In May of this year, a team of artisans from Gucci travelled to each Gucci store in Australia, took out their tools of trade and handcrafted the famous Italian ateliers New Bamboo, Diana, Soho, Stirrup and 1970 handbags to order, often in front of a customer who had just ordered one.
A Gucci handbag can take up to 14 hours to make. The visiting artisans came to Australia stocked with some materials already made. This meant your bag could be finished in two hours, embossed with your initials, beautifully packaged and given to you, the proud owner. You could even stay and watch your bag being made.
The price of a handcrafted Gucci handbag? Anywhere from $1500 to $6000, depending on the materials you choose for your bag.
Despite a global economic slowdown, luxury brands continue to report increases in profits. French luxury goods giant Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (LVMH) whose stable of brands include Louis Vuitton, Givenchy, Fendi and Marc Jacobs posted a 28 increase in net profits in the first half of 2012. It also reported that they expected rapid growth in the United States, a country hit hard by the global economic crisis.
How is it that during times of economic anxiety, luxury goods companies are able to increase their income from revenue i.e. sales of their good and services to customers?
Surely anyone with sense is watching their pennies? Well, yes but that doesn’t necessarily translate to not spending at all. It’s simply that people are perhaps more discerning about what they spend their money on.
Take a $2000 Gucci classic handbag that has taken a team of highly skilled artisans 12 hours to bring to life. Perhaps you were lucky enough to watch the bag being assembled in front of you. This is no throwaway fast fashion item. These bags will be loved and cared for by the majority of their owners for years to come. Some of them will become heirlooms, handed down proudly to the next generation.
Yes, $2000 is a lot of money for a handbag. $2000 spent on 8 cheaper handbags over a 10 year period is also a lot of money. How many of those cheaper ‘on-trend’ handbags will not even come with a dustcover to protect them when they’re not being worn? How many of them will be found languishing in the bottom of the wardrobe with a year, unused and finally, donated to charity?
The use of the term ‘investment piece’ is not purely sales speak. Quality luxury items that have been cared for and maintained can actually hold or increase in value over time, the exception being shoes which generally don’t.
What I find interesting as an avid observer and consumer of all things fashion, is the reverse snobbery that exists when it comes to higher priced luxury goods. It’s manifested in the sharp intake of breath when the $2000 price tag is revealed and in the wide-eyed disbelief that an item could possibly be worth that amount of money.
The individual championing the item as being desirable and worthy of purchase is subtly mocked – the subtext being they obviously have more money than sense and clearly, they must be a supreme idiot for gleefully throwing down that amount of money on a handbag.
It comes down to each individual’s perception of ‘value’ . Whether you decide to spend less on the trends or save and spend more on timeless pieces, the most important thing is to get as much enjoyment from your acquisition as possible.
After all, fashion is about savouring that moment when you feel like a million dollars, regardless of how much money you spent.