How much time do you spend on social media? Google currently clocks the figure at roughly 2.5 hours a day for the average American. But this can potentially increase to anywhere between seven to nine hours within the younger subset of the population, namely, teens and Gen Z-ers, such as yours truly. In my defense, I *absolutely must* spend most of my day visiting the various virtual outposts of the fashion industry. Social media, therefore, classifies more as an occupational hazard for me than a worrisome red flag. Or so I’d prefer to believe.
What I would like to conveniently divert your attention to, however, – and what’s perhaps truly worrisome – is that these (wasted) hours of mindless scrolling are ripe territory for brands to encroach upon. With the ever-increasing prevalence of social media, fashion houses big and small now have unfettered access to the minds of their buyers, and they’ll often leave no stone unturned in persuading us to purchase their wares. Or, as the wise @y2kbags on Instagram surmises after yet another Gucci-Harry Styles campaign, “The way that Gucci is shoving this bamboo top-handle flap bag down our throats is kind of unhinged.”
As a lover of all things purse-related, do I mind having a handbag “shoved down my throat?” Not particularly. What does turn me off, however, is a purse seemingly seen everywhere, on a multitude of celebrities and in campaigns sprawled all throughout my feed. In other words, when a bag feels like it has been overdone, it results in a sense of purse fatigue.
What is Purse Fatigue?
In today’s fast-paced trend cycle, the smallest things can land us with a burned-out feeling (where to order-in dinner from? I’ll probably end up starving for the night. Too many movies on your watchlist? Tell me about it!) And this sense of fatigue can extend well beyond our everyday decisions, down to the purses we choose to purchase. Users, in fact, have reported feeling fatigued over their inability to like any of the handbags reigning in the market. Others may be bored or tired of their present collections, ready to move on to something new.
For today’s discourse, however, purse fatigue refers to the over-exposure of a particular handbag on popular media. And as can be guessed, the primary drivers of said fatigue are the various communication platforms available to us, including Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, and Google in general.
Now, realistically speaking, few of us have the ability to get our hands on every bag we desire – everything, from our respective budgets to location constraints, the brand itself, and its perceived exclusivity, plays a part in making sure of that. Thankfully, one of the great benefits of social media, particularly for purse-lovers such as ourselves, is its ability to vicariously satiate our need for designer goods. In fact, the endless resources at our disposal, from reviews by fellow PurseBloggers to our favorite influencers on YouTube, celebrities on gossip sites, and the brand’s own advertisements, have made previewing a potential purchase easier than ever.
But at the same time, what with the fierce competition in the fashion industry, where every designer is vying for our attention, and gifting to influencers becoming a running theme, it appears at times that over-exposure may be the only meaningful way to gain exposure. And, of course, the downside to this is obvious. Where is its mystique if a newly-launched bag reaches the arms of every Hadid and/or Jenner sister out there and their literal mothers and grandmothers? Where’s the excitement and exclusivity presumably associated with a “luxury good”? Ladies and gentlemen, that’s purse fatigue for you!
Saturation: The Deplorable Word
Does purse fatigue necessarily result in saturation? Not really, and the degree of fatigue itself is rather subjective. Some visibility, especially among the right set of starlets, can make a bag appear more desirable. Gift to one too many, however, and you risk your once-rarefied product being perceived as saturated.
Now, visibility has long been a major concern, especially among the high-end crowd. In fact, when purchasing a luxury item, chances are that we’re paying an inflated price not for a well-made product (and lately, that has been under question) but largely for a perception of exclusivity and unattainability. And this carefully curated image is rendered vulnerable by the possibility of market saturation, i.e., when seemingly everyone owns the same accessory as you do.
Purse fatigue may thus also operate on similar grounds. Essentially mimicking a buyer’s reaction to something that has populated the market shows that not all pushes from brands may be successful, and some may even work to their detriment!
What Can Brands Do?
Of course, the dialogue on saturation, and by extension, the resulting loss of exclusivity, though a longstanding debate, is also an incredibly elitist one. Ultimately, much of it simply has to do with justifying the steep price tags and telegraphing the status for their top-dollar buyers. Brands, too, have traditionally gone to great lengths to prioritize the segment, from engaging in rather nefarious activities like the incineration of unsold inventories to, as seen most recently at Louis Vuitton, scaling down their production of monogrammed “gateway luxury” pieces.
But while saturation is a tangible aspect that fashion houses can attempt to mitigate through restrictive selling policies and quota arrangements, purse fatigue is generally harder to address. In fact, consumers may feel threatened by as little as a certain brand being seen on people they perceive as dissimilar to them, demographic, economic, or otherwise, and designers must make a learned guess as to who might be the perfect representation of their brand values. Furthermore, is it realistic to expect fashion houses to not concentrate all their energies on making the next sale? Possibly not; the revenues must flow, after all.
It is perhaps here that we finally encounter the evolving definition of luxury. In today’s crowded ecosystem of brands, I’m not alone in feeling a sense of weariness towards all that the big labels have to offer. And this has manifested in the form of a trend toward lesser-known and inconspicuous indie designers. Yes, we love to scrutinize and drool upon the latest offerings by Gucci and Prada. But when it comes to splurging the cash, our preferences have shifted towards more distinctive, under-the-radar pieces that signify our identities.
Furthermore, while social media allows us to gather information about all the market offers, it also serves as an extensive guideline for counterfeiters, who can now come up with their range of replica goods even before the brand’s actual collections have hit the stores! What do these say about the current state of the luxury industry? Are you feeling as fatigued by it as I am?