Proenza Schouler PS1 Bag

As you might imagine, we spend a lot of time in the PurseBlog offices talking about bags. Bags we’re plotting to buy, bags we can only buy in our imaginations, bags we think are a waste of money – it all comes up eventually. Last week, Bea posed an interesting question to me: if I had $1,500 and could buy any handbag I wanted, what would I buy? Which, in turn, lead me to a question of my own: where have all the great $1,500 bags gone?

In the five-plus years I’ve been covering the accessories industry, the market has cleaved in two. While premier designer bags get more expensive by the year (partly because of rising costs for materials and labor, partly because higher prices actually make the bags more enticing to affluent customers), contemporary brands have lowered their core price levels. Brands like Rebecca Minkoff and Botkier used to aim for a $595 price tag for their everyday bags, but in recent years, many of those same brands report that business is more sustainable at a $395-$495 price point.

That parting of the market has made way for noteworthy “premium contemporary” brands like Alexander Wang and 3.1 Phillip Lim, whose handbags average around $800 and satisfy younger customers with high-end tastes and real-world (or relatively real-world) budgets. Those brands might make a couple bags in the $1,500 price range every season to fill out the very high end of their range, but what happened to all the $1,500 bags that used to anchor entire brands?

When the Celine Luggage Tote debuted, it cost $1,750, but now it starts at $2,400. Before it, the Proenza Schouler PS1 cost $1,595, but it was raised to $1,695 several seasons ago, and the marquee bags that Proenza has launched since have all cost much more. Now, when similar brands debut a bag they’re hoping will catch on like those did, they generally price it at $2,000 or above, like the Chloe Baylee Bag ($2,050) and the Saint Laurent Sac de Jour ($2,950). During the It Bag era of the mid- to late-2000s, you could bank on getting a premium bag for around $1,500, but that number has increased rapidly in the past few years.

Although premium contemporary labels have been extremely successful at filling some of the price gap, there will only be more room for new brands as premier prices reach higher and higher. Who will step up to meet that inevitable consumer demand remains to be seen.

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  • Weaslgrl

    Did you forget Reed Krakoff? I have a couple of his bags in the $1500-ish price range (and love them). But, LOL, the way things are going, soon Coach or Michael Kors will hit that price point. Don’t get me wrong, I like them both, but I wouldn’t pay that price for them.

  • tata

    balenciaga city or goyard st louis? i think both around $1500 price range? not sure how much st louis is here but in paris i got mine for 700euro so well below that price range. will they be considered premium bag vs premium contemporary?

    • Debs

      I think that they hit closer to 2000 if you want the Giant Hardware though.

  • Regina George

    Is this part of your new series, “First World Problems”?

    • J

      This is a Bag Blog. What were you expecting?

  • Ebun

    Back to the question at hand: I’ve been asking myself the same question all year! As I’m now a grad student and looking to stock up on some nice designer bags, I’ve been stuck on what to buy that’s not premium contemporary. Everything nice seems to be closer to the $2000 mark. Case in point: PS1, Balenciaga bags, Mulberry, Prada, etc. It’s so unfair! lol

  • Candace

    I thought the luggage tote was $3100-$3600 now.

  • Guest

    There are some nice Burberry (non-check) bags in the $1500 range but it doesn’t seem like Burberry gets enough love around here. There are also some nice Smythson totes in that range as well.

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  • Debs

    I just bought a Miu Miu Madras for 1520. It was between that and the Celine Trapeze at 2700. I asked my husband to choose (without disclosing the price, and trust me he has no clue) and he said the Miu Miu one was nicer. And, it happened to be the magic $1500 mark.

  • K

    I remember falling in love with Celine when it first came out and the price was very reasonable comparing to the current price. Up to now, I still don’t really understand what’s with the price increase for the past few years? I understand that it’s good quality, design, and the label, but I started to feel funny when looking at a Louis Vuitton bag made out of canvas with some leather details priced for $3000 or a $2000 canvas tote. Quality is another thing that makes me feel bad for the price increase. I bought LV Alzer 75. I love the trunk very much but dear lord, I never expect the interior to be made of synthetic leather! I realized when I flip some excess canvas to see what they really made of. The monogram canvas is extremely thin and after I used it twice, the canvas got scratched and faded.Never again for a $7,000 trunk that now sit in my bedroom to store my college stuffs. If setting high price is meant to justify the quality, Hermes is the only brand I feel worth paying for.

  • Guest

    All Premium designer bags here in Canada are closer to the $2000 mark. I remember when the LV multicolour speedy was at $1995 and chanel was just a little over 2K

    • louch

      Same here in Australia. I bought a PS1 shoulder in November and it cost $1995. $2000+ is the new “entry” price these days :(

  • skidrosesays

    Another thing I have noticed is that there doesn’t seem to be much price differentiation between a clutch and a full size bag with a lot of brands. You would think the smaller the size that it would require less materials (maybe less labor) and therefore be significantly less. But I have a thing for clutches and notice that I can spend just as much on a clutch as I would have a full size bag from the same collection. Just my 2 cents…

  • KMoya

    There are some nice Louis Vuitton bags in the $1500 price range

  • Abby

    Oh my god, what timing! Thank you SO MUCH for posting this, because I have been wondering this myself within the past few weeks! Marc Jacobs actually has some lovely bags in the $1500 range, but a store manager recently divulged to a TPF member that as of the fall collection, that is no longer to be. He will be raising his prices to match that of Saint Laurent and his contemporaries, much to my extreme dismay. I am not a fan of most mid range designers (Tory Burch, Michael Kors), but I don’t have the budge for $3,000 bags. I am saddened that I will now be at a loss because there is nothing in the market for my particular demographic.

  • Catsinthebag

    My favorite bag in this price range: the Anya Hindmarch Ebury. $1,450, better quality (IMHO) than Prada, and two detachable straps (one that matches the bag, one that contrasts). Love, love, love. :)

  • ami

    The only bags that interests me nowadays at a price point that I’m willing to shell out for is Marc by Marc Jacobs. It’s a good thing I’ve bought my high-end designer bags before the crazy prize increases. I will never get a brand new leather chanel flap bag for less than $2500 anymore.

  • http://batman-news.com Marcy697

    Great article!! I’ve been wondering the exact same thing for quite some time. I personally don’t see a huge difference in quality from a $500-$800 bag to a $3000 bag (of course there are some exceptions). It seems a lot of brands are buying into their hype before they are really earning the level of a Chanel or Hermes.

  • Guest

    I think the shift in prices provides an excellent opportunity to look for new designers (Christopher Kon is someone I’m loving right now,) to be more reasonable in our idea of what an “appropriately” priced bag is, (for most people, $1,500 is NOT reasonable) or to save for a really big splurge. Personally, Chanel and Hermes are the only brands I’d consider spending big money on anymore. YMMV, of course.

  • RitasGelati

    I thought about this too. You can still get a RH Balenciaga for less than $2000. This is so sad, like $500 for a bag is NOT expensive at all if you really think about it! Lol. Siiiiigh. For the love of bags!

  • http://www.luxondemand.com Jesica

    I agree that it seems like the entry level price point is $2000 these days, and that’s only if you’re an early adopter. If you wait til the bag is popular it’s more like $3000. I splurged on a Chanel last year, but other than that I generally stick to pre-loved because the price hikes (for all brands lately) are really hard to swallow.

  • Konjo

    This is so true, my limit is 2,000 at the moment. I can’t see myself spending anymore than that.

  • Victoria Terranova.

    I have just bought my husband a Beruccio bag. Cost me an arm and leg, but such a beautiful bag.

  • Maya N

    So great collection of bags under $1500 range. This is really awesome offer. I am away buy bags form: http://www.vintagemaya.com/fashion/women/handbags.html . Here also a great collection.

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