Luxury Handbag Industry
How is the value of a luxury handbag created and legitimized by consumers, brands and other
actors...
Table&des&matières&
Fieldwork!...............................................................................................
Fieldwork
Interviews
1) What is a handbag? According to The Concise Oxford Dictionary (1990) a handbag is “a
small bag for...
:
:
:
:
:
:

The material
The quality and the finishing touch
The exclusivity and rarity
The distribution channel
The peop...
will not be categorized as luxurious either. Luxury products are “taste-driven products; they are
unpredictable and rely o...
is suffering from a loss of reputation due to the overexposure of its monogram bags (Jacquin,
2013).
The internal legitimi...
(e.g. in Paris: colette, Le Bon Marché, etc.), be produced in small batches (to give the illusion of
scarcity – which is i...
with its « it-bag » which is the most desirable bag of the season. The most fashionable women
will purchase that bag at th...
the product. Luxury is necessarily connected to the community one belongs to, it is not universal.
Such bag will be associ...
Conclusion&
In' conclusion,' the key aspect is creating a boundary between luxury and the normal goods
market. This is don...
Bibliography

'
Cardiff, A (2011). Thomas Maier Justly Despises the It-Bag Phenomenon. TheGloss, 3rd January 2011
Availabl...
Appendices
Appendix 1
Summary of Findings of Surveys (43 respondents on online survey – 41 sets of answers were
considered...
o « An item of better design an value »
Some interviewees noted that it was about “perception”, how others looked at it an...
What makes a handbag a luxury handbag? How does it move from a standard handbag to a
LUXURIOUS one?
Most answers were cent...
Appendix 3
Luxury brands have special sections on their websites for their “Icons” which are all handbags

Louis Vuitton W...
Appendix 5
Fendi’s Art Gallery where customers are encouraged to create their own piece of art
Appendix 6
By observing some of the most influential fashion blogs out there, we can assume that this year’s
Must-Have is ...
Man Repeller

Olivia Palermo
Appendix(7(
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Refinery(29(Infographic(about(what(It(bags(say(about(their(carriers.(
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How is the value of a luxury handbag created and legitimized by consumers, brands and other actors?

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Analysis of the value creation, value legitimization and product categorization processes in the luxury handbag sector.

Methods of research include an online survey, in-depth interviews and qualitative analysis of websites, newspapers and blogs. A summary of the findings can be found in the appendices. Results of data analysed show that the value in the luxury handbag sector is socially constructed and several actors play a major role in the value creation. Firstly, brands have common practices to legitimize their brand and their products. These practices include telling a mythical story about their house and founder, putting into light their charismatic artistic director, defending higher values and emphasizing on time, tradition, know-how and creativity. The value created has to be backed by opinion leaders and critics who have the social authority to legitimize objects and make a bag luxurious and desirable. Finally, societies are divided in groups and communities, which are composed of individuals who share similar tastes and consumption practices. They have their own icons and emblems that distinguish them from other groups, and the value of objects may increase when it is valued by reference groups and decrease when valued and associated to counter-models. This report reveals that individuals categorize branded objects and hierarchize them in their minds. These categories change constantly; they are individual but also socially transmitted and can sometimes be so embedded into our procedural knowledge that we cannot always explain why one brand is classified in one specific category. The analysis conducted has limitations that include the fact that the report is not representative of the views of the general population as the vision of luxury can be very different from one group to another.

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How is the value of a luxury handbag created and legitimized by consumers, brands and other actors?

  1. 1. Luxury Handbag Industry How is the value of a luxury handbag created and legitimized by consumers, brands and other actors? Lily Froehlicher – Msc Luxury Management & Marketing EXECUTIVE SUMMARY This report provides an analysis of the value creation, value legitimization and product categorization processes in the luxury handbag sector. Methods of research include an online survey, in-depth interviews and qualitative analysis of websites, newspapers and blogs. A summary of the findings can be found in the appendices. Results of data analysed show that the value in the luxury handbag sector is socially constructed and several actors play a major role in the value creation. Firstly, brands have common practices to legitimize their brand and their products. These practices include telling' a' mythical' story' about' their' house' and' founder,' putting' into' light' their' charismatic' artistic' director,' defending' higher' values' and' emphasizing' on' time,' tradition,' know:how' and' creativity.' The' value' created' has' to' be' backed' by' opinion' leaders' and' critics' who' have' the' social' authority' to' legitimize' objects' and' make' a' bag' luxurious' and' desirable.' Finally,' societies' are' divided' in' groups' and' communities,'which'are'composed'of'individuals'who'share'similar'tastes'and'consumption' practices.'They'have'their'own'icons'and'emblems'that'distinguish'them'from'other'groups,' and'the'value'of'objects'may'increase'when'it'is'valued'by'reference'groups'and'decrease' when' valued' and' associated' to' counter:models.' This' report' reveals' that' individuals' categorize' branded' objects' and' hierarchize' them' in' their' minds.' These' categories' change' constantly;' they' are' individual' but' also' socially' transmitted' and' can' sometimes' be' so' embedded'into'our'procedural'knowledge'that'we'cannot'always'explain'why'one'brand'is' classified'in'one'specific'category.'The'analysis'conducted'has'limitations'that'include'the' fact'that'the'report'is'not'representative'of'the'views'of'the'general'population'as'the'vision' of'luxury'can'be'very'different'from'one'group'to'another.''
  2. 2. Table&des&matières& Fieldwork!...................................................................................................................................................!3' Interviews!.............................................................................................................................................................!3' 2) What is a luxury handbag?'............................................................................................................................................'3' 3)'What'do'you'think'when'you'see'a'woman'wearing'a'luxury'handbag?'...............................................'3' 4)'What'makes'a'handbag'a'luxury'handbag?'How'does'it'move'from'a'standard'handbag'to'a' LUXURIOUS'one?'........................................................................................................................................................................'3' 5)'Can'a'luxury'handbag'become'"normal"'again?'If'so,'how?'........................................................................'4' Interpretation of Findings!.....................................................................................................................!4' Legitimization Process The importance of the brand in the value creation process!....................................................................!5' The handbag as a brand icon!..........................................................................................................................!6' . Link with Art!......................................................................................................................................................!7' The role of the proxy!.........................................................................................................................................!7' The'influence'of'role'models'and'counter'models'................................................................................................'7' The influence of authorities'................................................................................................................................................'8' Conclusion!.............................................................................................................................................!10' Bibliography!..........................................................................................................................................!11' Appendices!.............................................................................................................................................!12' Appendix 1!........................................................................................................................................................!12' Appendix 2!........................................................................................................................................................!14' Appendix 3!........................................................................................................................................................!15' Appendix 4!........................................................................................................................................................!15' Appendix 5!........................................................................................................................................................!16' Appendix 6!........................................................................................................................................................!17' Appendix!7!......................................................................................................................................................!19' . Appendix!8'..........................................................................................................................................................................'20' '
  3. 3. Fieldwork Interviews 1) What is a handbag? According to The Concise Oxford Dictionary (1990) a handbag is “a small bag for a purse etc. carried especially by a woman” (cf. Bag: “a receptable or flexible material with an opening at the top”). Answers were similar: “It is something/a bag/a means I/usually a woman can carry stuff in (e.g. phone, wallet, make up) ». We conduct interviews and notice that interviewees focus on the “functionality” of the object. The words everyday/daily and necessary/essential/practical/useful came out several times. However, some interviewees associate the bag with more emotional and personal features, for example: : “A bag where women hide their secrets” ; “A very practical accessory - where you can define a woman's character in one glance of what is in it” ; “A handbag is a girls best friend (…) The more luxurious the better!” How about a luxury handbag? How is it different from a “normal” handbag? How does it become “luxurious” in someone’s mind? How is perceived a woman wearing a luxury handbag? Below a summary of the findings (See Appendix 1 for more detailed findings): 2) What is a luxury handbag? Answers were centered around the following core ideas: : Marker of social status : Highly priced : Branded : Of high quality, timeless and aesthetic : Perception of Superiority Some interviewees noted that it was about “perception”, how others looked at it and not the intrinsic value of the object: : « It's the same, but it looks luxurious » ; « You expect people to notice it is luxurious » ; « I think it distinguishes you from the crowd » 3) What do you think when you see a woman wearing a luxury handbag? Most answered were centered around: : Wealth : « She must be rich » : Taste and class : “OMG she has a lot of class » : Personal Statement/ Intent to Impress : « They care about appearances and wish to impress the opposite sex by their knowledge » : Jealousy and envy : « I am often impressed by the overall allure (and jealous) » Many interviewees said they looked at how the bag completed the outfit, and could go from a positive to a negative thought in a second. (e.g. « Either she's very classy or just very rich without taste » ). Only one interviewee talked about fashion ("A la mode" "fashionable") which shows how luxury handbags are perceived timeless more than fashionable. None of the interviewees said they did not think anything. 4) What makes a handbag a luxury handbag? How does it move from a standard handbag to a LUXURIOUS one? Most answers were centered around the ideas of: : The brand and the logo : The price
  4. 4. : : : : : : The material The quality and the finishing touch The exclusivity and rarity The distribution channel The people who wear it The means by which it is promoted 5) Can a luxury handbag become "normal" again? If so, how? Most interviewees answered that the bag lost its luxurious status if: : It became too mainstream with many people owning it : The price went to drop : Other brands designed a cheaper bag that looked too similar : The brand name was removed or the brand lost its strength : If the bag was suddenly mass produced : If the materials used were not expensive anymore (e.g. the price of gold dropped) : If the brand was “hijacked” by a group of people that it not seen “luxurious” (e.g. chavs) : If the bag was over worn Others said they did not think it was possible for a luxury bag to fall into “normality” and lose its luxury status. Interpretation of Findings These findings show that people create categories of products and hierarchies in their minds. They make the difference between a “standard/normal” handbag and a “luxury” handbag and associate certain features with the word “luxury”. If all of the people interviewed have a different definition of luxury, it always remains quite similar as it focuses on specific features (e.g. price, exclusivity, quality, etc.). What people seem to underestimate is the power of the brand. Anyone tomorrow can design a pretty, high quality bag by hand using rare materials and try selling it with a very high price tag. However, the demand for that bag will unlikely be as high as a Louis Vuitton or Hermes bag because the seller will not have acquired the legitimacy to say that the bag he is offering is a “luxury” bag. Indeed, value is socio-culturally constructed; it is not intrinsically embedded into the product and the product must go through a legitimation process before becoming desirable and categorized as a piece of luxury by the consumers. An illustration of that is the following quote, heard during an interview: “I saw this amazing bag at Caroline de Marchi, a small French brand I discovered a couple weeks ago. It’s completely handmade, they have the same leather supplier than Chanel and other major luxury houses, the design and the colors are really beautiful but it is as expensive as a Hermes bag… I decided not to buy it because it feels strange to buy an “unknown designer” bag when for the same price, I can get a Hermes bag…” Clearly, the brand name is very important for this person and is source of legitimization for the price of the product. This person’s peers do not know the designer; therefore she is not willing to pay as much as she would for a handbag griffé Hermes. Indeed, “part of market demand for a cultural good (and thus the assignment of value) is determined by its rarity and “demonstrability”, or the ability to display to others the rare cultural good” (Robinson, 1961). Therefore brands must educate their target market in order to create social distinctiveness and be perceived as a luxury brand by others. If the brand is not perceived as luxurious, its products
  5. 5. will not be categorized as luxurious either. Luxury products are “taste-driven products; they are unpredictable and rely on subjective evaluation by gatekeepers and then consumers that reaffirm one another” (Currid, 2007). The three major players are the brand itself, how it communicates and portraits itself; the consumers (the target market and other groups) and the opinion leaders. How do brands legitimize their handbag collections? First, they legitimize the brand itself as a luxury brand, then they position the handbag as unique and iconic. Thirdly, they position it as a piece of art. Fourthly, they focus on its uniqueness. Finally and most importantly, they make sure that authorities legitimize its value. Legitimization Process The$importance$of$the$brand$in$the$value$creation$process$ The brand must establish itself as a luxury brand by acquiring symbolic capital. “It relies on the production of charisma rather than production of material objects” (Sitz, 2013). This symbolic capital comes with time, consistency and tradition. Consistency is ensured through a retail concept, a logo, a tone-of-voice, and a uniquely identifiable design that can be found at every touchpoint. If we look at the main leather good producers, they have all at least 50 years of existence (e.g. Louis Vuitton 1854, Hermes 1834, Chanel 1909, Fendi 1925, Prada 1913, Salvatore Ferregamo 1928, Celine 1945, Balenciaga 1914, Saint Laurent Paris 1962, Chloé 1952, Givenchy 1952, etc.) They all have flagship products (e.g. Louis Vuitton Speedy, Hermes Birkin or Kelly, Chloé Paddle, etc.) that insure consistency even though they are reinvented for each season. These products must be perceived as high quality, highly aesthetic and made in noble materials and are easily recognizable. They all have a flagship store (e.g. Chanel Rue Cambon, Hermes Rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré, etc.) Indeed, part of the value is derived from where it is produced and the origin of the brand is an important part of its identity (e.g. Saint Laurent Paris) “The perceived value of producing culture in one geography over another is backed up by the tangible positive externalities of art/culture concentration” (Currid, 2007). All the brands listed above come from France and Italy, and more particularly Paris and Milan, which used to be major cultural hubs and remain the major Fashion cities, along with New-York. Many brands like to tell and re-tell the mythical stories of their founders (e.g. in 2013, Chanel Inside Chanel Saga, Dior Esprit Dior Exhibition at the Moca in Shanghai). On a lesser extent, some of them put into light their charismatic artistic directors (e.g. Chanel Karl Lagerfeld, Celine Phoebe Philo). They emphasize on their traditional know-how (see appendix 2) and defend higher values. Rather than focusing on the utility of their products, they invite their customers into their world and tell a story that resonates with their target market (e.g. Louis Vuitton Rencontrez les amis de la maison, Hermes Voyagez dans l’univers Hermes), they sell a lifestyle more than a product. And above all, they sell a lifestyle that is exclusive and is not attainable by everyone (they do that through selective and limited distribution, high prices, limited editions…). They give the illusion that this lifestyle is endorsed by public figures and opinion leaders through advertising or by showing on social networks superstars wearing their products (e.g. Louis Vuitton Angelina Jolie’s Journey to Cambodia, Dior Charlize Theron wearing Dior Collection at the Oscars). These factors if constantly communicated to the public through promotion, marketing and public relations enable the brand to be perceived by consumers as a luxury brand. Luxury brands and luxury handbags are interconnected; a luxury brand cannot be sustained if the products it sells are not seen as luxurious anymore, and a luxury product will not be perceived luxurious if it sold by a mainstream brand. An example of this phenomenon is Louis Vuitton that
  6. 6. is suffering from a loss of reputation due to the overexposure of its monogram bags (Jacquin, 2013). The internal legitimization process goes hand in hand with the value creation process that is composed of four main elements, as illustrated below: Source: Wiedmann, K (2007) The handbag as a brand icon The goal of the constant communication of the brand is to embed the brand’s image into the semantic memory of consumers. Indeed, once the authority of the brand is embedded in the semantic memory of consumers, the luxury status of its products is, at least for some time, taken for granted. Therefore, a Hermes bag is by definition luxurious because Hermes is luxurious, it is a belief we do not question - until a parameter changes (loss of exclusivity for example). Brands like to make handbags their brand icon. Indeed, a bag is more easily recognizable (whether it carries a logo or not), and can be carried around everywhere and at all times. It is an accessory that gives a woman status and enables her to distinguish herself from a crowd instantly. Handbags are auratic because people see meaning in them. Like a respondent said “it is a personal statement”. Therefore, every brand gives a name to its bags; sometimes a public figure’s name (e.g. Hermes named its iconic bags after Jane Birkin and Grace Kelly, Mulberry after Alexa Chung, Dior after Lady Diana, Salvatore Ferragamo after Sophia Loren, etc.). They all have a special section on their websites for their iconic handbags (e.g. Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Fendi cf. Appendix 3) and very often place the bag in the center of their advertisings (cf. Prada Advertising Campaign Appendix 4). For a handbag to be perceived as luxurious, it must be authentic: expensive (democratization kills a brand), sold through selective distribution channels
  7. 7. (e.g. in Paris: colette, Le Bon Marché, etc.), be produced in small batches (to give the illusion of scarcity – which is in fact constructed by the brand), be of good quality, of unique design and handmade in respect of traditional processes (e.g. “The Gucci Way”). In addition to this, time creates value; bags that have “stood the test of time” are more valuable. Bags that are worn by opinion leaders (such as bloggers, it-girls, movie stars, etc.) have more value because their aesthetic beauty is legitimized by “significant others”. Those that are regularly featured in influential magazines (Vogue, Elle, The New York Times, L’Officiel, etc.) have more value. Finally, the buzz around a product (making it a it-bag, a seasonal must-have) can increase its value -to a certain extent- the buzz should not be too important or the product will be victim of fashion and trends (cf. time creates value). Link with Art To emphasize uniqueness, many brands blend the worlds of art and fashion through: : Collaborations with artists (e.g. Louis Vuitton Marc Jacobs x Stephen Sprouse and Fendi Baguette with many artists) : Making the bag a piece of art to be created by the customer (Fendi Baguette and Hermes Birkin on the brands’ websites: possibility to print a white paper in the shape of the bag. Cf. Appendix 5) : Exhibitions and books focusing on accessories (e.g. Fendi Baguette Book) : The showcasing of the artistic inspiration of the brand. The purpose of these actions is to show that the brand is not commercially driven and give the brand the status of art-creator. It is very difficult to put a price on a piece of art, as it is on a luxury bag because the value does not come solely from the raw material used, it is symbolic and arbitrary. The price of a bag is never presented upfront; it must be requested by the customer before being communicated. An interviewee mentioned someone in his entourage who has framed her Hermes Birkin bag in a glass window in the middle of her living room. Rather than using it as a bag, she has made it a piece of art. This shows that the value of a luxury handbag does not come from its functionality; it is a superior object. The role of the proxy All these actions have as a purpose to legitimize the brand and its leather goods lines. However, a brand cannot legitimize itself; that has to be done by “significant others”. Indeed, customers, critics and counter-models are major players of the value creation and legitimization process. The influence of role models and counter models Segmentation can be used as a tool to create value and legitimize a brand. Indeed, luxury handbags are Veblen goods that are used by higher-classes to demarcate from other social classes. “In consequence of the vertical contiguity of class groupings, new fashions tend to filter down by stages through the levels of affluence.... For an object of fashion to lose its meaning for the top most class it is only necessary for it to be taken up by the second most and so on down the line” (Robinson, 1961, pp. 383). If the highest social classes wear a handbag, the class just beneath will want to have that same handbag, and so on. Moreover, regardless of social classes, if a handbag is adopted by the reference group as a desirable must-have, then the belonging group will desire this handbag too. Indeed, reference groups have the authority to legitimise objects. “Value for cultural goods is significantly controlled by quantity and access, but particularly who desires and is able to consume these goods” (Currid, 2007). For example, every season comes
  8. 8. with its « it-bag » which is the most desirable bag of the season. The most fashionable women will purchase that bag at the beginning of the season, and for a couple of years, the demand for that particular bag will go up. Thomas Maier, Bottega Venetta creative director despises this phenomenon « “The It Bag is a totally marketed bullshit crap [...] You make a bag, you put all the components in it that you think could work, you send it out to a couple of celebrities, you get the paparazzi to shoot just when they walk out of their house (…) you say in a magazine that there’s a waiting list. And you run an ad campaign at the same time.” (Huffington Post, 2011) Increasingly, customers themselves, through social networks and blogs create trends. They can also destroy brands. If a brand is hijacked by a group that the belonging group sees as counter-models, then the bags adopted by the counter-models will be desowned by the belonging group. This happens often in the leather goods industry. For example, when Burberry accessories went from the hands of high class British adults to those of British chavs, the brand reputation fell and high class British consumers stopped identifying themselves with the brand because the associations they held of the brand changed. More recently, a Forbes article titled « Has The Hermes Birkin Bag Lost Its Appeal? » reported a quote of an Asian woman: “The Birkin has become a bit démodé. Too many people who are not all that fashionable have it”. This shows that desirability of a bag can decrease if it is worn by counter-models. She adds : «And they carry it everywhere. In Asia, I have seen women carry their big Birkins to dinner parties. So not chic”. This confirms what Holt explains « distinction is becoming more and more a matter of practice » « distinction comes from knowing about and consuming the appropriate goods » in the right way. « Cultural elites engage in consumption practices that reflect an ineffable sense of what is fight, appropriate, and tasteful » (Holt, 1997). The influence of authorities “Gatekeepers are central to the valorization of goods symbolically, they operate on the highest tier of the cultural value chain » (Currid, 2007). Fashion editors educate people on what’s in and what’s out and certify the legitimacy of a designer. For example, every season Vogue publishes its list of “100 Best Bags”. Most influential bloggers all have the same models, indirectly telling the public what bag is truly luxurious and desirable (see Appendix 6). Fashion buyers decide on what collections and products will end up in store and therefore decide which designer will have the chance to be economically viable. Critics sort, classify and organize information into a hierarchy. Indeed, classification and categorization is a primordial stage of the purchase decision and there may be a gap between the brand’s discourse and what is actually understood by the consumers. Categorization& Consumers all categorize and organize information into hierarchies in their minds. Categories differ from one person to another based on biography and personal experience. Very often, they are embedded in people’s procedural knowledge, it is difficult to explain with facts why one brand is cooler or more luxurious than another. For example, while asked which brand was most “exclusive”, 77% of survey respondents quoted Chanel or Hermes. To answer the question “why would you say Chanel is more exclusive than Hermes?” a respondent answered “it just is, I don’t know why, it’s a fact”. Indeed, the information can be so deeply engrained in our process that it becomes difficult to express or explain it. These categorisation schemes can be shared and transmitted and enable the understanding of
  9. 9. the product. Luxury is necessarily connected to the community one belongs to, it is not universal. Such bag will be associated with success and wealth while another one will be categorized as cheap by people. As one respondent put it “Even if someone gave me 4,000€ tomorrow, I would not go and buy myself a Birkin bag because it is something I will buy myself when I will be professionally successful – when I will have made it. I want to know I earned it alone”. Clearly, the bag is categorized here as an accessory related to success and personal achievement. In a Forbes article (2012), Blue Carreon states that the Birkin bag “represents success, achievement and status”. This shows that many place the bag in the same category; they understand the product in the same way; they belong to the same interpretative community. Meaning is reinterpreted constantly and therefore categories are subject to change at all times. For example, in an article titled “Birkin Bags No Longer Cool -- Are The Kardashians To Blame?” (2012), The Huffington Post asked its readers “It's undeniable that the Hermes Birkin bag is growing more ubiquitous by the day. But does that make it any less coveted? Any less Birkin-y as it once was? And do you still want one?” insinuating that the meaning of the Birkin bag has been re-evaluated by some and is moving from the “highly exclusive” category to the “mass” category. The meaning of the bag has changed over time. Stereotypes are nurtured through branded handbags. For example, The Purse Blog published an article titled “What Your Hangbag Says About You” categorising every bag owner in regards to the model they own. For example, according to the article, a Charlotte Olympia Pandora clutch owner has “a sense of humor, a super cute iPhone case and a driver. » The British women’s magazine Cosmopolitain offers a quizz asking ten questions about one’s bag to, in exchange, give them an explanation of themselves. e.g. « (…) You epitomize elegance and appreciate classic arm candy in the same way that you respect the deeper qualities in other people. You have a few close friends rather than a load of mates who you don't know so well - Your bag comes with a lifetime guarantee as does your friendships. You're loyal and loving (…) ». Refinery 29 created an infographic describing the owners of six branded bags (see Appendix 8). Finally, the more serious newspaper The Telegraph wrote in a September 2013 article “the bag we carry, like the clothes we wear, reflects our personality.” Although stereotypes may not be as strong as described above in reality, it is certain that people look at a woman wearing a luxury handbag differently, and they sometimes go as far as categorizing these women, in regards to the specific brand or model they own. Therefore, there is an intra/inter categorization phenomenon in the luxury handbag sector. (Only one respondent said he did not think about anything when he saw a woman wearing a luxury handbag, because he did not notice it). According to respondents, wealth, taste and class go with luxury handbags. This is an illustration of classification. People hierarchize handbags in their heads; a luxury handbag is “a better handbag” which “distinguishes you from the crowd” (see Appendix 1). A luxury handbag can be both complemented and substituted by a pair of luxury shoes even though it does not have the same technical utility because just like a branded bag, it is a fashion accessory, a fashion statement. It completes an outfit, gives confidence, a feeling of increased beauty as well as a feeling of belonging to a community. Therefore, even though it is functionally very different, a bag can be put in the same category as a pair of shoes, and to some extent, jewellery.
  10. 10. Conclusion& In' conclusion,' the key aspect is creating a boundary between luxury and the normal goods market. This is done through the legitimization process; the contamination process where the product is contaminated by “the griffe” i.e. the charisma around the brand. A symbolic energy is created by all the actors of the market, the brand itself, its founder, target customers, opinion leaders, critics and counter models. The value of the bag is way greater than the mere functional value, it is not intrinsic to the product, it is socially constructed. Moreover, this value is completely different depending on the individual and the community he belongs to since value is both individual and transmitted through and amongst groups. The statements contained in this paper cannot be generalized to the whole humanity, value of handbags is perceived differently by different groups of people; the message sent by brands is received and interpreted very differently according to the socialization and biography of the receiver. The brands look to encode this information about their brand in the consumers’ semantic memory so that when they have a choice to make they will recover the information.
  11. 11. Bibliography ' Cardiff, A (2011). Thomas Maier Justly Despises the It-Bag Phenomenon. TheGloss, 3rd January 2011 Available at: http://www.thegloss.com/2011/01/03/fashion/tomas-maier-justly-despises-the-it-bagphenomenon/ Carreon, B (2012). Has the Hermes Birkin Bag Lost its Appeal? Forbes, 17 July 2012 Available at : http://www.forbes.com/sites/bluecarreon/2012/07/17/has-the-hermes-birkin-bag-lost-itsappeal/ Currid, E (2007). The Economics of a Good Party: Social Mechanics and the Legitimization of Art/Culture. Journal of Economics and Finance, vol31, number3, Fall 2007. Available at: http://learcenter.org/pdf/CurridJEFPageProofs.pdf ' Holt,'D'(1997).'Distinction.in.America?'Department'of'Advertising,'University'of'Illinois,'Poetics'25,' p93:120' ' Huffington Post (2012). Birkin Bags No Longer Cool – Are the Kardashians to Blame? 18th July 2012 Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/18/birkin-bags-kardashians_n_1683478.html ' Huffington'Post'(2010)'Thomas.Maier:.The.It.Bag.is.a.Totally.Marketed.Bullshit.Crap.'30th'December' 2010' Available'at:'http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/30/tomas-maier-bottega-veneta_n_802764.html Jacquin,' J:B' (2013).' Le.ralentissement.de.Louis.Vuitton.inquiète.' Ecobusiness' Le' Monde,' 16' Octobre' 2013.' Available'at:'http://ecobusiness.blog.lemonde.fr/2013/10/16/le-ralentissement-de-louis-vuitton-inquiete/ ' Joynt,'S'(2010).'Top.10.ItCBags.of.all.Time.'The'Fashion'Spot,'May'17th'2010.'' Available'at:'http://www.thefashionspot.com/style-trends/101108-top-10-it-bags-of-all-time/' ' Louis'Vuitton'Website.'Amis.de.la.Maison.' Available'at:'http://www.louisvuitton.fr/front/#/fra_FR/Journeys-section/Amis-de-la-Maison/AMIS-DELA-MAISON (Last'Accessed'1rst'November'2013) What does your handbag say about you ? Cosmopolitan UK Available at : http://www.cosmopolitan.co.uk/lifestyle/what-does-your-handbag-say-aboutyou#ixzz2kpWGFZjA Wiedmann, K.-P., Hennigs, N., & Siebels, A. 2007. Measuring consumers’ luxury value perception: A cross-cultural framework. Academy of Marketing Science Review, p7
  12. 12. Appendices Appendix 1 Summary of Findings of Surveys (43 respondents on online survey – 41 sets of answers were considered valid / 10 interviews were conducted to have more in-depth information) We only write down the answers we find most interesting – many answers were very similar What is a handbag?'' Answers were all very similar: “It is something/a bag/a means I/usually a woman can carry stuff in (e.g. phone, wallet, make up) ». respondents focus on the “functionality” of the object. The words everyday/daily and necessary/essential/practical/useful came out several times. However, some interviewees associate the bag with more emotional and personal features, for example: : “A bag where women hide their secrets” ; “A very practical accessory - where you can define a woman's character in one glance of what is in it” ; “A handbag is a girls best friend (…) The more luxurious the better!” What is a luxury handbag? Answers were centered around core ideas such as: : Social status o “Not everyone wear those. The best are handmade and thus really expensive. They can be used to show your social status » o « It is often more worn to show that you can afford it, rather than to show how you can match it with your other clothes. » o « It makes you look richer, more fashionable, cooler... I think it distinguishes you from the crowd » : Price o « An expensive girl's bag » o “Expensive” o « Hefty price tag » : Brand o « A branded handbag: a premium sized black hole. » o « A branded girl’s bag » o « Bespoke designer or premium brand » : Quality, timelessness and aesthetics o « Good material » o « One of good quality, hand made, with very good leather and nice design » o « A handbag with expensive/rare/fashionable/timeless materials/design » o « Chooses aesthetics over practicality » o « Often beautiful bag » o « A life time accessory » o « It is a good quality bag with a nice design » : Perception of Superiority o « A better handbag » o « A handbag made of superior leather, fabric or plastic that also has high quality features as stitches, zip, accessories »
  13. 13. o « An item of better design an value » Some interviewees noted that it was about “perception”, how others looked at it and not the intrinsic value of the object: : « It's the same, but it looks luxurious » : « More bling/bling, like you expect people to notice it is luxurious » : « Easily recognizable and I think it distinguishes you from the crowd » What do you think when you see a woman wearing a luxury handbag? Most answered were centered around: : Wealth o « I immediately think that they have money or have gotten it for a special occasion » o « OMG she's rich and she wants us to know it if the bag isn't beautiful but just expensive » o « she's got money » o « She must be rich » o « She/ her husband has a high wage » o « She must be well off! » o « I look at her, and I wonder is it a fake? Is she rich? How come? I ask myself questions about her life » : Taste and class o “OMG she has a lot of class » o « If she wears it amazingly and it goes well with her outfit, I am often impressed by the overall allure (and jealous). I think she has a good sense of fashion, she is delicate and that she is confident. But these women are rare. Most of the time their outfits don't live up to their bag's level. » o « First i see if it's suits her or not. If it does it means she has good taste. » : Personal Statement/ Try to Impress o « They care about appearances and wish to impress the opposite sex by their knowledge » : Jealousy and envy o « Niceeeeeeeee ! » o « I am often impressed by the overall allure (and jealous) » o “ I feel envious” o “WAW” o « Depending on the bag, either "I wish i could have her bag !" or 'that's garish" » o « I am jealous and especially at uni I try to see if it a copy or not. » Many interviewees said they looked at how the bag completed the outfit, and could go from a positive to a negative thought in a second. (e.g. “Depends on how she's dressed. Classy or "how much did she pay for it ?" OR « Either she's very classy or just very rich without taste » ) Only one interviewee talked about fashion ("A la mode" "fashionable") which shows how luxury handbags are perceived timeless more than fashionable by most. Only one respondent said he did not think anything because “he didn’t notice if a bag was luxurious or not”.
  14. 14. What makes a handbag a luxury handbag? How does it move from a standard handbag to a LUXURIOUS one? Most answers were centered around the ideas of: : The brand and the logo : The price : The material : The quality and the finishing touch : The exclusivity and rarity : The distribution channel : The people who wear it : The means by which it is promoted Can a luxury handbag become "normal" again? If so, how? Most interviewees answered that the bag lost its luxurious status if: : It became too mainstream with many people owning it : The price went to drop : Other brands designed a cheaper bag that looked too similar : The brand name was removed or the brand lost its strength : If the bag was suddenly mass produced : If the materials used were not expensive anymore : If the brand was “hijacked” by a group of people that it not seen “luxurious” Others said they did not think it was possible for a luxury bag to fall into “normality” and lose its luxury status. Appendix 2 Luxury brands emphasize tradition and know-how on their websites Louis Vuitton Website “Savoir-Faire” Prada Website “Vidéos de Production”
  15. 15. Appendix 3 Luxury brands have special sections on their websites for their “Icons” which are all handbags Louis Vuitton Website “An Iconic Bag” Fendi Website “Icones” Appendix 4 Gucci Fall/Winter 2013 Campaign on Website: Bag is in the Center of the ads
  16. 16. Appendix 5 Fendi’s Art Gallery where customers are encouraged to create their own piece of art
  17. 17. Appendix 6 By observing some of the most influential fashion blogs out there, we can assume that this year’s Must-Have is the Celine Trapeze. 6 out of the 10 blogs checked mentioned this bag model in at least one article these past six months. Source: Camille Tries to Blog The Purse Blog The Blonde Salad The Cut
  18. 18. Man Repeller Olivia Palermo
  19. 19. Appendix(7( What%is%the%first%word%that%comes%to%your%mind%when%I%say%luxury%handbag?% % % %
  20. 20. Appendix(8( Refinery(29(Infographic(about(what(It(bags(say(about(their(carriers.( ( (

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