Image via Bundle

Denying it is impossible: Even with most of the economy at a standstill, luxury goods continue to boom and the products that make up the marketplace continue to reach higher and higher price points. All of the husbands and boyfriends (not to mention jealous officemates and frienemies) out there who nearly keel over at the price tags on handbags should take a look through the back pages of any major US fashion magazine – accessories are expensive, but clothes are out of this world.

Considering that, it’s no surprise that a recent survey by Bundle and Citi found that Oscar de la Renta’s Madison Avenue flagship is the most expensive store in the country. When cocktail dresses start at more than a thousand dollars and sometimes stretch up into the five figures, it’s not hard to see where the boutique’s $3217 average ticket comes from. Naturally, I have a few theories about these results.

When a survey like this comes out, it can almost always tell you more about the luxury business than meets the eyes, as long as you’re willing to dig a little bit. In this case, the second store on the list, Giorgio Armani’s Madison Avenue flagship, is just as important to my conclusions. What do they have in common? Ready-to-wear business that far outpace their accessories sales.

Think about it: When someone says “Chanel” to me, I think of a bag. The same thing happens with almost any major brand; the bags (and sometimes shoes) are the most recognizable pieces of the brand’s public image to consumers because they have a much wider potential customer base than a $5,000 cocktail dress.

Except when it comes to de la Renta and Armani, that’s not true. Most brands need the revenue from accessories (and cosmetics) to balance out the slim profits that are earned from selling nose-bleedingly expensive clothes to a small stable of customers, but some companies have such a strong name in ready-to-wear (for Armani, I would imagine that menswear – suits in particular – makes a big contribution as a well) that the comparatively modest accessories sales probably push their average sales prices upwards.

In most stores, the opposite is true. I’d be willing to bet that more people go into Prada with the intention of buying nylon handbags or moderately priced small leather goods than people who are shelling out for runway ready-to-wear, but the outrageously luxurious, meticulously detailed suits, cocktail dresses and ball gowns are the things that draw people into Oscar de la Renta. So the next time someone scoffs at you for buying a thousand dollar handbag or $700 pair of shoes, just tell him or her that you’re actually bringing down the average, thankyouverymuch.

P.S. Please consider supporting our small, bag-loving team by clicking our links before shopping or checking out at your favorite online retailers like Amazon, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, or any of the listed partners on our shop page. We truly appreciate your support!

Share Your Thoughts With Us

  • Bagolicious

    I’m surprised to see Savannah on the list. I didn’t realize that it had gotten “that” expensive. I used to shop there in the late 80s and early 90s, back in the Issey Miyake era and although it was expensive, I didn’t find it that over the top.

    As for Bruno Cucinelli, that doesn’t surprise me. Recently, I’ve been in both the Paris and Beverly Hills boutiques and am aware of the prices, but those are some gorgeous, high quality clothes that can be worn daily. So, I call them down-to-earth, investment pieces that never go out of style. And the cashmere is top quality. They aren’t frou frou or just special occasion type of clothes. They are very wearable.

    It doesn’t surprise me that Maxfield is on the list. I’ve been dropping by there for probably 30 years, but at least Maxfield has always carried interesting, cutting edge clothes.

    As for Oscar, I simply adore Oscar. He’s my all time favorite. About three years ago, while cleaning out my closet, I got rid of my Oscar clothes from the early 90s. It was just time to pass them on although still timeless and in excellent condition. I donated them to a women’s organization that trains women to go back into the work force and also provides them with an outfit to wear to work. For years I have boxed up my clothes and mailed them off to that out-of-state women’s organization.

  • rose60610

    Sometimes I think couture houses have some items that are beyond beaucoup bucks and have no intention of selling them. Rather, they are mere props to compel lesser mortals to buy “inexpensive” things that can still cost over a thousand. For every five grand dress, how many bags, shoes and lipsticks fly out the door?

    • ninjaninja

      I agree. I was at Bloomingdale’s recently, and witness a crew of teenage girls plop a bunch of money on Chanel makeup just to have a little piece of the company.

  • 19yearslater

    Wow, I would have expected Hermes or Louis Vuitton, something along those lines. I’m not really interested in couture clothing- it’s pretty, but not anything I see myself investing in.

    • What’s interesting, though, is that Oscar de la Renta isn’t couture. It’s probably as close as you can get while still being in the ready-to-wear category, but the dresses in those price ranges are part of the normal, off-the-rack line.