Luxury Fatigue

FT Alphaville, sadly, does not yet suffer from this new condition. We’re told, however, that it’s of growing concern — particularly to the LVMHs and Burberries of the world, who depend on the appetite of wealthy fashionistas for the bulk of their sales.

And now we hear another bubble — that of the ‘it-bag’ — is bursting as a result.

From Women’s Wear Daily:

Not long from now, the ‘It’ bag – and the 4×4 – will be a source of embarrassment, masstige brands will suffer and African style will be all the rage. Those were just a few predictions from Claire Kent, the former Morgan Stanley luxury analyst who is now an industry consultant and a non-executive director of French Connection in London.

Kent, speaking at the Luxury Briefing conference in London last week, said with or without the credit crunch, the 15-year boom in luxury goods was never going to last. She pointed to “luxury fatigue” and the growing fear of debt, and said consumers would increasingly be spending more money on fewer items.

As a result, “masstige and aspirational brands will suffer the most,” she told the audience, adding that the handbag bubble is bursting now. “An ‘It’ handbag will become an embarrassment – a clear sign that you don’t have your own view of fashion,” she said.

This sounds reasonable. As the recession entrenches, we imagine that parading down a suffering High Street with a bag immediately identifiable as £2,200 worth of python skin and metal detailing, will not endear you to hard-pressed shoppers (should there be any). God forbid you you pass by a Job Centre. Plus they’re a bit naff, a bit prone to being copied — illegally or on the high street — and, we hear, they’re already being superceded by another bubble — the it-shoe.

Miucca Prada, designer of the eponymous fashion line, is quoted in an Independent story on the it-shoe phenomenon:

“The obsession with handbags has finished a little now,” she said recently. “It feels over. It’s about shoes now.”

While shoes tend to be a little less pricey and less obvious than their luxury handbag counterparts, the key here, for their makers, is volumes. From the Independent again:

… the profit margin on a pair of shoes and a bag are comparable – and most accessories retailers would expect to sell shoes and bags in a ratio of around five to one.

Not exactly boomtime for the luxury goods-makers then, but at least there’s hope.

Related links:
Abercrombie and Rich – FT Alphaville
US luxury retailers face grimmest holiday season – Bloomberg
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