A couple weeks ago, Vlad and I were in Texas for SXSW and attended the conference’s panel on Global Digital Trends for the Luxury Consumer. It wasn’t a fashion-specific panel, but during the talk, one of the presenters mentioned a recent Business Insider article about consumer perceptions of Louis Vuitton in China. According to one expert who spoke with BI, top-tier consumer tastes are shifting away from the French luxury giant.

Ewan Rambourg, author of The Bling Dynasty: Why the Reign of Chinese Luxury Shoppers Has Only Just Begun, claims China’s elite are increasingly interested in a more subtle version of luxury, and the perception in the market is that Vuitton can’t provide it. Rambourg says China’s luxury consumers are turning toward more expensive brands and bespoke goods, with less focus on logos and more focus on the quality of the product. One quote in particular has been a subject of hot debate on our PurseForum: many Chinese consumers think, “I can’t buy Vuitton, I’ve seen it too much, it’s a brand for secretaries.”

While Rambourg and the Business Insider article didn’t expand on whether or not this trend is reflected in other global markets, China is an important consideration for all global brands that hope to grow–Euromoniter’s most recent rankings put it as the 5th largest luxury market in the world, and although the Chinese market has slowed this year, global consulting firm Bain & Company still expect the nation’s important rising consumer class to double by 2017.

Do your perceptions of Louis Vuitton match or contradict the changing tide in Chinese consumers? Let us know in the comments.

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Share Your Thoughts With Us

  • I would agree that there seems to be an oversaturation of LV in the market which can attribute to people looking elsewhere for something more unique. That being said I definitely still love my Sprouse Neverfull and think the special edition LV bags will always have a place in the high end market. Perhaps the newer bags without as many logos can change the attitude toward LV but only time will tell.

    • Carn Waxler

      I hope so. When I now see a LV monogram Speedy, my first reaction is, it’s a fake, unless it’s carried by someone I know would never buy counterfeits. That’s a sad fate for an iconic luxury brand.

      LV is making the right decision to at least mix up the monogram with other materials and designs, as those are somewhat harder to fake. But overall, I avoid the monogram. There are some LV designs I like, but not in monogram, for example, Pallas. As I posted elsewhere here, it’s very practical — and would love for LV to make that in epi or empreinte. If I could get a Pallas bag in black epi or empreinte with that shot of fuschia (or another brilliant color) at the top, I’d buy it in a flash and carry it everywhere. And it would NOT (IMO) look anything like a secretary’s bag.

  • Edia

    ok this quote is YEARS old. i heard that in a documentary YEARS ago.

    • This specific instance of him saying it is recent, but since the Chinese market is his specialty, he (or someone else) might have made similar claims in the past.

  • Guest

    In Los Angeles, it seems that LV is carried by so many teenagers and young adults. I’m sure the majority of them are fake and probably bought in Santee Alley. That has really turned me off and I’ve never owned an LV.

    • Mia

      This is not only in LA, I would say it’s in every bigger city in the world. You can find LV everywhere, and most probably there are more fakes around than genuine bags. No matter where you are, fakes are sold on every beach in Turkey, in Bali and even on the market in Tanzania. Maybe that’s the reason why I have never been attracted to this brand. I prefer to have something exclusive. And exclusivity to me is not being expensive it means being hard to find.

  • Nívia

    I never really loved LVuitton, for being that easy to find it everywhere ,worn by each and everyone , for finding it exposed on the ground of streets all around the world, for being quite easy to make a fake LVuitton without people notice the diference between the original and the fake one.

  • AAAA

    Personally I never got into LV. It wasn’t because of a saturation point, but because of the monograms. I’ve never been able to choose a bag that screams a brand. I prefer to have bags that those in the know know and the rest just think it is (or isn’t) a nice bag.

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  • shanna

    i am so glad that i am not alone with my opinion. louis vuitton has such a poor quality and especially the service!! i am so disappointed with this brand:(

    • Daniefromcanada

      I feel their quality is really good, and customer service is way better than Chanel. IMO

  • Sofia

    I see the monogram bags on too many people where I live, especially teenagers. That makes me never want to purchase them. LVs more subtle bags, like the Capucines and SC, are not so hot either.

  • Lori

    I love LV and have the Lockit that I carry daily. The logo is teeny-tiny and nobody knows what kind of a bag it is, which i like. The quality of the bag is excellent, so I am not sure why people would think their bags are not good quality. I also have a Totally MM in Damier Azur (had to look that all up) and I can’t stand to carry it any longer. It’s great for business travel, but l just hate carrying around bags that scream the name of the manufacturer. I guess LV is good for the high end bags, but the logo bags do seem to be everywhere at this point, which makes me not really like them.

  • Sparkletastic

    I’ve never liked LV. I’ve always hated the monograms all over anything and I never could understand why I should pay a premium for a coated canvas bag. So, this is no loss to me. LV needs to manage their brand. If they don’t have the right marketing team, they need to get it before it’s too late.

  • sara

    I live in Orange County, CA. Several of my friends moved here from China/Taiwan in the last few years. They regularly shop at South Coast (local high end luxury mall) and send handbags and other luxury goods back to their friends/family. From what I see first hand, LV’s star is waning quickly due to critical mass. Now the Chinese luxury consumer wants Gucci, Chanel, Hermes – something unique.

  • PJGambler

    It is still a very popular icon in the US and think it will be for time to come. Just look around at all the other designer copy cats of LV bags like Michael Kors, Donney & Bourke, etc. I don’t see them being replaced by Dior or Gucci. LV buyers are devotees.

  • Claire

    I used to love the LV print (mono, DE and DA) but have sold my LV bags except for an epi speedy. Anyway, my taste has changed over the years. While I used to love logo bags, I now gravitate toward discreetly “logoed” bags.

    A good friend of mine is Chinese (from Shanghai) and she said her friends who own their own business or belong to top management of big corporations usually go for Hermes, Chanel and Celine instead of LV.

  • BIR

    In my culture it’s seen as a very mid-level entry point to luxury brand,but I must say that recently with the petit malles and the newer more discrete leather bags perception has shifted ever so slightly still I Like Louis secretarial as it may be.

  • FashionableLena

    Well, I guess there goes LV and their attempt to appeal to a higher clientele. Talk about raising the prices and biting the hands that feed them.
    My 17 y/o son expressed an interest today in having an LV wallet. So, I promised him one of he raised his GPA and got better grades. I was surprised that he asked for one. Maybe he saw one of his friends with one at his high school. I was floored at how much this coated canvas money clip card case cost. $345!

  • SeeJay

    This post doesn’t speak to me at all. I own nearly 20 LV in various styles & will continue to carry them. I ALSO own Chanel, Celine, Balenciaga, Proenza, Fendi, Gucci, YSL, Valentino, Miu Miu, Prada, Chloe, Givenchy, Ralph Lauren, Tom Ford, Burberry, Dior, Coach, Dolce Gabbana, Mulberry, Alexander Wang.I carry what I like and rarely follow what I’m told is the new super secret IT bag. It’s hilarious how snooty some folks get over designer bags. I have no intention of ever purchasing an Hermes as I tend to purchase several $3k+ each year & don’t see the point of paying $10k+ for one.

    • Sparkletastic

      Respectfully, I don’t get your perspective. Within your list, you buy bags from some wonderful, high end brands. Those who have a $1k, $500, or even $100 limit would think your $3k spend is excessive. Alternatively, $10k really is not a lot of money for a bag for many people. Price is all about perspective.

      So I don’t think a $10k bag buyer or even one who wouldn’t carry anything but a special edition Hermes can be called “snooty”. Even if they buy a certain brand or brands to exclusion of others. It’s just each individual’s choice – whether their money comes from unearned inherited wealth, hard earned tips waiting tables or any combo in between.

      • SeeJay

        I don’t understand the snooty attitude of those who don’t like LV simply because it’s so saturated yet drool over a $10k bag mainly because it cost $10k & not everyone will spend(or can) that kind of money. Elitism is so exhausting particularly when it’s expressed among regular women who probably, more than likely are not wealthy. Furthermore, an Hermes & especially Chanel are now worn so often by young celebrities and/or less sophisticated wearers. To the grocery, the gym, et al; I find it hilarious that the complaint about over saturation is still being mentioned regarding LV while the other high ends are being copied as well.

      • O.A

        Great post! Couldnt have said it better. The snooty attitude is ridiculous. I enjoy bags for what they are regardless of it is saturated or not…

  • Newyorking

    I agree. LV monogram bags are by far the UGLIEST bags I have EVER seen, and I can’t believe the high price people pay for them! I walk into LV thinking of buying a bag, but most of the styles I like are in monogram, and they ask me why I don’t want a monogram, and I tell the salespeople that the LV monograms are so ugly, I really wish LV made better bags. They don’t make practical bags in other styles. Lets face it, LV makes money only due to the brand. They are not really that innovative, I am not blown away by their styles, nothing new or unique other than LV. I really want an LV bag because some bags are practical, but most of them are the ugly brown monograms. And they are everywhere. Celine, Gucci, and Dior are much better.

    • Newyorking

      Oh and when I think of buying one of the monogram bags due to their practicality, I imagine having people see me with a bag with ugly LVs all over the bag, and am embarrassed to be seen with a bag showing off the logo. I like bags with the logo to show the brand, but discreetly. I HATE everything with all logos stamped all over. It looks ugly and tacky, and is frankly embarrassing. I like how Gucci and Prada have their logo but in small letters, and Dior has the DIOR dangling, subtle yet branded. And Hermes doesn’t even need a logo. Fendi has cleverly embedded it’s logo into the design. Needless to say I would never buy a monogram bag.

  • Regina George

    As someone living in Hong Kong, I can confirm this is 100% true. In fact, my dad (who speaks English too) used those EXACT words to describe the brand once, so yes that is indeed the general sentiment. Spot on again Megs!

  • Sofia

    I wonder how long it will take Chanel to earn that “brands for secretaries” label

  • Anjum Hameed

    It’s my favorite brand, I have at least 16 of their monogram handbags, plus leather bags and some special editions..liking a brand is very personal I feel..

  • Charlie_Lewis

    That’s what happens. The riches got those bags, then the not-so-riches will do anything to save up to get those bags, the brands see them as being “too popular” on the market then increase the price to make it harder for the not-so-riches to buy. But it’s only sooner or later the not-so-riches will be able to afford those again, it’s the same cycle again and again.
    Let’s face it, even some of the secretaries have Hermes and Chanel bags. The truth is, those designer brands not only mean a designer bag in China but also a status symbol, those people will really starve so they can afford a designer brand.

    • There was a lot of talk about when Birkins became more “mainstream” with people like the Kardashians started carrying them. It’s a cycle and truth is people find bags they love and they want them – whether they need to save up for years or can have them that day, sometimes you will do whatever it takes to get the bag.

      • Chloesam

        Megs, I completely agree with this comment. As much as I love Hermes and will continue to love Hermes, they did take a “hit” when the “K” family was seen constantly carrying Birkins. Could be a factor (of course not the sole reason) in the recent preference for Kellys over Birkins.

      • Minousha

        What about the Chanel classic flap and the reissue?? I live in Egypt and was planning to get one next week, but almost everyone I know own one in black. What do I do??? Get one and join the crowd?? part of the appeal is gone:(( What are your thoughts?

    • Denise

      “the brands see them as being “too popular” on the market then increase the price to make it harder for the not-so-riches to buy.”

      You know, I never thought of it like that. I have thought of several reasons as to WHY ON EARTH a bag would need to increase by a few hundred dollars when it’s already considered quite pricey by most people…quite an interesting perspective.

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    • SeeJay

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  • Neserine

    Sorry, But LV is classic, iconic and has crazy staying power. In the USA we love our pop culture, and as long as our favorite celebrities keep rockin them, well so are we!! I have a lot of different LV bags, and I also have Gucci, Chanel, Burberry, and Celine. But Louis Vuitton is by far my favorite!! Louis isn’t going anywhere! It’s timeless, it’s outlived many generations, and will continue to do so.

    • Oh of course – LV is not going anywhere nor will it. LV is one of the most iconic brands, they didn’t just pop up recently.

  • Maya

    When I think LV, I think of the Jersey Shore, the South of France (not the posh part of it, the “hair extensions, too much make up” part) and Essex…. Never liked LV, never will…

  • lavinia

    It’s quite a bit of time that Vuitton is trying to become a “true luxury brand” (longing for Hermes?) but they must deal with reality: the brand will never ever be like Hermes because its market position is defined. The brand has established itself thanks to the logo for its choice. They already tried to move away from the logo, but what have they got? Surprise surprise their sales have dropped drastically because let’s face it, it’s thanks to the logo that Vuitton is Vuitton. Maybe just thank to the secretaries ;)

  • Ushma

    At the risk of sounding snobby, I can see why monogram/canvas Vuitton bags could be considered as lower-end, because the market is saturated with them. A lot of people also buy these bags BECAUSE they are easily identifiable and to them the motivation for owning a “designer” bag is to let everyone else know that they have one – it’s a status symbol. However, I think the brand is trying to move away from that image, and some more recently released bags like the petite Malle, the soft lockit and the capucines are gorgeous and luxurious. Having said that, a lot of people (including myself) would only spend $5000+ on a bag if it was guaranteed to be a classic or investment piece that would last for years. I was very tempted to buy a soft lockit but changed my mind in favour of another Chanel classic flap, simply because I knew that that was a bag with long term staying power, which I don’t know about Vuittons newer bags. That’s why I think that Vuitton (ironically) could only now find clients in two extreme brackets – the aspirational consumer who buys canvas, or the hugely wealthy who could buy several extremely expensive bags without having to make a choice between them.

    • Kim

      Some of us( Chinese & include myself ) buy LV mainly as a gift for relatives, friends and business. Or re-sell it to someone else in China. We know LV’s quality isn’t high level and most of you believe that LV’s bags made in France, Spain, Italy or USA right? No one ever probably talk about true story, but please think about how many of LV store does exist in this world? and same as other brand store?
      Oh btw, we love to get heaps of attention by public when we shop at Chanel or Hermes!! Again, we don’t see them as high quality prodcut and so easy to guy anything from them. Just money guys. It’s nice see those high brand can’t run thier business without our little contribution! Yay.

    • shueaddict

      Your last sentence is spot on, imho. I am at the ‘in between’ – will not buy canvas when I can afford Valentino, Mulberry or Givenchy – but, as much as I love the Capucine I am not quite ready to spend 6k on it.

      • Ushma

        I completely agree. I think the jump from mainly monogram to mainly $5000+ bags was too extreme. I’m glad they’ve started making moves like introducing the neverfull in epi – maybe a greater focus on epi/empreinte would be wonderful, because they’re beautiful looking and good quality leathers that are also a bit more discreet.

    • This is a great post! I still like the monogram canvas on certain bags or when it is reinterpreted in different colorways etc. I love the Soft Lockit but for that price, I am not looking to buy Louis Vuitton.

      LV is still and will always be one of the most recognizable brands in the world. No denying that!

      • Ushma

        I can see where you’re coming from – I saw the Pallas on a chain with a red leather flap and monogram canvas in a store window today and I really loved the look of it and the fact that it was slightly different from the normal fully monogrammed bag. It was also really well priced, but for me the fact that it has the monogram was actually a drawback which is sad.

        PS I’ve been a purseblog lurker for ages so I’m REALLY excited that you replied to my comment!!

      • So happy to have you here! :)

  • Canuck65

    I used to be turned off by LV because I never liked their monogram canvas bags which you see everywhere (I’m in Canada). That being said I then discovered that they do in fact make some beautiful bags – like the Lockit and the Capucine which I love. I do think if LV wants to reposition itself in the luxury market and alter consumer perception, it needs to streamline their monogram canvas bags line. You can’t be everything to all people.

  • geenak

    I’m not a fan of LV mostly because I don’t care for the logo all over the bag thing. I’ve seen LV popular in the US for decades, especially around those that don’t make a lot of money but that is their choice to spend money on whatever they want.

  • Passerine

    The last time I heard this quote, the person put it in the context of the fake designer bags that are seen EVERYWHERE in Asia, esp. China. A marketing specialist who works in Shanghai said that most young people there think there’s nothing wrong with counterfeits…except that now some higher end Chinese brands for the domestic market are emerging and it’s apparently not socially acceptable to counterfeit those. They will protect their own brands.

    Fakes really dilute a brand. Where I live (Switzerland) the authorities believe very strongly in brand protection and do prosecute violators; consequently I see fewer fake LVs here than anywhere else. As far as the canvas v. leather debate goes for LV, I have a canvas bag, the Trevi PM, but it’s in the Damier canvas, not the monogram, and I think it’s a very well made and attractive bag that’s durable and waterproof. (It’s not that cheap, either; compare its price to that of the smaller monogram Speedys).

    There are several designers whose bags I like and I treat myself to one or two good/luxury bags a year. They’re not all the most famous or most expensive brands — I enjoy my Borbonese and my Alviero Martinini Geo bags as much as my LV and Saint Laurent bags. I will look at LV next month for my annual luxury bag purchase, but IMO, they have stiff competition from gifted designers at many other brands. If I do buy a LV bag, I will choose a model like Marly (epi) or Montaigne (empreinte) that is much less likely to be faked. I’ve already seen Pallas fakes in Italy; anything with the monogram is ripe for counterfeiting, so I will not consider that model. Plus I think it’s overpriced for its quality.

    Yes, cost is a factor. Like many women in Switzerland and northern Italy, I’m happy to shop for bags at the great designer discount mall, Foxtown (someday PB should do a thread on bag, clothes and shoe shopping there — it’s fab!). The mall is pretty strict about stores not selling seconds — the bags I’ve bought are leftover models from past seasons. If I can get a great Burberry, Fendi, Dior, Ferragamo etc bag for 60% off retail, I really don’t care that it’s from 2012 instead of 2015. And sometimes I like the older models better anyway!

  • Denise

    I see where they’re coming from . I don’t think it has anything to do with Louis Vuitton’s quality or Louis Vuitton as a brand but solely status. If you’re making five times more than the girl who answers your phone but she has the same bag as you, that says a lot.

    With that said, It definitely depends on where you live and/or work.

    I live on the Northeastern side of San Antonio, TX. It is very rare to see pricey bags outside of the building where I work or shopping centers. Most women here carry bags such as Coach, Tory Burch, Michael Kors; these bags are considered slightly affordable but at the same time, has status. Very few carry Louis Vutton and Gucci (mostly seen by the women where I work). Those bags are considered several steps up and is on par with carrying Chanel and Celine in China.

    Even with how easily accessible fake bags are, designer brands are still rarely seen here. When you do see someone carrying a known luxury bag, you’d think the stares, the praises and the bag ‘shamers’ come out from every shadow in the room.

  • Aidan

    While there’s no denying the ubiquity of the LV monogram, I don’t understand why so many people seem to loathe the way it looks. To me, the LV monogram looks no worse aesthetically than say, the Fendi Zucca print or the Gucci monogram. Not to mention the fact that Fendi and Gucci’s famous letters also come in the oh-so-dreaded canvas in many of their bags.

    • Sofia

      I dislike all three of those bags… I’ll also add the Coach “C” bags from like 10 years ago. I guess people just have so much hatred for LV, because they are far more ubiquitous than those other brands

  • chloesam

    It takes all types of people with all types of taste to make up this great big beautiful world of consumerism. We all know L.V. won’t be going anywhere they are here to stay. Where they go from here will be interesting to watch. My favorite quote from the movie When Harry met Sally is: “Everyone thinks they have good taste but they couldn’t possibly ALL have good taste!” Everything is cyclical. I have seen a decline in my circle of friends carrying L.V. for several years now. I don’t carry L.V. but I do love their Stephen Sprouse stoles. That being said I am sure L.V. will find a way to overcome this changing tide. It may take a while.

  • Gia

    LV coated canvas bags are my most durable, well made, in my large collection. My Manhattan GM years old, still looks like new! LV is my go to. Chanel I have to be so careful, check the weather forecast, and pray that it has an invisible barrier around it, so it doesn’t scratch. Love LV.

  • Giselle

    While I’ve never been to Asia, on my recent trip to Hawaii, where there’re lots of Asian tourists, I saw LV bag on every other person. The brand trapped itself by trying to reach more customers, but it turned out to oversaturation. And the owner of LVMH is known for being money oriented. I love the brand, but only purchase limited editions and mostly from past seasons.

  • La Toya Amos

    I believe the statement in the beginning of the article to be true its not about a logo its about the quality of a bag. I have always had an eye for luxury not on purpose but whenever I like something its always on the high end. I believe you pay for what you get and when shopping we are drawn to the feel, the shape and the quality, if it will hold up to what we will be doing. I try to tell my customers this all the time.

  • ath

    I agree. Its too ubiquitous for me. I prefer subtle. I can also never tell if its fake or real. :/

  • shopper

    I live in Asia. Must be more LV and designer shops than anywhere else. EVERYONE has an LV (except me). I’ve been tempted to buy one, but it would be too weird bumping into women carrying the same bag. When I go to dinners I often see the same bag on several women (!!).

    I understand how people in the highest income bracket would want to distinguish themselves from the pack by avoiding the common bags.

    I agree with the statement below regarding how LVMH has over saturated the brand. If I did buy one would have to be special edition – and SUBTLE!

  • charlotte

    I actually live in Shanghai and my impression is that the luxury goods market is only different in China for the fact that owning a luxury item is more symbolic in the culture. The popularity of simpler logo-free bags is new trend but won’t impact the market as a whole also since Chinese sense of style is generally the complete opposite of ‘less is more’. Some of the very wealthy chinese follow the same western trends when it comes to bags (celine, hermes, less logos etc), and everybody else with some disposable income buys what they think evokes status (lv, chanel, etc), often this also means to buy fakes. You can’t change the taste of 2 billion people (more is more, more = $, this is part of the culture), and even if 1% stops buying LV there is still a huge market that will continue to want a recognizable french brand on their arm. Western ‘branding experts’ still have so much trouble understanding the Chinese market, different rules apply and the trends are difficult to decipher. But again, this discussion only applies to a tiny part of the population since most people are still struggling to make ends meet with low wages and quality of life. I disagree that people will starve for a bag in China, they will just buy a fake instead. For the average person in China, LV will continue to be a status symbol for a long time.