Handbag Trend Forecasting

Applying algorithmic logic to fashion is tricky at best; Google itself has failed publicly at predicting what stylish shoppers might like to buy, and a recent report from trendcasting duo Credit Suisse and NetBase makes me think they might not have quite figured it out either. According to them, Hermès is the brand with the worst online momentum for its handbags, and Ralph Lauren is the leader of the pack. Huh?

According to Vanessa Friedman at the New York Times, NetBase and Credit Suisse scoured data from online chatter about handbags (more than a little of which was from our PurseForum, I’m guessing) to see which brands’ bags were talked about the most, as well as whether the comments were negative or positive. The study makes no distinction between premiere designer and contemporary brands; Hermès and Chanel are ranked right along with Kate Spade and Coach, even though brands at such disparate ends of the price spectrum have very different customers who not only behave differently toward fashion in general, but use the Internet for shopping in very different ways. Some extremely important accessories brands, like Céline and Givenchy, are missing entirely.

The study cites the fact that 22% of the online comments made about Hermès are negative as source for concern, but for a brand with such a slim market, what does that mean? I see commenters and Forum members regularly ding Hermès for its high prices, which are a mark of exclusivity that actually attracts more customers from the brand’s target market. Presumably, that negative chatter got grouped as harmful to the brand, though, because there’s no indication that the data scientists had any method for determining whether or not the comments came from a member of the brand’s potential customer pool.

Similarly, it seems plausible that buyers of extraordinarily expensive handbags that are marketed as the finest in the world would have exacting standards for their purchases, far more so than someone might expect for a bag that cost a couple hundred bucks, which could cause great gnashing of teeth when a product or buying experience isn’t up to those elevated expectations.

And that’s just one brand of the many that Credit Suisse and NetBase tracked. Elsewhere, it found that Calvin Klein bags had among the strongest momentum, despite the fact that most bag consumers aren’t even familiar with its high-end line and the vast majority of major luxury retailers don’t carry it. You can check out Friedman’s full examination of the study, which is similarly dubious of the raw data’s findings. Statistics are great, but if they’re examined outside the context of the industry they’re meant to measure, a lot of the value ends up lost in translation.

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  • lavinia

    thanks it was really interesting but this is true only for the USA market not for the rest of the world! In Europe for ex. brands like Coach, Tori Burch (very few people know this brand) Kate spade (CK only for bags which have a very low value), are completely unknown…Michael Kors is starting now to be known…:)

  • b

    I disagree with the study. I don’t know anyone who wears Calvin Klein bags. I buy higher end bags than my friends and family, so I keep that in mind, but the brands most of them buy are Coach and Michael Kors.

  • Liz

    Lol, the author of this article sounds upset that maybe having an Hermes bag isn’t as meaningful as she thought it was. I can see how there may be some accuracy to this…..The gathering of Hermes shoppers obviously isn’t an accurate representation of the greater population of handbag customers. For the majority of people, paying thousands of dollars for one of their bags is over the top, whereas many Hermes customers get somewhat desensitized to the prices. Also, Hermes sometimes has a reputation as the “ultimate old lady brand” and just like with fragrances, seeing it as “old lady” can turn people off too it. (I say this as an owner of an Hermes bag)
    I’m actually not surprised that Fendi and Louis Vuitton were at the top for most desirable, along with Ralph Lauren. We may not see it online here, but there are women in my family that love and own the Ricky bag and have an irreplaceable fondness for American brands/designers like Coach and Ralph Lauren. Big major cities don’t represent everywhere.

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  • Lori

    I think Hermes gets negative remarks online about price by people who simply don’t understand the product. I actually have to be somewhat secret with friends and family about bags at times being they think $500 is a ton of money (a waste, stupid, etc) for a purse. I can’t imagine the thought of a $10K bag on the general consumer, so yes, I bet they bitch about it. i don’t understand the Calvin Klein numbers. I could not pick out a high end bag from that line and I read this forum daily AND own about 30 high end bags. I think this is like trying to forecast the stock market. Sometimes they get it right and other times wrong.

  • rhiannonmr

    I’m not impressed with this study. They talk about negative talk but there is more than one type of negative talk. With Hermes you WILL hear complaint about pricing and availability. With Tory Burch I’ve heard complaint about quality. With other brands it’s customer service and such. Which negative talk is more important? For me as a consumer the talk of quality or customer service will mean more to me. Price? If it’s good or excellent quality like Hermes is reputed to have, I can deal with it. Quality? Especially at the price point Tory Burch hits? I have problems with that. Customer service? I expect good/excellent customer service and if I don’t get it, I talk about it. They didn’t explain the collection methods here either. So take this one with a 5lb bag of salt.

  • JJp

    Calvin Klein sells handbags?

  • Kathy Dowdle

    Ahhhh! And there in lies the problem with statistics. Who was their sample population? How large was their sample population? What study methods were used? Unless we know this information the raw statistics are completely useless! For all we know, they conducted a “man/woman on the street” interview of 10 people in a Walmart parking lot!

  • FashionableLena

    Interesting. Calvin Klein does have handbags. I’ve seen them at Macy’s, but I didn’t know that they had “high end” handbags.
    It shouldn’t be a surprise about the whole Ralph Lauren thing since their handbags are more attainable than an Hermes. Mostly, I think it depends on where you live. While I know that Givenchy and Celine are important, it’s not a brand that I see often where I currently live. Vera Bradley seems to out pace Coach, Michael Kors, Kate Spade, etc. However, I wouldn’t be caught dead with a Vera Bradley handbag.
    Now, near the mall, there’s a free standing Hermes store. Yet, I still have yet to see a person rocking one. I have seen a lot of Chanel.

  • Designerpuff

    Well according to industry sales (and this designer’s perspective), Michael Kors is still #1 in handbags. Mainly because it is the most attainable form of luxury and trend to the middle and upper middle class. Also this is the reason Kors resembles so closely LV..its because they know this customer wants LV but can’t afford it. Now in terms of luxury, Hermes would be top of the pack bc of the exclusivity. Its all about being one of the “in crowd” with that brand. Celine, Chanel, etc are also pure luxury and trend driven. They aren’t very practical or functional so they also rank in the top as being a “in crowd” bag. A bag you want o be “seen” with…just like the celebs. Tory Burch and Rebecca Minkoff are poised to overtake Coach (same as Kors did) as the new trend affordable luxury brands. Coach is still hanging in there because it is still considered luxury among the middle/lower middle class demographics. Also it helps that most of their business/sales are coming from their outlet stores. Lim, Wang, Rag and Bone etc are all contemporary and trendy and skew to a younger more fashion-forward crowd. Their price point is high but somewhat obtainable, however the everyday customer doesn’t have access to them as most of the stores that carry them are not in the areas(middle america) where Kors is driving business. Also that customer prefers something more recognizable rather than being an “individual” per se. Calvin Klein and Ralph…not so much worth discussing as these brands have become pretty stale in the handbag industry for years. Not even importers want to knock them off.

    As for Europe and Asia, thats another animal as their currency and needs are different from the American consumer…so they can’t be compared…except for on a luxury level…possibly.

    Overall its all very interesting, but handbags are very hit or miss so to have accurate statistics is quite difficult and challenging.

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