kind of handbag stampede again. A luxury market where consumers are throwing themselves off financial cliffs in pursuit of the bag of the moment isn’t fun for anyone; it makes popular bags more difficult to find for people who truly love them, and consumers who simply get caught up in the fervor of a so-called must-have end up with a closet full of things that they just couldn’t live without but never really loved. It means dissatisfaction all around, and I like my handbag people to be happy.

And since there’s no group of people on the Internet who is better informed about the intricacies of the accessories business than our readers, I’d like to ask you guys: Is it beginning to feel like 2005 all over again out there? Have you noticed that the bags you want have become harder to find? When was the last time that you put your name on a waiting list for a handbag? Does hearing this kind of talk make you as uneasy as it makes me?

  • Cris

    I noticed that the handbags craze is getting out of proportions, with ladies purchasing more and more, while other accessories are left languishing. I am focusing on purchasing some fine jewelry pieces as now is the moment, since prices are skyrocketing, yet retailers have been willing to apply large discounts. I won’t be able to buy in the future what I am buying now, while handbags will always be there

    • Mama M

      Amen. I’ve always appreciated nice jewelry (I got my first diamond ring when I was 9 — it was small, but so was I). You’re right about being able to find good prices now, too. And jewelry lasts forever. (Amanda will eventually inherit some nice pieces to go with her handbags.) : >)

  • rose60610

    I haven’t put my name on any waitlists, though I was lucky to be in a LV store as the truck was being unloaded. I hung around and scored an Alma in electric, fresh off the truck!
    I question if the waitlists are becoming more prevalent due to simply stocking less bags. I’ve noticed this in car dealerships, too. Less inventory in any retailer will make anything seem more in demand, even if it isn’t.
    Unless I encounter a bag that knocks me out, my next major purchase will be a nice watch. I have enough nice bags.

  • bb

    I’m going to sit this handbag craze out. I LOVE ALL my bags and I think I am just going to shop my closet for awhile. I’m getting tired of the constant hunt for the “IT” bag. If something really catches my attention then I will make the purchase, if not I am content for the time being.

  • dierregi

    So everything we read about American economy being far from top shape must be false…. As far as European economy is concerned, for sure it sucks, but it’s good to know that the rich are getting richer. Good for them and for Hermes.

    • http://www.purseblog.com/ Amanda Mull

      I wouldn’t say that it’s false, but the truly rich never suffer in hard times. Now that the shame of the collapse has worn off, I think they’re returning to how they did things pre-crash. Also, most luxury brands are seeing the majority of their profit increases in Asia, specifically China. So while the western markets are up as well, it’s a global shift that’s creating these numbers.

    • Diana

      Read this: http://www.vanityfair.com/society/features/2011/05/top-one-percent-201105

      It basically describes how in the US, we’ve managed to stick most of the money in the country in the wealthy bucket (aka people who spend spend spend on luxury goods).

  • Mirna

    I haven’t put my name on a waiting list since the multicolor collection debuted. I do remember last oct/nov when LV had a stock issue where the bags were coming in one by one. Even the classics and people were losing their minds. Knowing they were coming back to stock and never being discontinued didn’t stop anyone. Just shows that people always want what they can’t have. I’ve been a handbag collector for a very long time and I think they’re really starting to be over priced and over rated.

  • Ruhee

    Great post as always Amanda.I love the word “lust-worthiness”:)

  • Jeannine

    I think in alot of cases there is a false sense of demand created by the retailers to elevate their brand perception. For instance, a friend of mine works at Hermes and said they have tons of Birkens in their back room. Yet, when a customer comes in for one they are put on a wait list and are encouraged to spend $5k before even being considered for the bag. Really….come on.

    • shoe diva

      i totally agree just the other day i walked into an hermes store for the first time and asked for birkin i was told in a very insulting way that i have to buy other stuff and build a rlationship with the store before they can even consider God forbid selling a birkin………..THAT IS RIDICULOUS as a free person i should have the right to buy whatever i can afford and like and when it is supposedly available to public……well we know what kind of public lady gaga and kim kardashian……….first i thought i would bycott the birkin but i was so furious with that lady that i told her that very soon i will be back with a birkin……but i dont know how and dont want to fall in fake trap so lets see if i get a birkin or i will avoid walking into that mall altogether……… : (

  • armbasket

    I haven’t put my name on any waitlists for a few years. I’m a long time bag collector and always loved the thrill of a special IT bag. However, prices are continually escalating and not all bags warrant the high price tags. There are plenty of outstanding handbags around in the $500 – $1000 range.

  • Bea

    GREAT article! You might like the book The Spirit Level, it looks at the health of societies as it relates to income inequality, and what it does to the soul if a country when you have the top .01% doing SOOOO well (to put it mildly) while poor and middle class wages remain flat and unemployment increases. I love beautiful things and someday I would love to own a Celine or a PS1, but I fear that frenzies built over material goods are ultimately unhealthy for individuals and democracies.

  • pixiegirl

    I’ve been a bit bag crazy the past few years. Now I’m trying to downsize my bags. I laid all of my bags out and realized wow that’s a pretty big chunk of money sitting in front of me. Made me feel a bit guilty especially since a lot of them weren’t getting used that much any I have family members who lost their job and are hurting financially. I’m still buying designer bags I just bough a louie last week lol.,but I’m spending more time researching them instead of buying on a impulse.

    As far as high end brands doing better in tough economic times I’m not too surprised. Those who are truly rich(not those sillys who are just keeping up with the joneses who are living on credit) aren’t going to stop spending/change their spending habits because they dont have too. I also think that people tend to go for quality over quantity when times are tough. They would rather wait and save up for a bag/coat/shoes/clothes they can use for years than throwing some money at cheaper bags that they either get sick of or are cheap and fall apart after very little use. Not that you have to spend four figures to get quality but generally I tend to find quality goes up with price. When I get a cheap pair of shoes for $20 I dont expect them to last more than a season.

  • Babs

    Exclusive brands like Hermes will prosper regardless of the overall economic climate. Those brands don’t depend on “aspirational” buyers so they don’t lose customer base when the economy suffers.

    That’s one reason why Chanel & LV have been raising prices so consistently; they are working to protect their revenue streams by catering to a more exclusive customer base.

    Either way, the economy is slowing again and talk of a second recession is increasing in the media (it’s not all wine and roses anymore, though, in truth, it hasn’t been for a long, long time) and luxury brands as a whole are at risk again. Look out, conspicuous consumption may fall out of vogue again very soon…