I can’t remember exactly how old I was when I first set my sights on one day purchasing a Chanel bag. A Chanel Classic Flap in caviar leather in a playful lilac hue, to be precise. And for years I have imagined closing the signature flap, turning the famous CC lock, and swinging this diamond-quilted icon over my shoulder.
When I first dreamt of this style as a teenager a decade ago, Chanel bags were by no means a bargain. Around the early 2010s, a medium Classic Flap would have set you back around $3,000. Quite a hefty dent in the savings of a teenager. But if I had known what that same style would be worth in 10 years (and had a few thousand to spare), I would have made the plunge and perhaps be living off of my shrewd investment now.
Since then, the heritage Parisian label has launched a campaign of relentless price increases occurring up to three times a year. The house’s most sought-after styles now tout an eye-wateringly high price tag that would have been unrecognizable to consumers a mere decade ago, my teenage self included. And so, the arrival of the day I purchase my dream Chanel bag is seeming increasingly unlikely.
With the emergence and rapid growth of the luxury resale market in recent years, there are new avenues for purchasing Chanel bags at a more affordable price point. However, the first-hand market’s price increases have had a knock-on effect on the cost of pre-loved styles. And so, Chanel bags remain increasingly unattainable for many consumers, whichever way they opt to purchase.
This prompts the question – Have I given up on my dream Chanel bag? And am I the only one?
Let’s look at the facts. Chanel bags have increased in price exponentially in the last few years.
And while other major heritage labels, including the likes of Hermès, Dior, and,Louis Vuitton, have also elevated their prices, no other bags have fallen prey as much as Chanel’s classics.
Last year alone there were three Chanel price increases, with the last installment seeing the cost of some styles rise by over 15%. Over the past decade, the price of my dream Chanel bag, along with a slew of other equally desirable classics and fan-favorite styles, has risen well above the inflation rate. A medium Classic Flap is now $8,800 – around three times the price it was a little over a decade ago.
While top economists quarrel over whether real estate, stocks, or gold is the best investment, Chanel has been using exquisite leather, its classic interlocking CC emblem, and signature diamond stitching to craft not just lust-worthy bags but financial assets.
This has made Chanel’s bags desirable for a whole new reason. And with prices increasing while styles remain just as sought after, it has set the label apart from other designers that once shared Chanel’s price point and has worked to align Chanel with a different tier of luxury brands.
Dare I say, Hermès?
There’s no denying that Chanel’s price increase strategy resembles that of Hermès. The price of signature Hermès styles like the Birkin and Kelly has risen remarkably since the early 2000s. And now the price of Chanel bags is closer to the region of Hermès classics than the likes of Dior, Louis Vuitton, and Fendi.
There have long been rumblings within the designer bag fandom that Chanel’s price increase strategy is an attempt to align the brand with Hermès. Many interpret these price increases from Chanel as a not-so-subtle jump to try and keep up with Hermès’ pricing strategy and affiliate itself with the prestige and status of its competitor. And as of June 2022, Chanel has begun implementing a quota system similar to the one Hermès notoriously uses to limit the supply of its classic bags.
Chanel once ranked in-between Louis Vuitton and Hermès in terms of attainability for shoppers like me hoping to save up their pennies to one day splurge on a holy grail purchase. But now, Chanel has become more unattainable than ever. And that seems to be the label’s goal.
The Pre-Owned Avenue
The designer resale market was once a safe haven for me and many others looking for a bargain (in terms of luxury, at least). When I first discovered second-hand designer items on sites like Vestiaire Collective and The RealReal, it opened up a new layer of the luxury fashion industry. Pieces I once thought were far out of my reach became attainable.
Chanel bags have always been an integral part of second-hand luxury. Consumers who no longer find the rising prices of Chanel bags attainable once flocked to the resale space in search of a better deal. But shoppers like myself are now facing staggering Chanel price increases on the pre-owned market as well.
Relentless price increases along with the growing awareness and popularity of second-hand designer goods, mean pre-loved Chanel is no longer the bargain it once was. Five to ten years ago, second-hand Chanel Classic Flap bags would range from around $2,000 to $3,000. But now that figure has increased to $5,000 to $9,000, depending on the condition, material and color.
With the introduction of the Chanel Classic Flap quota system hiking up the resale value of the bags even further, it looks like the cost of Chanel bags on the secondary market will only increase in forthcoming years.
Turning To Other Brands
While scrolling through pages of pre-owned Chanel bags on luxury resale sites and learning about the news of Chanel’s recurring price increases, it’s hard not to be tempted by another luxury brand offering new and interesting styles.
Chanel’s storied heritage and enduring designs are a huge part of the label’s appeal to eager-eyed shoppers like myself dreaming of one day buying into the famous designer. But today, more luxury brands are vying for the attention of consumers, especially those of us seeking a lower price point, than ever before.
Cult-favorite labels such as Telfar and Jacquemus have exploded in recent years and the popularity and ‘It’ bag status of their signature handbags like the Telfar Shopping Bag and Le Chiquito has certainly caught my eye.
Diesel’s new celebrity-approved 1DR style and emerging classics like the JW Anderson Bumperbag are also among the more affordable cohort of designs I’m starting to consider instead of Chanel’s increasingly costly designs.
There’s certainly still a place in my heart for my Chanel Classic Flap in lilac caviar leather, even if it remains hypothetical. With my hope of one day owning the style waning, I’m increasingly turning to alternative brands that offer more attainable designs. But whether or not there will always be a Classic Flap-shaped hole in my luxury wish list remains undetermined.